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Comcast, TiVo Blaze Different Set-Top Paths

For leased IP-capable devices, TiVo is centering on its Hardware Porting Kit, while Comcast leans on its Reference Design Kit (RDK)

Jeff Baumgartner

October 1, 2012

3 Min Read
Comcast, TiVo Blaze Different Set-Top Paths

TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) could eventually exit the set-top hardware business if it's successful with a new distribution strategy.

The idea is that TiVo would port its user interface and services to a range of hybrid QAM/IP video gateways and IP-only clients that are leased by cable operators and other pay-TV providers.

TiVo's approach, which differs from one being developed by Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) for MSO-leased devices, centers on its Hardware Porting Kit (HPK), a porting and middleware layer that has already been licensed by several top set-top makers, including Pace plc , Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Samsung Corp. and Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH). Still notably absent from this group is Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)-owned Motorola Mobility, which remains the largest U.S. supplier of set-top boxes. (See Comcast's Set-Top Accelerator Gains Traction , Operators Flock to Comcast's IP Set-Top Kit and Comcast's IP Set-Top Club Expands.)

TiVo's HPK is already central to several recent deployments with service providers. Some recent examples include U.K.-based operator Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED), which is running TiVo on Samsung and Cisco boxes, while Spain's ONO relies on TiVo-powered Cisco boxes. In the U.S., DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV)'s new TiVo implementation is the result of the HPK. More recently, Mediacom Communications Corp. said it intends to market the XG1, a Pace-made gateway that bakes in TiVo's software and also sports six tuners and a Docsis 3.0 modem. (See Mediacom Goes With TiVo .)

David Sandford, vice president of TiVo's service provider business, says any TiVo app that runs on the company's Premiere HD-DVR will also run on boxes that uses the HPK.

TiVo has used Premiere hardware with CableCARD slots to help the company get its U.S. cable operator strategy off the ground, but it's a scenario that likely won't last forever. TiVo's strategy with the HPK may ultimately help the company exit the hardware business, at least when it comes to gateways and client devices that are leased by the cable operators.

"Our long-term plan has never been to be a hardware supplier to cable operators," Sandford says. "Over time that will happen ... but a lot of that will be driven by our customers."

Comcast's approach
Comcast is taking a different angle on IP-capable devices and gateways, with its Reference Design Kit (RDK), a pre-integrated bundle of software that's already being licensed by several chip- and set-top-makers and uses the reference implementation of the tru2way middleware.

Comcast's X1 platform, which centered on a new cloud-based interface and provides access to a few third-party apps, is the first deployed product that uses the RDK. (See Comcast's Set-Top Accelerator Gains Traction , Operators Flock to Comcast's IP Set-Top Kit, Comcast's IP Set-Top Club Expands and Comcast's Cloud TV Service Rolls Into Atlanta.)

While there are some technical differences between Comcast's and TiVo's approach, some of the intended results are somewhat similar. For example, they both rely on a broad set of hardware suppliers and aim to accelerate the product development cycle.

TiVo has no plans "right now" to develop products based on the Comcast RDK, Sandford says.

And, for now, TiVo's relationship with Comcast doesn't involve a leased model. Their work currently centers on making sure that TiVo's CableCARD-capable Premiere HD-DVRs can support Comcast's VoD service. They've completed that retail integration in several markets, including the Bay Area, Boston, Denver, Seattle, Sacramento, Calif., and Portland, Ore. (See Comcast Presses Play on TiVo VoD .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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