“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

CableCARD Deadline Imminent

by June 11, 2007
CableCARDs About to Break Out?

CableCARDs About to Break Out?

CableCARD discussions have come and gone on this site, however there IS an actual deadline looming that is about to finally force the companies to split off the security features of cable from the tuners. This is significant for two particular reasons: 1) The deadline is no longer extendable- at least according to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, and 2) the cable companies themselves must comply with the new methodology, meaning they will have to use their own CableCARDS.

This second issue is of utmost interest as cable companies have been completely lax on training their technicians to deal with CableCARD issues and the reliability of the cards themselves has been less than dubious. As a result, most people's experiences with the cards has been less than ideal.

Unmentioned in this whole scenario is the issue of two-way communication. Currently CableCARDs are only one-way and any on-demand and Pay-Per-View content requires some form of two-way communication in order to work (yet another reason CableCARDs haven't taken off in the consumer marketplace.

Proponents of CableCARD and, in general, of splitting the tuning functions from the security functions of a cable set-top box are primarily interested in TiVo-like products which, after this deadline passes, should be more available from other consumer electronics manufacturers. The real question, however, is whether or not this is good for the consumer in general. To answer this, we'll need to do a brief comparison of a cable company system and one from TiVo:


Cable Company
TiVo
Digital Cable
$10/mo NA
Digital Cable + DVR
$10/mo + $6.95/mo
$99 + $10/mo + $16.95/mo + $3.95/mo (CC)
Digital Cable + HD-DVR
$10/mo + $9.95/mo $599 + $10/mo + $16.95/mo + $3.95/mo (CC)

If we look at the table above we can see that the cable company leases the box at a monthly rate. Normally, you'd think some may be better off buying a piece of electronics outright rather than leasing it for a monthly fee. Over time the product would be paid off, correct? Well, not necessarily. For one, I have gone through no less than 3 HD-DVR boxes in the past 5 years due to hard drive failure. Each time the cable company replaced the box for free (since it is leased). Had they been TiVos and had they been out of warranty (as at least two of them would have been) I'd be out well over $1200. In addition, TiVo charges users for the privilege of using its program guide. My cable company's, though it lacks some of the bells and whistles, doesn't charge extra for this once I have the box. Oh, we're not done yet... Remeber, the TiVo requires a cablecard to work with those digital channels you like so much. That's an extra $3.95/mo fee from the cable company for leasing the card (you can't buy it either). The grand total is $19.95/mo for HD-DVR (over the price of analogue cable) with no box fees, and $30.90/mo plus up to $599 for a TiVo-based HD-DVR.

Yowsa - I'm sure there are some deals out there, but the bottom line is consumers are (at least currently) paying a premium for TiVo-based entertainment if they want access to digital channels from cable. We won't even bring up satellite, which stretched incredulity as owners actually pay a flat (typically steep) fee for HD-DVR boxes that they technically have to surrender should they ever cancel their services (and no there is no refund). This fee is considered an up-front lease payment and is one of the biggest scams in the industry as far as I am concerned. Why consumers haven't lashed out against this new policy is a mystery I may never understand.

We don't know exactly how these new events will shake out, but they are sure to be interesting as industry manufacturers make decisions on whether or not to jump into the set-top box game. Display manufacturers in particular are sure to be pleased as CableCARD technology is almost certain to gain a better foothold with better technical support and understanding from the technicians who are supposed to install it.

We know there are those of you who have experiences with TiVo and CableCARDs and we'd like to hear about them. Be sure to post in our forums to let us know what you think and how this might affect how you use cableTV in your home.

About the author:
author portrait

Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

View full profile

Recent Forum Posts:

AlphaWolf posts on June 23, 2007 07:17
The problem with that though is that not all DVR's are created equal. I hate to sound like a tivo evangelist, because I personally despise tivo as a company, but tivos really are great DVR's. There is simply nothing out there that even comes close.

There are just a ton of things that make them so much more convenient and nice compared to other brands. Most brands don't have a feature that comes close to the season pass feature. You don't even need to know what time or channel your desired show comes on, just search by the first few letters of the name and hit select twice and its done - the whole process takes 30 seconds at the longest, whereas other DVR's either make you look through a big list that you can only choose the first letter of the title on if that, and then if the time or day slot changes you have to do it all over again.

And that isn't even the end of it - there are a TON of little things here and there which once you get used to, other DVR's will seriously piss you off for being unintuitive peices of junk. I really recommend you don't ever try a tivo unless you plan on getting hooked on the damn things. Seriously, if DVR's were like cars, then all other brands would be fords, and tivos would be in their own leage - more like a 150 foot yatch as opposed to a car.

I hope that one day tivo goes belly-up, their patents disappear, and we start seeing other brands come around that start really improving the crap out of the DVR scene. Tivo is the reason why the DVR market is really sh*tty: they have patents one everything DVR related but the kitchen sink, so no other companies can innovate in this area worth a crap.
mbakker posts on June 19, 2007 17:13
westcott, post: 275595
I have never been a big fan of all in one solutions. Yes, they are convenient until ONE of the components fails. Then, you have to send the WHOLE package back and you are left without a display or whatever esle was in the package. Modular designs seem to be too expensive or beyond the comprehension of most CE providers so I will take my equipment piece meal, thank you.

I tend to agree with you. I have all separate components as well. But for some situations, I would rather have an “all in one solution” - like above a fireplace. Most people don't have everything wired for such a purpose and connecting a set top box to a TV and such seems a little overboard.

What a manufacturer should do is put a accessible hard drive (for DVR) in the TV that any person could upgrade or replace as needed.
Have a CableCard slot for cable access.

That would be an all in one solution for a TV that shouldn't require a lot of troubleshooting or sending something back to the manufacturer. Besides the hard drive, everything else should be solid state. Sure if your TV display bites it, you have to send in your DVR as well (if it's part of the TV). But I'd take that with a simple solution to hang over the fireplace than rigging up everything to a box on the other side of the room - at least for that solution.
Clint DeBoer posts on June 14, 2007 08:41
Just some info for people wishing to know more on the lease issue (my understanding is that actually owning any DirecTV receivers purchased after March 3, 2006 gets a lot more expensive and few retailers offer the option):

DishNetwork Polcies: http://www.dishnetwork.com/content/about_us/residential_customer_agreement/index.shtml

DirecTV Policies: http://www.directv.com/DTVAPP/global/contentPage.jsp?assetId=P500014

New DirecTV “LEASE” Plan Discussions:
http://forums.digitalinsurrection.com/forum/showthread.php?p=1968343325
http://www.dbstalk.com/showthread.php?t=54135
http://www.tivocommunity.com/tivo-vb/showthread.php?t=290416
AlphaWolf posts on June 14, 2007 05:53
BTW, with regard to the audioholics specific article, there is something I feel I should clear up, as I have tons of experience in the DVR arena:

If we look at the table above we can see that the cable company leases the box at a monthly rate. Normally, you'd think some may be better off buying a piece of electronics outright rather than leasing it for a monthly fee. Over time the product would be paid off, correct? Well, not necessarily. For one, I have gone through no less than 3 HD-DVR boxes in the past 5 years due to hard drive failure. Each time the cable company replaced the box for free (since it is leased). Had they been TiVos and had they been out of warranty (as at least two of them would have been) I'd be out well over $1200.

Tivo is a ripoff. There is no doubting that whatsoever, even myself as a long time tivo owner do not doubt this at all, and under normal circumstances I wouldn't pay what they charge. You can however, replace the hard disk with *any* PC hard disk of your choosing. How hard or easy this is depends entirely upon your experience with computers in general. If you have ever built your own computer before (and many people have) then it is really quite simple.

Head over to www.dealdatabase.com/forum for more info. FWIW you'll notice that I am somewhat well known there.

But I digress…

In addition, TiVo charges users for the privilege of using its program guide. My cable company's, though it lacks some of the bells and whistles, doesn't charge extra for this once I have the box. Oh, we're not done yet… Remeber, the TiVo requires a cablecard to work with those digital channels you like so much. That's an extra $3.95/mo fee from the cable company for leasing the card (you can't buy it either). The grand total is $19.95/mo for HD-DVR (over the price of analogue cable) with no box fees, and $30.90/mo plus up to $599 for a TiVo-based HD-DVR.

True, if you are going to go with a tivo. But, tivo isn't the only DVR game in town. Many more will surface as time progresses. Especially given that DVR's with digital tuners will be cheaper to make than DVRs with *any* kind of analog hardware. Tivo only charges more for the HD units just because of the fact that they are HD. But technically speaking, it is much cheaper to make strictly digital DVR's than analog ones. The reason why is because you don't have any need for an NTSC decoder, an analog to digital converter, or any mpeg-2 encoding hardware.

Yowsa - I'm sure there are some deals out there, but the bottom line is consumers are (at least currently) paying a premium for TiVo-based entertainment if they want access to digital channels from cable. We won't even bring up satellite, which stretched incredulity as owners actually pay a flat (typically steep) fee for HD-DVR boxes that they technically have to surrender should they ever cancel their services (and no there is no refund).

Not true!!! This is a common misconception! - at least, not true for directv anyways (I don't know about dishnet.) I am an owner of two HR10-250's. These are the very first high definition tivo units to ever come out. The total monthly cost for these is $5 a month. And that $5 a month is good for *all* of the TV's in your house, even if they are tivo brand.

My cost for TWO HD-DVR's is $5 a month over the regular satellite bill. Thats it, I am dead serious about this.

If you had this *same* setup for cable, you'd be paying $40 a month over your regular cable bill.

With directv tivos, you don't do any business with tivo themselves. You only pay directv that $5 a month, and it doesn't matter how many tivos you have, its still only $5 a month. The non tivo brand DVR's are the same.

Also, with directv I own my HR10-250's. If I ever cancel the service, I keep them. Granted they only work with directv, I still get to keep them. Now, new directv customers won't experience this on the other hand, namely because directv puts new customers on a lease program, and they will have to return the equipment, which is gay, and for this reason alone I personally wouldn't ever *pay* for any new directv hardware. On the plus side, you only pay $5 a month for the lease fee, which is exactly the same as what you pay for the regular mirror fee as if you owned a second unit.

We know there are those of you who have experiences with TiVo and CableCARDs and we'd like to hear about them. Be sure to post in our forums to let us know what you think and how this might affect how you use cableTV in your home.

But as I have said in the past, tivo isn't going to be the only option in town. For the time being, it more or less is. Once cablecard 2.0 comes around, you'll have even less fees to worry about as the unit won't ever have to phone home to acquire guide data. Eventually you'll see DVR's with no monthly fees attached to them at all.
MDS posts on June 14, 2007 05:51
AlphaWolf, post: 276112
With digital you must pay for the rental, and the fee for adding the basic “digital tier” channels, even if you never watch them but just want digital for e.g. pay per view or HBO.

Yep, that's another one of my pet peeves. You HAVE to have ‘basic’ cable before you can get the digital tier. Nearly ALL of the analog channels from the basic tier are duplicated in the digital tier and the audio is still analog. I have noticed though that they are slowly changing so that some of the channels that used to be strictly analog audio (like TBS) are now broadcast in 48 kHz PCM.

This is the same racket as discussed in the article about counting channels. The cable company can claim 300 channels but when you subtract out the 70 or so that are duplicated you are already down to 230. Then subtract out the fluff like HSN, foreign language, etc and there are even fewer. Now subtract out the HD channels that are the same network but appear on multiple channel numbers and the number goes down even more…

Maybe some day we'll get true a-la-carte pricing and can choose our own 50 channels or so.
Post Reply