That piece by Saul Hansell in The NY Times Thurs highlighting cable’s "bottleneck control" over the way Americans watch TV had tongues wagging at CES and MSO boardrooms. The story focused on how those increasingly advanced set-tops provided by cable companies make it hard for the flashy devices displayed at the show to control the signals they receive. But cable maintains inroads have been made. "The NY Times’ story misses the point that there are commercial relationships coming together without regulation that are good for the consumer and the participants at CES," Charter’s Carl Vogel said at CES. He pointed to Charter’s strategic partnership with Samsung for development and promotion of 2-way, plug & play digital cable TVs. Time Warner struck a similar pact with Samsung. "Our Samsung relationship is consistent with our simultrans, all-digital view advocated by Charter chmn Paul Allen and implemented by our team," Vogel said. "The Samsung product makes digital more accessible in the home, enables digital devices throughout the home, and takes the cost off [Charter’s] balance sheet." — Cox’s Dallas Clement met with Hansell yesterday to provide examples of how cable is creating more open standards for both industries. In addition to explaining the OCAP middleware initiative, Clement explained how cable is trying to partner with CE companies so customers have a positive experience when they buy a device at retail and hook it up to the Cox network. — Zenith owner LG Electronics became the 2nd CE manufacturer to ink a licensing agreement with CableLabs for two-way, plug & play digital products. The announcement was made after an executive signing ceremony at CES. Samsung signed the 1st such deal in the fall. The agreements let CE makers get a jumpstart on 2-way product development, granting them certain intellectual property rights required for building devices compliant with CableLabs’ OpenCable specs. TiVo yesterday unveiled an HD cable-ready DVR that lets subs access HD broadcasts without a separate cable set-top. The CableCARD-enabled TiVo box is expected to launch early ’06.