Mr. TiVo goes to Washington

The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing today in which it heard from several people, including Mark Cuban, Chad Hurley of YouTube, Blake Krikorian of Sling Media, and Tom Rogers of TiVo. Both Multichannel News and Ars Technica have decent coverage of what was said.

The main TiVo-related issue is Switched Digital Video (SDV). SDV is a way for cable MSOs to put more channels on their existing lines, but it is not compatible with unidirectional CableCARD products, such as the TiVo Series3. Nearly all CC products are unidirectional, so SDV channels are unavailable to anyone using CableCARD. This is contrary to the spirit of the CC regulations from the FCC. CC2.0 is supposed to provide support for SDV, along with PPV, VOD, etc – but CC2.0 has been mired in conflict for years, with no end in sight. The obvious concern for TiVo, and others, is that if SDV is widely deployed, they’re effectively locked out of the market. Right now Time Warner is the only major MSO using SDV, and only in limited markets, but other MSOs are looking at it.

The Multichannel News article focuses on this issue, and there are some interesting tidbits.

“Our new boxes are all going to be CableCard-based,” TiVo president and CEO Thomas Rogers testified before the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet after Eshoo spoke. “CableCards could be rendered useless.”

I believe that’s the first time we’ve seen such a statement from TiVo, that all of their new boxes are going to be CableCard based. It sounds like the S2DT is the last of its kind, and all new boxes are going to be closer to the S3.

[Rep. Anna] Eshoo said SDV, by not working with CableCards, would frustrate the FCC’s effort.“I am concerned that despite the implementation of this mandate, many cable operators will either hobble or render competitive set-top boxes unusable by deploying new channel switching technology that won’t work with other boxes,” she said.

Although he agreed, Rogers said that cable operators have assured him of their cooperation.

“There is good news. We have pointed out this problem to the cable industry. To their great credit, they have said, we want to work this out, we want to work this through, consumers should be able to get this kind of expectation that CableCards and new technologies like this will work and we are hopeful that it will be solved,” he said.

Rogers said he remained concerned that cable operators do not have a sufficient supply of CableCards and that they tend to require consumers to schedule installation visits when CableCards can be mailed and easily installed by the consumer.

An National Cable & Telecommunications Association official confirmed that the industry wanted to resolve TiVo’s compatibility issues.

“Cable is working with Tivo and others to try to develop a technical fix so one-way devices will be able to access the inherently two-way switched digital video signals,” the NCTA official said.

This is also the first comment I’m aware of stating that TiVo is working with the cable industry on a solution to the SDV issue, apparently independent of the CC2.0 mess. Note that *all* CableCARDs are really two-way, it is the host that determines the functionality. There are a few ways a Series3 could handle SDV – signaling over the Ethernet, an external USB dongle connected to the cable, it is possible the S3 has some as-yet-unannounced bi-directional capabilities built-in. I am hopeful that it will be worked out – it isn’t TiVo vs. cable MSOs, it is the entire consumer electronics industry vs. cable MSOs, so it is likely something will be worked out. And there has been some indication that the FCC might step in and force some solution to the CC2.0 bickering that has tied it up for so long.

About MegaZone

MegaZone is the Editor of Gizmo Lovers and the chief contributor. He's been online since 1989 and active in several generations of 'social media' - mailing lists, USENet groups, web forums, and since 2003, blogging.    MegaZone has a presence on several social platforms: Google+ / Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn / LiveJournal / Web.    You can also follow Gizmo Lovers on other sites: Blog / Google+ / Facebook / Twitter.
This entry was posted in TiVo. Bookmark the permalink.
  • maeglin73

    If those words turn into reality, I’ll be a little less pissed about the fact that Comcast managed to bribe our uninformed HOA into giving them exclusive access for the next 10 years.

  • mhaithaca

    Gah. Did Rogers just announce they are dropping all support for anyone who gets their TV any way OTHER than cable?

  • maeglin73

    The S3 is CableCard-based, and it works with OTA. If you’re talking satellite, well, you’re blaming the wrong party there. Blame the satellite providers.

  • mhaithaca

    I’m talking satellite; there’s no OTA television here. Are you saying the satellite providers could support CableCard if they wanted to? If so, why wouldn’t the FCC mandate it for them as well as for the cable providers?

  • maeglin73

    No, I’m saying that TiVo might have supported directly tuning satellite if they could… instead, the satellite providers stood in the way of that (DirecTV specifically, I think).

  • megazone

    Well, the S3 supports antenna and cable, so I think antenna is safe. As for satellite, or people who still want to use a cable box for some reason, who knows how long the S2DT will remain in production. And there is no reason they can’t produce a box with CableCARD *and* A/V inputs.

  • megazone

    Satellite *could* use CableCARD for decryption. It is really just a decryption token, it has nothing to do with the source of the signal. That doesn’t mean a standard CableCARD device could handle satellite, the tuners are different. You’d need a box with integrated satellite tuners.

    The FCC could mandate it, but they haven’t been willing to do that to date. Dish Network and DirecTV are still closed systems with total control over who can build receivers. Neither is generally allowing 3rd parties, like TiVo, to produce tuners.

  • vincea

    Cablevision is also using SDV. I think CV is the fifth or sixth largest MSO. Right now it’s limited to channels in their international packages so it wouldn’t really affect me when I get an S3 but they (CV) haven’t commented on further use of SDV.

  • dlcrow

    I’m an S3 owner in the Austin, TX market served by Time Warner. They are rolling out SDV very heavily here.

    Right now I get very few channels on my S3 with CableCARD. Since the HD locals are unencrypted QAM and are mapped appropriately to match the TiVo guide data, the only real reason I keep my CableCARDs installed is for the off chance that I want to record something on 5 or so encrypted HD channels. TWC has stated (and are following through) that all new HD channels will be SDV.

    I record all SD content on my S2′s (some are analog cable only with a direct cable connection and others are driving a digital cable box). That way I can use MRV and TTG and don’t have to worry about SDV.

    I’ve ended up with a pretty expensive upgraded S3 box being used for recording shows almost exclusively on the HD locals.

  • Pingback: A solution for Switched Digital Video on TiVo is coming in 2Q2008 | Gizmo Lovers Blog