At the end of January the NCTA filed their latest CableCARD report with the FCC; but before you dive in, on Friday Comcast filed a correction with the FCC fixing their reported numbers. The numbers reported are as of December 31, 2011 – except Comcast’s corrections are as of February 23, 2012. That makes it hard to adjust the numbers in the original report. But, given the relatively slow rate of change, I’m going to unscientifically just take the difference as the adjustment. They originally reported 329,111 and corrected this to 370,407, a difference of 41,296. Note that these are cards installed in customer equipment, not cards used in MSO provided cable boxes.
Adjusting for Comcast’s new numbers the top five MSOs, Cablevision, Charter Communications, Comcast Corporation, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable, collectively deployed 557,296 CableCARDs. Extending that to the top ten MSOs gives a small bump to 595,296, which shows how many customers are concentrated into the largest MSOs. By way of comparison, these same ten MSOs have installed more thsn 32,000,000 CableCARDs in MSO provided STBs. And that is the best evidence of just how badly CableCARD has flopped in the retail market.
At this point TiVo is effectively the only retail CableCARD vendor left! There are a handful of PC CableCARD tuner products, but the total sales are negligible. CableCARD enabled TVs are all but gone from the market. And now that Moxi is gone I think TiVo is the last retail CableCARD DVR. Personally I think this demonstrates why we need AllVid to create a truly competitive open market.
Cablevision reports 27,472 CableCARD subscribers, an increase of 8% over the previous report. But before you get too excited, the new numbers include subscribers from Optimum West, which was integrated into Cablevision during the quarter. These 27,472 subscribers account for 39,462 CableCARDs, so there are a number of multi-card households. During the reporting period they actually had 5,288 new CableCARD installs, 57% of which were self-installs. The rest opted for professional installs, which cost an average of $34.95. The good news is they average 1.0 truck rolls per install, so they get it right the first time. And they charge $2/month per card.
Charter reported a total of 31,884 CableCARDs in service. And they still average 1.5 truck rolls per professional installation, the worst of the lot. I can believe it, I’m a Charter customer. The techs I’ve worked with have all been great, but many have expressed a desire for more training on CableCARD and TiVo. I’ve heard from a number of them that they’re really not being trained, and it seems like there are a couple of ‘experts’ in the area that they always end up calling. (I’ve had to have Charter out a couple of times for CableCARD and/or Tuning Adapter issues. Invariably it ends up being a back end problem, but the phone techs give up and insist on sending truck. Then the tech ends up calling around until he finds the right person to fix the issue.) Charter also charges $2/month per card, and an average of $35.00 for professional installs.
Comcast, from their corrected 2/23/12 numbers, has 370,407 CableCARDs in customer homes. Since the last report they installed 25,789 new cards, with only 29% being self-installs. It seems like Comcast customers opt for professional installs 71% of the time, which I find surprising, though it might be explained by the pricing. While they charge an average of $26.00 if it is a separate trip, it drops to $7.15 if it is part of a larger installation. And it takes an average of 1.04 truck rolls, so odds are good they’ll get it right the first time. Comcast’s first card is generally free, and additional cards in the same device average $1.50. (It isn’t in the report, but I believe additional cards in other devices are normally $2/month.)
Cox has 52,479 CableCARDs in service, at an average cost of $1.99/month. Customers who opt for a professional install pay an average of $24.00, though it takes an average of 1.1 visits. So your more likely to get to have the chance to get to know your installer better than with Cablevision or Comcast.
TWC has 75,542 CableCARDs in use with 54,575 subscribers, so again we know there are a number of multi-card households. TWC’s cards are the most expensive, at an average of $2.37 (I’ve heard that they charge quite a bit in some areas, which would explain the elevated average). Surprisingly their install numbers are even most skewed than Comcast’s, with 83% electing professional installs, which cost an average of $28.16. Why do so many people opt for professional installation? I’d love to know the motivation there.
All in all, not much has changed since the last report. I wish the different MSOs would normalize their reporting – some report self-install vs. professional installs. Some report costs with more granularity. Subscribers vs. number of cards. It’d be nice if they’d all report the same things in the same way. I can dream.