The FCC has announced it will be supporting VOD technology that allows studios to beam their big budget flicks directly to your cable box in a smaller window of time than is currently available. Instead of waiting around for months to see, say, Iron Man 2 in the comfort of your own living room, that time will be considerably shrunk, ostensibly taking money out of the pockets of theater owners.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the FCC says that this move "benefits those who, because of a physical disability, cannot enjoy movies in theaters." That's a flimsy excuse, at best -- it's more likely that it's a way for studios to appeal to movie-goers who want to see the biggest films from the studios but can't afford the rising cost of a night out at the movies, or those with high-tech set-ups who would rather enjoy a movie in the comfort of their own home than deal with the downside of the theater experience. (Of course, there is also a huge argument for actually going to the movies and enjoying them with a crowd, but that's another discussion entirely that Peter Martin wrote about here.)

The theater-owners' argument that this could harm indie movies is equally weak, given the trend towards smaller distributors and film festivals offering films on-demand on the day of release or during the festival itself. Straight to DVD or on-demand has lost the vague whiff of failure it used to carry as more independent movie-makers want to have their movies seen period, and technology is making it easier (and sometimes more attractive) to watch at home.

However, as both THR and Wired point out, there's more to this story than taking money out of theater-owners' pockets. When you look at this plan as a threat to both intellectual property and privacy, the FCC's plan to make it impossible for viewers to pirate movies from their cable box means the cable providers will actually be able to control some aspects of your cable box itself.

But, as David Kravets at Wired's Threat Level blog (which covers privacy, crime, and security online) writes, this decision "grants cable and satellite providers the power to block consumers from viewing just-released movies in an analog format through a process known as Selectable Output Control. Hollywood requested SOC powers as a condition of allowing providers for the first time to release movies to their in-home customers while the film is in theaters... Analog video signals can easily be recorded, while digital video standards include a copy protection scheme that lets providers set a no-copy flag on the signal."

That seems reasonable enough, because obviously piracy is a big no-no and there has to be a way to regulate it. But what will giving cable providers the ability and permission to remotely switch input/output settings on your cable box mean in the long run? it seems like a trade-off between privacy and convenience to me.

Would you take advantage of this program, or are you wary of letting cable providers to further control what comes into your home? Will this help studios that are financially hurting to recoup their losses on movie-goers who just can't afford to see first-run movies, and/or side-step piracy of blockbusters? What's your take on the matter?