CableCARD Relief Headed Our Way?

Dave Zatz —  October 11, 2010 — 9 Comments

Over at EngadgetHD, Ben D wonders if the FCC will make any meaningful improvements to the CableCARD quagmire and retail STB accessibility when they convene on Wednesday. I don’t have the energy or time to rehash all my thoughts on where we are and how we got here. And don’t imagine the FCC has the teeth to enact substantial change… due to the requisite years of legal challenges that would certainly come their way. But as a household burdened with the notoriously flakey Cisco tuning adapters, you might correctly assume I’m not a happy (SDV) camper. Fortunately, we’re getting close to a point where even folks who appreciate premium content have other options and may be frustrated enough to make certain sacrifices. If the cable industry MSOs won’t take care of their customers, someone else will.

So head on over to Ben’s FCC survey and place your wagers. For the record, I chose:

One or two insignificant changes will be made, but no real progress

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9 responses to CableCARD Relief Headed Our Way?

  1. “So head on over to Ben’s FCC survey and place your wagers. For the record, I chose: One or two insignificant changes will be made, but no real progress”

    Well, of course, if one of those insignificant changes is to mandate the IP backchannel and thus render tuning adapters unnecessary, than that insignificant change will be significant for you…

    —–

    “Fortunately, we’re getting close to a point where even folks who appreciate premium content have other options and may be frustrated enough to make certain sacrifices. If the cable industry MSOs won’t take care of their customers, someone else will.”

    Y’know, you could’ve written that same paragraph in 1997, or 1999, or 2001, or 2003, or 2005, or 2007, or 2009, and it would’ve been just as true as it is today.

    A transition from the “broadcast” model to an individual stream model is always right over the horizon.

    Frankly, when I look at the infrastructure big picture, I just don’t see it.

    Lots of interesting things are going to keep happening on the margins. But for the folks who want to pay for content, I’d be willing to bet at even money that CableCARD will still be at the core of the gear in 5 years. Hell, if you give me 3 to 1 odds, I’d bet that CableCARD will still be at the core of the gear in 10 years.

    Everyone overlooks just how much infrastructure would have to be laid for everyone in the country to all get their own individual HD streams at the same time. The “broadcast” model is going to continue to hold real infrastructure advantages going forward.

    The TiVo is dead. Long live the TiVo.

  2. IP backchannel is not insignificant. Enforcing a CableCARD line item on the monthly bill is.

    Chucky, I could have said that back then, but I didn’t. For my viewing preferences, it feels like we’re accelerating towards a tipping point. Also, the house we put an offer on is capable of receiving FiOS or satellite so, while I may choose to stick with pay TV for awhile, it doesn’t necessarily have to be cable (Cox).

  3. “Also, the house we put an offer on is capable of receiving FiOS or satellite so, while I may choose to stick with pay TV for awhile, it doesn’t necessarily have to be cable (Cox).”

    Terminology-wise, cable is cable, whether it’s delivered via last-mile coax or fibre.

    I’ve got FIOS, and I think of myself as a “cable” subscriber.

    —–

    “it feels like we’re accelerating towards a tipping point.”

    This is true. The future will be.

    I just don’t see how it’s going to happen anywhere but at the margins anytime soon.

    For things to happen anywhere but the margins, the infrastructure ain’t right, and the government regulatory structure ain’t right.

    The margins will get more vibrant, but the center is going to hold far longer than is the current common wisdom.

  4. Fortunately, you and I dwell in those margins. ;)

  5. I must be really fortunate. I’ve read all the horror stories about tuning adapters. I’ve got a Motorola unit and it’s worked almost flawlessly for me. Every once in a while, my TiVo tells me to hit select to try tuning again, but it’s never caused an issue with any of my recordings.

  6. “Fortunately, you and I dwell in those margins.”

    Interestingly enough, even though I can get my programming 17 different ways ’til Tuesday, I still get the vast bulk of it via my monthly subscription to FIOS.

    Part of that is because I can tinker, and given that FIOS transmits everything in the clear and bare 2TB hard drives are dirt cheap, I can get and keep my programming far cheaper via cable than any other means.

    For example, Carlos is going to hit the theaters and PPV VOD next week, but I’ll just record it instead. I like the all-you-can-eat model you get when you bring your own gear.

    I do dwell in the very esoteric margins, but my margins are mostly about esoteric local caching and playback techniques, not about IPTV. (I have bought a few seasons of Mad Men and some movies from Amazon VOD. I do subscribe to Netflix, although less enthusiastically every month, as I’ve already gone through the heart of their HD offerings. But the bulk of my programming dollars is happily sent to Verizon.)

  7. Brian, it’s been a bitch. I gave up on Breaking Bad and Mad Men last season due to missed recordings when the tuning adapter would reboot during an airing. Actually, I had to purchase many episodes via Amazon to overcome the shortcoming. Great for the studios, I pay twice. Not great for me. Almost daily, at least once, the Premiere TA reboots in some way because we usually see a ‘tuning adapter has been connected’ TiVo message when we start watching TV.

    Chucky, Agreed. Most of my content is sourced via cable. But we have options should we need them… and more will be available soon. ESPN3 on the Xbox is a big deal for me (during college football season) and if CNN or MSNBC does some sort of over the top offering (not snippets, live video) I can probably ween Melissa off cable.

  8. I think the coming Over The Top transition may be generational and will play out in roughly that sort of time frame. Which is 20-ish years. So yes I still expect to be getting the bulk of my video from cable into the foreseeable future. Even though I have a Tivo with Amazon VOD and a new Apple TV and might buy a Boxee Box when it comes out… But that’s not the question. The question is what those kids currently in university or growing up watching TV on their laptops in their bedrooms are going to do. From what I’ve seen a lot of them don’t want to spend their money on cable, and they might not evolve into their parents as they grow up.

    Even if things evolve as slowly as I think they might the change will still be catastrophic for the MSO’s.

    And yes, in time I think this will kick them hard enough that they start to respond to some of the things people actually want from them. I’m still not holding my breath though.

  9. I dont get what people think OTT really is? This is like saying it’s better to make the envelopes than to own Fed Ex.

    Do you think studios will be giving content away to OTT providers for free? If not…do you think equal or less than cable/telco companies & their buying power? If so…where do you expect to get this “Access” to OTT content from? Do you think these “Access” providers will not have a bottom line fixed cost?

    OTT (as it exists currently) is a cheap, moderate quality service because it pulls much of the premium content out of the mix. It is high value & compelling, but it is NOT the same content, nor the same reliability due to relying on public (and 3rd party) networks. It also cannot get to your house without a transport technology that you will pay for separately.

    So, I think the real question here is…do you believe the next generation(s) of subscribers will want less content than previous generations? That is essentially the only way I see total cost of content going down ultimately.

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