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Set-top boxes

Charter Looks to Go Retail

Charter Communications is reportedly talking with one or more consumer electronics manufacturers about building a new cable set-top box or other video device with downloadable security technology for retail sale.

According to a report by Multichannel News, Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) and Humax Co. Ltd. are both likely candidates for the partnership, although neither is a dead cert for the deal. Charter Communications Inc. told Light Reading that it preferred not to comment on the matter.

In a recent submission to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , Charter President and CEO Tom Rutledge has certified that Charter is making good on its promise to meet the conditions of its CableCARD waiver. The waiver allows Charter to continue deploying set-tops with embedded security for two more years, as long as the company also actively works to further development of a new downloadable security system. (See Charter Awarded Set-Top Waiver.)

Charter's initiative could give a possible boost to the retail cable set-top market. By many accounts, the retail CableCARD effort has been an unqualified disaster. In fact, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) reported recently that CableCARD deployments actually dipped slightly from 603,000 in early August to 600,000 at the end of October.

The set-top issue is slightly less fraught now than it was in 2007, when the FCC's CableCARD mandate went into effect. New IP video services give consumers additional retail hardware options, but there is still demand for more full-fledged alternatives to TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO).

Charter is using Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s key ladder, or K-LAD, downloadable security system for retail and set-top-leasing to subscribers. According to ABI Research , Cisco leads the pack among downloadable security providers. ABI also predicts that cardless conditional access systems will jump to 21.5 million units by 2017, an increase of more than 300 percent over the 5 million that shipped in 2012. (See Cardless Conditional Access Systems on the Rise)

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable

DOShea 11/10/2013 | 8:49:17 PM
Turnaround story This move looks like a good fit for a company that has been in aggressive turnaround mode for the last couple years.
albreznick 11/10/2013 | 8:23:28 AM
Retail opportunity for cable? Interesting, Mari. I wonder what the retail opportunity is for these newfangled cable STBs. As far as I can tell, MSOs have never done very well pitching set-tops at retail. Any reason why it should be any different this time around?   
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