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Also: Twitter buys into social TV analytics; CTAM CEO sets her exit; Liberty-Virgin Media deal has a coincidental Comcast connection

Charter Plays the Rural Card in Set-Top Fight

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
2/7/2013
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Welcome to today's broadband and cable news roundup.

  • Charter Communications Inc. continued its fight for a special set-top waiver at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Wednesday, arguing that the waiver would help the operator accelerate its all-digital transition in rural areas, and do so cost-effectively. Charter is seeking a waiver that will let the operator deploy a new box that integrates both a new downloadable security system and the MSO's legacy conditional access system, rather than having to support the latter via a CableCARD. Cablevision Systems Corp. received a waiver for similar reasons for its tightly-clustered New York City metro systems in 2009, but Charter notes that its plan to deploy downloadable security would involve 190 headends in 25 states. Charter estimates that more than half of the 639 counties it serves are mostly rural (some obvious exceptions are its systems in St. Louis, Los Angeles and Dallas-Ft. Worth). Therefore, Charter said, its deployment will be more expensive than Cablevision's. "As a result of this greater expense and greater operational difficulty that Charter faces in deploying downloadable security and transitioning Charter's cable systems to digital, it is critical that Charter receive this waiver," the operator said in its latest filing with the Commission. (See Charter's Video Plan Good News for Cisco, Samsung.) Charter has already argued that implementing a CableCARD in dual-security boxes would be exorbitantly expensive and would delay its all-digital migration. Charter's plan is getting static from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), which wants the FCC to avoid any more one-off waivers and to instead pursue AllVid, a proposed successor to the CableCARD that could be applied to all pay-TV operators. Charter, meanwhile, has pledged that it will continue to support CableCARDs, including those used in one-way retail devices, such as TiVo Inc. DVRs and TV sets with CableCARD slots. (See Charter Bemoans CableCARD Costs and CEA Tries to Kill Charter's Video Plan.)
  • Twitter Inc. is paying up to US$100 million to acquire social TV analytics startup Bluefin Labs Inc., Bloomberg reports, adding that the addition could help Twitter expand on a deal it forged late last year to use The Nielsen Co.'s SocialGuide platform to measure the social media buzz around TV shows. Twitter offered some details on the deal via this blog post (and used way more than 140 characters to get its point across, by the way), noting that it intends to honor Bluefin's existing contracts but won't sell Bluefin products beyond those commitments.
  • Long-time Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) CEO Char Beales will leave the organization at year-end, with CTAM expected to begin its search for her successor around mid-year, reports Multichannel News. As part of a strategic shift revealed in November, CTAM said it would replace its annual Summit and Insights conferences with a few smaller events.
  • And here's one from the irony department … Philly Tech News noticed that Comcast Corp.'s decision to exit the U.K. cable business in 1998 fell on the exact same date that Liberty Global Inc. pulled the trigger on its proposed $23.3 billion takeover of the U.K.'s Virgin Media Inc. (See Liberty Makes $23.3B Play for Virgin Media.) — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable



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    Jeff Baumgartner
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    Jeff Baumgartner,
    User Rank: Light Beer
    2/7/2013 | 8:33:06 PM
    re: Charter Plays the Rural Card in Set-Top Fight
    CTAM confirmed that Char Beales will indeed retire at year-end after more than 20 years heading the group.- She considered retiring at the end of 2012, but the board exec committee asked her to stay on another year.... as we mentioned, there's a lot of change underway at the group in 2013 (constant change is the new normal these days, it seems).- I've known Char over the years, and she's always been an inspiration and a great resource.- JB

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