Cable Catchup

4:40 PM -- Friday's here at last, so it's high time for a roundup of other items making news in the world of cable this week...

  • Costly CableCARDs: The U.S. cable industry has spent more than $900 million so far to comply with a set-top security integration ban that took effect in July 2007. (See Countdown to 'Seven-Oh-Seven'.)

    That's according to a recent ex parte filing by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) . It arrived at that number by multiplying the number of CableCARDs deployed so far (16.7 million) by the cost a CableCARD adds to a set-top box -- roughly $56, according to an Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Media Bureau estimate.

    Given those figures, the NCTA estimates that MSOs have spent about $935 million to comply with the mandate, "plus development costs and costs for supporting retail equipment."

    Although one aim of the integration ban is to spur retail development of digital cable set-tops and digital cable-ready TVs, the vast majority of CableCARDs have been deployed in MSO-supplied set-tops. (See CableCARD Update .)

  • Court stamps Charter reorg: Charter Communications Inc. is another step closer to emerging from Chapter 11 bankruptcy after a New York court, as expected, approved a pre-arranged reorganization plan that will trim the MSO's heavy debt load by about $8 billion. (See Court Confirms Charter Reorg Plan.)

    Charter, which serves about 5.5 million subs, still hasn't said when it will polish off the reorg, but earlier reports suggested the MSO could make its big exit by mid December. (See Charter: Please Continue Hold for a Bankruptcy Exit.)

  • Smacking hackers: Be careful whose Web portal you try to hack. A trio associated with a hacker group called "Kryogeniks" that allegedly hijacked Comcast.net last year have been charged, with each facing up to five years in the slammer and fines of $250,000, plus any additional restitution.

    They're up for allegedly redirecting traffic from the Comcast.net site to one that they created bearing the message: "KRYOGENIKS Defiant and EBK RoXed COMCAST sHouTz to VIRUS Warlock elul21 coll1er seven."

    The actions cost Comcast "a little less than $129,000," the Philadelphia Business Journal reported, citing the indictment.

  • DirecTV sale rumor, part XII: The hiring of a new CEO at DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) with no pay-TV experience has rekindled rumors that the satellite TV giant is once again ripe for a takeover by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) or AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T).

    The popular idea: Some view Michael White, a former PepsiCo exec who's now running the show at DirecTV, as merely a "babysitter" before a purported sale attempt, which still might not happen for another year or two, if it's to happen at all. So don't hold your breath (again).

    Liberty Media shareholders, by the way, approved the spinoff of DirecTV, which will be combined with other Liberty media assets, including regional sports networks based in Denver, Seattle, and Pittsburgh; Game Show Network (GSN); and FUN Technologies Inc., a maker of online and interactive sports games. (See Liberty Shareholders OK DirecTV Spinoff and DirecTV to Spin Off, Gain Weight

  • Cable FTTP... now with less mess: There was a Kabel-X USA LLC sighting this week. Buckeye CableSystem , an MSO with about 150,000 subs, is using the Miami-based company's technology to upgrade an existing cable subdivision in Toledo, Ohio, to fiber-to-the-home… without digging up the streets.

    Instead, Buckeye putting into play a proprietary process from Kabel-X that uses a special lubricant to remove the coax cable center conductor. With that old coax out of the way, the operator can then slide new fiber into the sheath that's still in the ground. Kabel-X made its U.S. cable debut last year, claiming it had at least 10 trials underway with domestic MSOs, including Bresnan Communications LLC . (See Kabel-X Goes on the Pull.)

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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