TiVo Plots A Future Beyond CableCARD & Tuning Adapters

Dave Zatz —  July 16, 2014

tivo-cablecard

As TiVo turns the software corner, not only have they banished the poorly performing and ill-supported Adobe framework in favor of Haxe, but they’re leading the charge (as proposed by RCN and given the FCC’s apparent indifference) to replace unwieldy, antiquated cable hardware with a more sensible digital approach… with a little help from their cable allies. How TiVo hopes to evolve beyond the dastardly CableCARD and SDV tuning adapter:

Comcast, TiVo Working On Non-CableCARD Approach
TiVo and Comcast have agreed to collaborate on a two-way, non-CableCARD security platform that would enable TiVo boxes bought at retail to access Comcast’s full lineup of linear programming as well as the MSO’s video-on-demand service.

TiVo Crafts ‘Embedded’ Switched Digital Video Tech
the embedded SDV implementation uses a proxy in the network, enabling the TiVo box outfitted with the updated software client to communicate through an IP channel and access channels in the switched tier […] is initially in place to support TiVo devices deployed by the company’s MSO partners

28 responses to TiVo Plots A Future Beyond CableCARD & Tuning Adapters

  1. William Aprea July 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    The question for us current CableCard customers is, will this solution be backwards-compatible with existing Premiere and Roamio hardware?

  2. hypothetically- Would you still need the cable card in existing retail Tivo devices or would a software download allow you to operate the old retail devices without cable cards?

  3. Yeah, I’d think the benefit of this sort of solution is that it’s all software-based with Roamio and Premiere models capable of being updated to communicate with Comcast’s also updated infrastructure (and whomever else licenses their tech). But there’s no telling how long development and integration could take…

  4. Will this solution be backwards-compatible with existing Premiere and Roamio hardware?

    Would you still need the cable card in existing retail Tivo devices or would a software download allow you to operate the old retail devices without cable cards?

    Excellent questions! I suspect the CableCard will still be needed for (decoding and) viewing of encrypted linear TV content in existing devices, but IP-based VOD should work without a CableCARD (as it presumably does today from non-CableCo sources like Amazon, Netflix, and others).

  5. Is this TiVo-Comcast collaboration open to others, and is it based on anything existing? I’m curious as to how TiVo is approaching the Charter downloadable security trial, for example. Charter is required to get at least one third-party retail device certified, and TiVo makes the most sense.

    As far as SDV goes, Charter is also minimizing SDV. Tom Rutledge has said more than once he doesn’t like SDV and wants to get out of it as much as possible (probably referring to switching to IP) and most reports on DSL Reports show that in newly all-digital Charter markets, only a very very tiny number of channels appear to remain on SDV.

  6. Steve, I don’t think so – the idea is to replace this million year old and pricey PCMCIA technology. Digital conditional access has been floated for years, but no one’s been motivated to do anything with it (other than that near miss with Boxee & Comcast).

    Joseph, based on the FCC filing it sounds like Comcast might want to license it out and/or maybe similar terms to the RDK platform. Who knows what the FCC will say or in regards to Charter’s experimentation – keep in mind Charter was/is a TiVo partner too…

  7. Right, and TiVo even hinted at still possibly being in talks with Charter. However, Charter has started rolling out their new “Spectrum Guide” which is the ActiveVideo-based interface. The idea that they are still interested in doing something with TiVo seems doubtful.

    The Charter downloadable security is based on the same stuff Cablevision is using, which is a Cisco “standard”. The Comcast thing sounds completely unrelated. I wonder how far along Charter is with their rollout, and whether or not the security Comcast is developing requires X1 as well. The FCC thing mentions IP video so it sounds like it may be rolled up into X1 infrastructure/architecture.

  8. Yeah, it’s possible TiVo could end up supporting multiple software standards. And who knows how or if the FCC will get involved. Or what TiVo will petition them to do.

  9. Comcast is not being forced to do this, thus they will not actually do it.

    This announcement is a smokescreen so TiVo doesn’t oppose their merger with TWC.

  10. Until TiVo’s timewarp patents expire, Comcast may be motivated to further collaborate with TiVo… But, yeah, I hear what you’re saying and even if they happen to be sincere, cable behemoths (and TiVo) generally move at the speed of dark. It’ll be the status quo for some time.

  11. Comcast would need to implement this across all their infrastructure. That’s tons of expense to support TiVo’s tiny userbase, all of whom are Comcast subscribers anyway since they’re a monopoly. That will never happen voluntarily.

    Comcast and TiVo have announced alliances before. How many TiVo-branded STBs did Comcast actually distribute to their customers?

    Time Warp and Trick Play expire in 4 years. Comcast will continue their winning strategy of publicly supporting TiVo while actually doing nothing whatsoever.

  12. The original Comcast TiVo was a debacle. But that was generations ago. The Xfinity On Demand required changes to all their headends, both Cisco and Motorola and they got it done across the footprint. But I agree TiVo has a relatively tiny user base… so if Comcast is serious I’d say it’s designed to ride on other things they’re working either IP simulcast and/or whatever feeds some of their apps. Let us have this small glimmer of hope for at least a day? ;)

  13. Did it, though? Comcast supports TV Anywhere for iOS, android, and browsers. Did the TiVo Xfinity app not plug into that same backend?

    Sorry for bumming you out!

  14. Rodalpho – Agreed, I’m also inclined to think Comcast wants to show examples of how their proposed merger would benefit consumers. Once they get past the hurdles this will die on the vine. I’d also guess the Comcast-TWC merger helped get the Xfinity On Demand deployment complete in all markets. It was only about this time last year when the deployment hit the pause button.

  15. I dunno about that one. Cable companies see TV Anywhere as countering an existential threat. They don’t do it to be “pro-consumer”, they do it because they need to offer a compelling reason for people growing increasingly accustomed to watching netflix on their ipad in bed not to cut the cord.

  16. Sorry, I was agreeing about this being a smokescreen. This type of announcement gives the illusion of being open heading into a merger which is different than pro-consumer. I doubt TiVo’s support of the merger has as much importance. The timing of this and On-Demand getting done raises my suspicions. TiVo’s numbers are just really tiny (like you said) in the big picture.

  17. So what you are really saying is that Tivo has caved and is now supporting proprietary/walled garden solutions. Ugh!!! More power to BigCable! Ugh :(

  18. HarryKerryJr. July 17, 2014 at 2:34 am

    TiVo could be a repeat of DirecTV TiVo that not only took way too long to bring to subscribers, but also has ADDITIONAL cost on the monthly bill to the subscriber. Good call that Comcast is all for it now with the merger still not approved, but MSO’s have never been eager to team with TiVo, and if some new ones do, we could look for them to make it a premium priced box/service over the MSO’s standard “FREE” equipment. That does nothing to truly bring a 3rd party to consumers as a real option. Too bad because TiVo does wipe the floor with MSO’s equipment, but be prepared to pay more for it.

  19. Doesn’t the FCC’s All-Vid rule come up at the end of this year? Unless it’s extended again, of course.

  20. Waiver of IP Output rule was extended until June 2015 earlier this year.

    http://www.fcc.gov/document/media-bureau-grants-tivos-request-waiver-ip-output-rule-0

  21. So with Tivo moving to the more efficient and easily portable HAXE, couldn’t they then update DirecTV’s Tivo solution to look like the new HD UI? We know the DirecTV box Tivo runs on is capeable of high resolution graphic output, as the same box can run DirecTV’s HDUI.

    With going to a software approach, why coudn’t Tivo put a software defined tuner with wideband capture in a retail box. Then allow it to work with not only cable, but DirecTV or Dish as well? If its software defined and controlled, just in the initial setup process when selecting the DBS or Cable provider of your choice, the system would know what drivers to load for tuning, and then subsequently where to look to download the conditional access module for that particular provider, once it obtains a lock and can find the rolling code download in that providers carousel.

  22. Dale, I’m not sure what other options they have. Their retail business loses subscribers every quarter with the FCC seemingly having bigger fish to fry and limited authority. Comcast is the largest US cable provider. So if they threw TiVo a lifeline, legit or lip service, they’d have to bite.

    In regards to the timing and TWC, based on conversations I’ve been privy to, it seems that TiVo supports the Comcast/TWC merger as they feel they do have an ally in Comcast and that Comcast better supports TiVo in retail. That’s my take anyway.

    cypher, regarding DirecTV, TiVo built exactly what they had commissioned them for… and, again, based on conversations I was privy to, it’s my belief that TiVo had been frustrated with how that product played out.

  23. Michael Burstin July 17, 2014 at 8:27 am

    A little late in the discussion here, but lets say that this is an IP based solution. Would this mean that recording things on the new Tivo solution ends up eating into my Comcast bandwidth cap or would this be some sort of “backchannel?” I don’t know how their X1/X2 platforms operate. I have assumed that using the xfinity app on iOS uses bandwidth (but maybe Comcast bandwidth monitors ignore data from certain IP address?).

    I was pretty sure that the xfinity on-demand access works by using minimal bandwidth because its just using TCP to tell the backend to play a video on a certain channel and that the Tivo just is tuning to the channel that the backend is transferring to.

  24. I’ve had my TiVo eight months now and I am on my fifth cable card- cable card suck. Comcast poorly supports them and All my issues with my Roamio have been cable card issues.

  25. Michael Banks July 17, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Tina, I doubt that all 5 cable card were the issue. There is a bug in the cisco/SA cablecard firmware v 1.5.2 that cause the Roamio 6 tuner to lose connection. They are rolling out v1.5.3 which fixes the bug. See this thread

    http://forums.comcast.com/t5/XfinityTV-and-Equipment/Cisco-Firmware-1-5-3-1101/td-p/1967519/highlight/false/page/3

    In the thread you can request and updated firmware. It also seems like (from the thread) that no one at comcast support knows about the firmware bug which is why they keep replacing them.

    You can drop to 4 tuners by going into channel selection screen and typing 88434 (4 channels) 88436 (to go back to 6 channels).

  26. Oh, i want to believe that TWC (Time Warner Cable) would implement this and let me get rid of that awful SDV device and all it’s wires and it’s power suck. Sadly, TWC has a very dismal record in terms of being TiVo friendly and consumer friendly. They never do anything to make consumers’ lives easier or more convenient.

  27. Why not just use SIM cards instead?

  28. I dont see WHY COMCAST would look to get rid of CABLECARDS for after the first they start to charge seemingly unlawful access prices; saying the digital feed any unit after #1 is something special…( a subetrfuge if ever there was one) THAT is why I removed TIVO #2 from my system even tho I am paying for it until the contract is over…then on to a 6 tuner TiVo device using ONE CABLECARD; no EXTRA fee!!!