Archives For CableCARD

RCN TiVo Update On The Way

Dave Zatz —  April 12, 2014


RCN TiVo rentals are poised to receive an iteration of the (glitchy) TiVo Spring Update. Whereas us retail owners have been receiving version 20.4, RCN TiVo hardware in DC and PA will be pushed 20.8 beginning next week – with their entire footprint expected to upgrade within a month. Both updates focus on under-the-hood improvements and more TiVo “back office” network fault tolerance, resolving open issues and setting the stage for follow-on enhancements expected later this year. Beyond the unseen, RCN customers will soon be able to simultaneously beam VOD content from a hub TiVo DVR to multiple satellite extenders (with a 6-tuner TiVo eventually being made available). Additional visible changes include a more detailed What To Watch Now discovery screen and slightly quicker TiVo Mini tuning. Of course, I still believe the best way to get TiVo is directly thru a cable company like RCN — they’re far more motivated to make sure the install goes smoothly and customers have far more flexibility to return, replace, or upgrade as needed.

TiVo visited with the FCC last week, lamenting the current state of CableCARD and Section 629. And, to reiterate their points, submitted the above letter. While we can’t speak to TiVo’s survey methodology, they report diminished CableCARD support with increased operator-implemented roadblocks – presumably intended to discourage third party set-top usage… such as TiVo and perhaps Samsung, should they stick with it. Some cited examples:

  • 36 percent of MSO agents surveyed in Dec. 2013 said that self-installation of CableCARDs was not allowed, up from 25 percent in Feb. 2013. (Note that self-installation of CableCARDs is required by 47 C.F.R. § 76.1205(b)(1).)
  • For those retail customers that self-install their CableCARDs, 24 percent would be charged a fee for self-installation, with fees increasing since EchoStar, including a fee as high as $39.95 imposed by two operators.
  • 36 percent of MSO agents surveyed in Dec. 2013 offer their own operator’s DVR on an unsolicited basis to customers requesting CableCARDs for retail devices,up from 26 percent in Feb. 2013

Beyond CableCARD, TiVo wants any successor “to assure the availability of bidirectional video signals to retail devices” put into play… Continue Reading…

It's (All Gonna Be) Comcastic!

Dave Zatz —  February 13, 2014


Charter had been looking to tie up the country’s second largest cable operator, but #1 Comcast has swooped in with a $45 billion agreement to acquire Time Warner Cable. The deal will be closely scrutinized by federal regulators, but at least one pundit expects minimal push back given their largely distinct areas of operation. However, that simplistic analysis overlooks Comcast’s identity as a media entity along with dramatically increased negotiating power when it comes to retransmission and licensing (in both directions). Further, Public Knowledge has concerns in relation to such a large percent of Americas relying on a single entity for their voice and data services. Having said all that, TWC isn’t a great cable company for TiVo owners and a Comcast infrastructure would be a significant improvement. Assuming we’re still using TiVo after the years required to close the deal, remove the punitive content restrictions, and retrofit those head-ends.

Fellow tech enthusiast and DC neighbor Joel Ward continues his role as a Features contributor here at Zatz Not Funny. Beyond ZNF, Joel can be found at Joel Explains It All and @joelsef on Twitter.

A few months back, we finally replaced our 2007-era Sony SXRD rear projection 1080p HDTV with a newer Samsung LCD/LED model. Not only do we find Sammy’s picture quality light years ahead of the Sony–even though it’s still “only” 1080p and not 4K—the new set shipped with all the bells and whistles of a modern “Smart TV.” In fact, it’s hard to find a large, high quality television nowadays that doesn’t have some sort of apps built-in. So whether you want them or not, you’re probably getting something.

Samsung’s Smart TV Hub is impressive, featuring one of the nicer TV UIs out there right now. While the LG WebOS TV unveiled at CES may be a contender, I’d say Samsung is probably the most sophisticated TV UI at the moment. It definitely has a lot of features and the Smart Hub is divvied up into five main screens: On TV (aka TV guide); Apps; Social; Photos, Video & Music (aka DLNA); and Movies & TV Shows.


Continue Reading…

Netgear Puts A RDK Set-Top On A HDMI Stick


After about a 6 month hiatus, Comcast and TiVo are once again expanding Xfinity On Demand services into new regions – Arkansas and Kentucky, to be specific. While we’re not entirely clear on the nature of the pause and had assumed the pair were evaluating perhaps a more efficiently implemented over-the-top app, as seen via Xbox and iPad, it sounds as if the original tech is still play. (Not to mention it’s Comcast’s ongoing partnership with TiVo that has spared them a DVR patent infringement lawsuit and licensing arrangement.) Irrespective of the back story and infrastructure, On Demand services are a big win for joint subscribers of the companies. And one that Cox customers may soon also enjoy.


As we inch closer to a 10/23 release of the $150 Samsung Smart Cable Box, a rumored 10,000 units are en route to the US and its user guide has appeared online. Via the aforementioned literature, the combo cable+Internet box is confirmed to sport Netflix as a tent pole app. So, while Netflix and the US cable industry continue to gnash their teeth, consumers will have another option, beyond TiVo, to roll their own best of breed video platform. Beyond that compelling nugget of intel, manual visuals appear quite similar to what we observed at the Cable Show — a unidirectional CableCARD powers its pay TV capabilities, augmented by a Samsung-provided guide, joined by a variety of over-the-top apps, plus local media playback. Further, Samsung Android devices, sporting Samsung’s AllCast app, will be capable of TV-based screen mirroring. And no mention of recurring fees for guide date. Continue Reading…


Verizon is sending customers links and literature covering updated FiOS TV fees. And, sadly, TiVo owners will be paying the price. Already the most costly provider when it comes to CableCARD rentals, Verizon has jacked up the price, once again, to $4.99/month. By comparison, a DTA set-top box runs a single dollar more at $5.99/month.


Unfortunately, the differential doesn’t logically scale as the cost to replace a damaged or misplaced CableCARD runs $100 whereas the DTA is $175…. leading me to believe this supersized fee for a mere PCMCIA card is both punitive, designed to encourage folks to utilize Verizon’s own equipment, and intended to offset whatever additional support costs Verizon incurs due to (their) activation/pairing issues and the like. Of course, as all who follow this space know, CableCARDs are under attack … by the very same industry that put forth this imperfect technology and, yet, without a viable replacement.

Continue Reading…