Archives For CableCARD
Perhaps the biggest drawback to TiVo ownership is the inability to access our cable provider’s On Demand services. Yet TiVo and Comcast attempted to rectify the situation to their mutual benefit by bringing Xfinity On Demand to Premiere hardware, as a followup to their initial (and not very good) set-top collaboration. However, after leisurely rolling out the service to 21 markets, the companies have hit the pause button. According to Comcast’s Ted Hodgins:
We work with TiVo to jointly determine which markets are scheduled to get the TiVo with XFINITY On Demand as the best return on our joint investment. […] Unfortunately, we currently don’t have plans for any additional markets this year while both Comcast and TiVo evaluate the performance and results of the current markets where this added feature has been made available.
The CEA, TiVo and Public Knowledge continue to hammer the FCC, due to the government agency’s bungled Charter waiver, and appeal to the body that “its regulations be reinstated.” Some choice quotes:
By misreading the law, the FCC took away your ability to buy alternative set-top boxes like Tivo and Smart TVs. We think that’s wrong. (Public Knowledge)
The Bureau’s Order, like the Charter Request, deals in assumptions and hopes rather than in facts. The Commission cannot let stand this nullification of law and regulation, without process or public comment. (CEA)
By vacating these rules, the Court created an unhealthy amount of uncertainty in the industry — uncertainty that harms innovation and competition as well as settled consumer expectations. (TiVo)
Due to a variety of factors we won’t rehash, beyond TiVo, CableCARD and retail cable set-top boxes have never really taken off. And even TiVo’s market penetration is suspect. I reached out to the NCTA and was informed there are about 600,000 CableCARDs currently deployed (plus Verizon FiOS). So that’d include TiVo hardware, Windows Media Center, and any legacy smart TVs that support the tech. It also encompasses households with multiple cards, as the TiVo Series 3 requires, and to serve folks with multiple devices — meaning there’s something less than 600k active CableCARD homes. Now, that’s not necessarily a number to scoff at. But it pales in comparison to tens of millions pay TV subscribers and burdens cable with additional infrastructure and support costs – including 40 million+ set-tops they themselves provide with CableCARDs.
We rarely shed tears for big cable and have been TiVo proponents for many years, yet it’s an interesting exercise to imagine a post-CableCARD era where Section 629 is met by iPad, Roku, Xbox, and Apple TV. Discuss.
After taking in the annual Cable Show, what struck me are the increasingly complex relationships – shifting and unpredictable alliances, enemies now friends, competitors snuffed… with the final chapters yet to be written. Much like HBO’s Game of Thrones. Beyond the corporate square dance, there’s clearly increased excitement surrounding TV Everywhere. So head on over to The Verge where I penned an article touching on these topics, including exclusive reveals of TiVo’s forthcoming web portal.
The Cable Show has returned to DC and while the NCTA’s annual convention is winding down, our coverage is still rolling in. Mari, who hosted the Navigation Station panel (shown above), is writing under the Light Reading masthead and I’m preparing a story that touches on the cable industry’s complex and evolving corporate relationships with two scoops from familiar faces thrown in for good measure. Beyond that, I’ve got a couple more interesting products/solutions to share in the coming days. But, until then, here’s a sampling of my Cable Show tweets: Continue Reading…
Microsoft has been a frenemy to the pay-TV industry for a long, long time. So now that the company is taking over TV interfaces with its Xbox One HDMI pass-through feature, I thought it worth looking back over the company’s (sometimes torturous) history with pay-TV providers. (Note: Nothing on Media Center PCs or WebTV here. That’s another story.)
2003 – Microsoft TV Foundation Edition Launches in June at the National Show
Microsoft’s software platform for the cable industry includes an interactive program guide that operators can use to create “On-Demand Storefronts”
2004 – Microsoft and Comcast do a deal to bring the Foundation software to subscribers in Washington state
Microsoft gets its big break in the cable industry
2006 – AT&T launches U-verse IPTV service with Microsoft inside
U-verse is the first major IPTV service in the U.S., and it runs on Microsoft code
2007 – Comcast gives up on Microsoft’s Foundation software
Microsoft’s short (and not sweet) dance with Comcast ends
Just when you thought the FCC and Charter had put the final nail in CableCARD’s coffin, Samsung reveals plans to produce a hybrid cable+OTT set-top box for a fall 2013 launch. Assuming the FCC gets around to granting TiVo’s analog tuner waiver request in a timely fashion.
Smart Media Player, an innovative product with a compelling consumer value proposition based upon seamless integration of desirable services and reduction of monthly cable equipment rental fees. Smart Media Player will access unidirectional (not interactive) linear cable content through a CableCARD, connect to interactive, over-the-top services and Internet content through the consumer’s broadband Internet subscription, provide a free electronic program guide, and offer a seamless, integrated Samsung user interface.
Of course, given CableCARD’s history, most CE companies threw in the towel long ago — with manufacturers like Sony, LG, and Panasonic abandoning the technology (to the presumed delight of cable operators). So it’s refreshing to see Samsung take a flier on this previously poorly supported tech in producing a convergence device that liberates consumers from inferior cable set-tops (video below). And it’s exactly the kind of cable box I’d like in my clutter-free kitchen, with access to Netflix, YouTube, and DLNA apps. But with the FCC giving Charter a pass on CableCARD support, we wonder if Samsung should even bother at this point. Perhaps they’re counting on logic to prevail, as both the CEA and TiVo have lodged protests against the bungled decision:
The Bureau’s Order, like the Charter Request, deals in assumptions and hopes rather than in facts. The Commission cannot let stand this nullification of law and regulation, without process or public comment.
Back in February, TiVo had petitioned the FCC to build a new line of all-digital DVRs. And apparently Industry is prepared to abandon analog tuning, as not a single letter of opposition was filed.
From TiVo’s February filing:
This petition requests an extension of that waiver to several new all-digital cable only devices and a slight extension of that waiver to cover devices that permit reception of digital broadcast (“DTV”) signals. One model of TiVo’ s new all-digital DVRs would include ATSC over-the-air reception capability; this model, therefore, requires waiver of both the DCR Rules and Section 15.117(b)’s dual analog/digital tuner requirement.
From TiVo’s April follow-up (embedded below):
As the Commission is aware, the lengthy design and production cycle faced by consumer electronics manufacturers like TiVo makes it extremely important that the Commission act expeditiously to resolve the kinds of technical issues raised in the Petition. In this case, if TiVo is to begin production of its proposed all-digital DVRs in time to begin delivering them for the 2013 holiday season, the Commission must act to grant the Petition soon.
So while the FCC recently bungled Charter’s CableCARD waiver request, they have an opportunity to let TiVo get busy on their next generation Premiere DVR hardware. Yet, with the agency’s leadership in flux (and that nonsensical Charter ruling), it’s conceivable that TiVo may not receive a timely or desired response. In any event, two recent TiVo user surveys suggest the company is evaluating a 300-hr, 4-tuner, digital cable and OTA Premiere successor. Continue Reading…