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Netflix exec talks historic Emmy nominations and the company’s future

A World Without CableCARD

Dave Zatz —  July 17, 2013 — 17 Comments

cablecard

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.

flareWatch Cox with Fanhattan

Cox Communications is piloting an IPTV service in Orange County, California that combines cable television with Fanhattan’s Fan TV set-top and user interface. Todd Spangler at Variety broke the news about flareWatch late last week, and Cox has since confirmed the trial and Fanhattan partnership. Spokesperson Todd Smith says:

Cox is testing a video service with a unique user interface as part of a small trial in our Orange County, California market… We are early in the trial, but expect the product and experience could evolve during the trial based on customer feedback.

The big news here is the fact that Cox is bundling online TV service with a broadband connection rather than tagging it on to a traditional cable package. Beta pricing is listed at only $34.99 per month, and that includes big-name channels like ESPN and Disney.

However, the other interesting angle is Cox’s use of the Fanhattan UI. Forget the sweet little Fan TV box for the moment, Fanhattan has somehow succeeded on the software front where so many other start-ups have failed. It’s gotten a foot in the door with cable, and it’s done so without years of heartache and litigation. (Ahem TiVo, Boxee…)

I like Fanhattan. The TV guide app’s been plugging along since 2011 and getting better along the way. But what makes it so much better than a thousand other video discovery and aggregation apps?

Maybe it’s a case of good timing, or maybe Fanhattan has friends at Cox. Whatever the case, the accomplishment is significant. Fanhattan is playing with the big boys.

comcast-thrones

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.

watch-espn

Mari chats with ESPN VP Damon Phillips

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…