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US service providers submit app plan to head off set-top proposal

Netflix lifestyleUS pay TV and cable operators have grouped together to propose an alternative app-based option in an attempt to head of the FCC’s plan to open up the set-top box market to competition.

The operators, including Comcast, AT&T and representatives of cable association the NCTA have proposed an approach that would involve all large service providers committing to develop and deploy video apps based on open HTML5 web standards that would enable subscribers to sign up for their services on multiple devices without the need for a set-top box.

In a regulatory filing submitted yesterday, the group said that “such an approach could further advance competition for independent device manufacturers within the context of a market transformation already underway and in a manner that fully protects and respects the rights of content owners”.

Subscribers would be able to download a pay TV app to their smart TV or other connected device and view encrypted services without a box. They would be able to use the app to search both for service provider content and for content from OTT services such as Netflix, Hulu and HBO Now.

The group said that this approach would enable them to ensure consumer privacy and the terms of programming licences, cited as key concerns in relation to the FCC’s set-top box plan.

The FCC has proposed a mandatory technology standard to enable manufacturers to provide set-top boxes that pay TV subscribers could buy rather than rent boxes from their provider, a move strongly opposed by the industry.