SDV Tuning Adapters In The Flesh


As promised, Cisco and Motorola SDV tuning adapters are on display at The Cable Show. Mari shot the photo below and EngadgetHD posted several pics of the Motorola SDV tuning resolver in action with a TiVoHD. I’m pleased TiVo customers will shortly (?) see a solution (even if it’s a kludge, bound to cause more confusion) to the retail CableCARD SDV issue, but it’s yet to be seen which other CableCARD products (TVs, Media Center PCs) will receive the firmware updates needed to utilize these boxes.

TiVo’s SDV status update press release hasn’t yet hit the wires, but here’s an excerpt:

NEW ORLEANS, LA – May 19, 2008 – The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) and TiVo Inc. (NASDAQ: TIVO), today announced that after a series of successful informal interoperability tests TiVo and several manufacturers of switched digital external tuning adapters have submitted products for formal testing at CableLabs. The tuning adapter will enable TiVo Series3™, TiVo HD DVRs, and certain other one-way digital cable ready consumer electronic devices that utilize CableCARDs™ to access digital cable channels delivered using switched digital technology.

Motorola and Cisco have both developed external tuning adapters and are seeking qualification by CableLabs® before being delivered to cable operators for deployment. The tuning adapters are expected to be offered in the coming months by cable operators including Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, and Cablevision in areas where switched digital technology is being deployed. The cable operators and TiVo plan to work cooperatively to alert TiVo subscribers about the availability or need of the new external adapter and to ensure that installation of the adapter and CableCARDs will be easy and seamless for the consumer.

TiVo has modified its software for its TiVo Series3 and TiVo HD DVRs to communicate with the external Tuning Adapter. TiVo announced that the modified software has been submitted to CableLabs for verification testing. Upon verification, the software upgrade will be made available to TiVo subscribers via a regularly scheduled update.

Update: TiVo has published an SDV FAQ.

22 thoughts on “SDV Tuning Adapters In The Flesh”

  1. Wow, what a turnaround time. I’m still amazed that the industry was able to get this done in the timeframe they set.

  2. Vince, we consumers can’t actually get one just yet… ;) But yes, the dev time has been reasonable. Perhaps the fear of government intervention motivated them? And surely TiVo was going to have a big problem on their hands without a solution. Who knows!

    Chris, if you have a SA box you don’t have a problem. It’s retail CableCARD devices that aren’t capable of two-way functionality like SDV, VOD, etc.

  3. Dave will the cable companies be renting these boxes? I already rent two cablecards for use with my Tivo series 3 and Comcast just doubled the price I pay for them.

    At some point (and I think I’m approaching it) I will probably use the Tivo for OTA and get the rest of what I want from the internet or netflix.

  4. Gary, I haven’t seen anything official on this but a lot of folks seem to think they’ll be offered for free – perhaps as part of the CableCARD rental fees or digital outlet fees.

  5. The next question for Tivo, will we see this box incorporated into the next HD Box Tivo puts out, i.e. Series 4?

  6. Wmearly, Presumably the next significant TiVo unit would utilize/integrate the tru2way platform. If so, it would be able to handle SDV internally and offer other two-way services such as VOD.

  7. Two things:
    1) FINALLY! This can’t come out any faster for me.
    2) Dave — how can a TiVo series 4 use Tru2Way (ugh) to access SDV without leaving the TiVo interface? My understanding of T2W is that when accessing anything on the T2W platform, the host box has to abandon it’s native UI and use the Java platform the CO has running on their system. This makes sense (sort of) for things like on demand and PPV, even if it’s barely tolerable…but for channel changing? They really need to sort this mess out.

  8. Cost of Tivo HD
    + Cost of Tivo Service
    + Cost of Cable TV
    + Cost of Digital cable package
    + Cost of renting cablecards
    + Cost of renting SDV
    = a ridiculous amount of money just to watch TV.

    At this point it’s probably more cost effective to upgrade my Internet access bandwidth, and buy the shows I want to watch from iTunes, Amazon unbox and the other services cropping up.

    I don’t think the SDV is going to be the end to the problems. The cable companies want to be the only game in town. I believe the cable companies will keep the troubles coming.

  9. I empathize with Krell and Gary… I’ve repeatedly had the urge to dump pay “TV” – as these new viewing options mature, the motivated and tech savvy will have more alternatives. Since moving, we’ve cut our cable bill by more than half on a new customer special (I refused to deal with Comcast and renew, so now it’s under Melissa’s name). I can’t complain for 11 more months – $60 (plus random taxes and surcharges) for broadband and digital cable, including two outlets consisting of 3 CableCARDs.

  10. If you check the engadgethd entry, you’ll see screen caps of the diagnostics menus. One of the thing that I noticed was a diagnostics page all but identical to the interactive status on a Motorola DCT/DCH set top. I’m wondering if they will also allow this device to use video on demand services through the cable company. Understanding that an interface update to the Tivo software would be required to navigate the VOD library… BUT MSO’s could also count on possible revenue from Tivo VOD users.

  11. Dave, I currently rent whole season discs of shows like Weeds, Curb your Enthusiasm and flight of the conchords from Netflix. If I added Rescue Me, The Closer and South Park. Then set up an antenna for OTA broadcasts of NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS. At that point I’d just need to get a handful of shows (like the Tour de France) from the net. I’m on the edge of dumping cable TV altogether.

  12. Dave,

    What I meant was will this work with cable companies in markets where they deploy SA boxes? ie: will their head-ends play nicely w/ a Motorola box.

    More so, will those cable companies sell a Moto switcher box if they don’t currently sell/rent Moto products?

  13. chris, if you’re in SA country you’d most likely be provided the Cisco tuning adapter (also pictured above, bottom left thumbnail). Between Moto and SA/Cisco, the majority of SDV customers should be covered. I don’t know for certain, but I expect these boxes could work in other environments with proper authentication and such. But it would have to happen on the MSO end, not as a consumer. Somewhat related, I had heard a more independent vendor was producing a tuning resolver – not sure if that plan has been dumped or it’s just not ready to be discussed.

  14. Welp, Cablevision finally implemented SDV in my area, and our TiVo HD no longer picks up any of the Voom channels. My wife and I actually really enjoyed about 5 of these channels, so it’s pretty annoying.

    Also, our non-HDTV in the bedroom does not have cablecards, but it no longer gets a bunch of other channels which we actually continue to receive on the TiVo HD. Very odd.

    I’m seriously hoping that Cablevision makes an SDV tuner available within the next 3 months, and gives it away for free, or at least very cheaply.

  15. Does anyone know Suddenlink’s plans for SDV, particularly in the TX area? I used to have DirecTV w/ S2 SAs but switched to Suddenlink cable so I could continue to use Tivo. I love the Tivo HD but Suddenlink’s HD offerings pale in comparison to satellite.

    SDV can’t come too soon for me…I’ll happily pay for a dongle to get an expanded HD selection (SciFi?!?)

  16. This is just going to be too little, too late for me. I was tired of paying Time Warner for the luxury of not being able to record all the available HD channels so I canceled my cable.

    Now I just use OTA with my Tivo HD and fill in the gaps with Unbox, iTunes, etc.

  17. I got a letter from Cox Communications today regarding SDV here in Phoenix, AZ. They bumped their date back from 7.1.08 to 10.10.08 for the switch. The letter also states; “The Tuning Adapter will be provided by Cox at no charge to Cox Digital Cable customers.” The channels they list as going to SDV on the flipside of the letter seem to be channels that they deem are the least watched channels on their network. Many are the Spanish versions of other channels, ones like Fuse, G4, Logo, C-SPAN 2 & 3, etc… I will wait and see what happens as availability is listed as “later this year”. XX

  18. I have great plains cable and have to have their HD box to get all the channels. before I moved I had cox with cable cards and 3 tivo premiers . Great plains does not have cable cards so my question will this work for me ?


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