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FCC approves MPAA request to stream films directly to viewers over secure line prior to DVD release

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It was announced today that the Federal Communications Commission approved a MPAA-led request to allow recently released films to be transmitted to U.S. households via a “secure high definition transmission line from their cable or satellite providers” prior to their DVD or Blu-ray release.

The decision by the FCC will essentially allow the movie studios to create another release window for films, one that comes between the theatrical release of a film and the DVD release, which usually occurs 90 days after a movie opens in theaters. What that new release window will look like has still not been determined but it’s likely consumers will be able to purchase a film for secure electronic delivery directly to their high definition television sets sometime after it begins its theatrical run. It’s sure to be less than the 90 days when a film hits the DVD shelves but could be as short as 45 days after a film debuts in theaters. (By the time a movie has been in theaters for 45 days it has earned 90% of its theatrical revenue.)

The action protects these films from piracy as explained by the MPAA’s President and Interim CEO Bob Pisano in a release, “This action is an important victory for consumers who will now have far greater access to see recent high definition movies in their homes. 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.”

However, it could be a serious concern for theater owners who have been trying to preserve their 90 exclusive theatrical window for months. Says John Fithian, the president of the National Association of Theater Owners, “The FCC’s decision is not surprising. The theft is a serious problem. The issue of the theatrical release window, however, will be decided in the marketplace.”

Studio chains could start selling the films right away now that the secure line has been approved. However, it only works on cable boxes made within the last two years, along with satellite televisions and the newest playstations. Older cable boxes would have to be upgraded for the secure files.

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