The FCC has granted TiVo’s waiver, allowing them to sell the digital-only Premiere Elite at retail.
In this Order, we grant, to the extent set forth herein, TiVo, Inc.’s (“TiVo” or
“Petitioner”) unopposed1 request for waiver of the Federal Communications Commission’s
(“Commission”) requirements that electronics equipment marketed as “digital cable ready” include tuners
that are capable of tuning over-the-air broadcast channels and analog cable channels for its new TiVo
Premiere Elite digital video recorder (“DVR”). This device permits simultaneous viewing and recording
of up to four digital cable channels and has a capacity of up to 300 hours of high definition
programming.2 We conclude that the waiver is in the public interest because it will reduce the Premiere
Elite’s cost and power consumption and provide consumers a new retail set-top box option that will
compete with devices leased by cable operators. In addition, we condition this waiver on TiVo’s
commitment to inform consumers and retailers about the capabilities and limitations of this digital device.
That was the last barrier preventing TiVo from shipping the box, so we should see them on shelves in a couple of months as planned. Even though they officially announced the Elite on Wednesday, it was pending the waiver at the time.
TiVo filed for the waiver back in June because, as I detailed in an earlier post, FCC regulations require all digital cable ready devices sold at retail to support both analog and digital cable signals. But those rules were written back in 2003, before many cable systems began digital simulcast of their channels, if not dropping analog completely. But rules are rules and without a waiver TiVo would have been unable to legally sell the Elite at retail. With the waiver in hand they’re now free to bring it to market.
And with TiVo receiving the waiver and setting the precedent, perhaps we’ll see other vendors (re-)enter the CableCARD market with digital-only products. (The last round of Moxi retail DVRs were all-digital, but they offered an analog adapter for customers who needed it, which seems to be how they met the letter of the law.)
You can read the full ruling granting the waiver if you want all the details. (I still get a kick out of seeing my name in FCC documents.)