CableLabs ain't fooling around about that proposed new off-air set-top box

Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

March 20, 2007

2 Min Read
Express Lane for Off-Air Box

Cable Television Laboratories Inc. (CableLabs) ain't fooling around about that proposed new set-top box for delivering off-air digital broadcast TV signals to cable subscribers.

Dick Green, president and CEO of CableLabs, made that point abundantly clear in a recent interview with Cable Digital News. Even though the R&D consortium hasn't issued a formal request for information (RFI) to cable tech vendors yet, he said, it's shooting to develop a prototype off-air DTV set-top well before the end of this year.

"We're serious about it," Green says. "This is not something that's going to languish. It'll be something that we'll execute."

In fact, Green noted that ideas for the new digital set-top are already flooding in from equipment suppliers, including some suggestions that hadn't occurred to consortium engineers. "There's a lot of supplier interest," he says.

When CableLabs unveiled the off-air set-top initiative a couple of weeks ago, there was much speculation that it was doing so mainly to throw a scare into broadcasters seeking retransmission-consent fees for their local stations. Several blogs and columns, including this one, suggested that the cable guys wanted to show they could stage an end-run around the broadcasters by simply plucking the station signals out of the air. (See Retrans Relief?.)

Green, of course, firmly denies that retransmission-consent concerns played a big role in the announcement of the off-air box project. "It was not motivated by a single call" from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) Chairman & CEO Brian Roberts or anybody else, he says.

Instead, he argues, the timing just happens to be right because of big advances in solid-state tuners, digital circuitry, and software over the last couple of years. "The hardware's better, the software's better," he says.

Plus, he noted that cable's satellite TV rivals already deploy digital set-tops with integrated off-air signal reception. "So there's a lot of prior art," he says. "We think we can take it another step forward."

— Alan Breznick, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

About the Author(s)

Alan Breznick

Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

Alan Breznick is a business editor and research analyst who has tracked the cable, broadband and video markets like an over-bred bloodhound for more than 20 years.

As a senior analyst at Light Reading's research arm, Heavy Reading, for six years, Alan authored numerous reports, columns, white papers and case studies, moderated dozens of webinars, and organized and hosted more than 15 -- count 'em --regional conferences on cable, broadband and IPTV technology topics. And all this while maintaining a summer job as an ostrich wrangler.

Before that, he was the founding editor of Light Reading Cable, transforming a monthly newsletter into a daily website. Prior to joining Light Reading, Alan was a broadband analyst for Kinetic Strategies and a contributing analyst for One Touch Intelligence.

He is based in the Toronto area, though is New York born and bred. Just ask, and he will take you on a power-walking tour of Manhattan, pointing out the tourist hotspots and the places that make up his personal timeline: The bench where he smoked his first pipe; the alley where he won his first fist fight. That kind of thing.

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