The FCC has given its consent to a request from the Motion Picture Association of America to enable the transmission of recently released films to be transmitted in HD to U.S. households.
The Hollywood content in question would otherwise be suspended in a sort of "movie limbo" between their initial theater release and before going Blu-ray and DVD. The FCC gave its blessing for the studios to deploy a secure HD transmission line from cable and satellite providers —thus creating yet another window (technically and financially) for film releases.
The scenario, if it's ever launched, still appears to have a lot of details that need to worked out — notably, what form will such a new release window assume; what roles will cablers and DBS play exactly; and how will direct-to-studio payments be transacted, if at all?
These days, it's only about 90 days (sometimes much shorter) between when a movie leaves the theater and is first available on video disc (and often simultaneously on same-day PPV via cable and DBS).
One of the MPAA's chief goals, it said in a statement in tandem with the FCC decision, is to better protect newer films from piracy. "This action is an important victory for consumers who will now have far greater access to see recent high definition movies in their homes," the association said. "And it is a major step forward in the development of new business models by the motion picture industry to respond to growing consumer demand…We deeply appreciate the recognition by the FCC that recently released movies need special protection against content theft when they are distributed to home televisions."
Once initiated, the secured HD streaming will work on most newer set-top boxes, and on new PlayStation game consoles, the MPAA said. Some older cable boxes could be upgraded with software, too. No HD PPV fees were mentioned in the MPAA statement.