Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Have You Seen Your CableCard Lately?

Per FCC rule, cable set top boxes were required to use CableCard Technology, as opposed to internal security, so that other companies could off cable access without a cable box. And so, almost 30 million CableCards are out there. "The 10 biggest U.S. cable operators have to date deployed 582,000 standalone CableCards to subscribers for use in retail devices such as TiVo DVRs, according to figures the National Cable & Telecommunications Association submitted to the FCC Thursday." That means that less than 2% of consumers are using CableCards outside of their set top box in other devices like Tivo. Hardly good news for Tivo or for the CE industry.

In fact, I would say that the vast majority of consumers with cable boxes were even aware that a CableCard exists in the device. And certainly the cable operators are not encouraging consumers to get CableCards. "The FCC is currently considering a successor to the CableCard regime. The new "AllVid" regulation would force all multichannel video programming distributors -- including satellite and telco TV providers -- to deliver video to third-party hardware devices using a common set of technical interfaces." Certainly better news than what exists today.

Still CE companies are not waiting for cable operators. The rise of broadband enabled TV sets, Tivos, and blu-ray devices indicates that the push is for easier internet access. CableCards cannot help the TV Everywhere model. As authentication is required for multiple devices, CableCard technology is limiting. As more content makes its way through the web, the concept of CableCards becomes antiquated as connectivity is achieved both in a wired world as well as a mobile one. And cable operators are in desperate need for new agreements to offer access of content both inside the home and out.

So have you seen your CableCard lately, probably not. Best to one day look for it in a museum.

Good News For 3D, CBS Testing For Its Programs

CBS seems to be the first broadcast network actively looking at pushing forward with a 3D broadcast channel. "CBS may be bringing 3D versions of its shows to a 24-hour cable network, and it has already demonstrated 2D-to-3D converted programming privately to several operators, according to industry sources familiar with the project. The broadcast network is considering a strategy to gain distribution for the 3D channel through its retransmission-consent negotiations with cable, satellite and telco TV operators, according to one source." Certainly good news for all the CE companies with an eye on the next generation of products.

While 3D TV sales have slowed, it is partly due to the lack of meaningful 3D content to view. If you believe like me that content is king, then the advancement of 3D by a broadcaster is the push to invigorate demand. "To date, there has been a fairly limited supply of 3D content available through pay-TV operators since the current wave of 3DTV sets hit the market in early 2010. ESPN 3D launched last year and converted to a 24-hour service this past February, although the lineup remains largely reruns of previously aired events. The 3Net channel from Discovery/Sony/IMAX has just one distribution deal so far, with DirecTV." CBS would be the first broadcaster to market and no date the others will quickly follow.

Certainly 3D is a hot commodity, not just for programming, but for gaming as well. My son badly wants the 3D version of his DSi gaming system. And I do see the appeal for 3D when it comes to watching sports on TV. But as I need glasses to see, wearing another set of glasses over my own has always been irritating to me. Nintendo has achieved a 3D effect on it's gaming system without glasses. I look forward to the day when my large screen HDTV viewing on 3D without the glasses is the norm.