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Security Platforms/Tools

CableCARD Update III

To the surprise of no one, the market for digital cable set-tops with CableCARDs continues to leave the other market for the security modules (Unidirectional Digital Cable Ready Products) in the dust.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) said the top five U.S. MSOs (Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , Charter Communications Inc. , and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC)), representing nearly 80 percent of the cable subs in the country, had deployed 320,000 CableCARDs for use in UDCPs (i.e., one-way digital TVs and some standalone TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) DVRs) as of March 19, 2008. That number jumps to 347,000 CableCARDs when the top 10 U.S. MSOs are factored in.

But, thanks to a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set-top security integration ban that went into effect last July, those same 10 MSOs have already deployed more than 4.18 million "operator-supplied" CableCARDs, most of which come pre-inserted in digital set-tops.

The trend isn't new. It's just continuing. The NCTA reported late last year that the top five U.S. MSOs deployed just north of 271,000 CableCARDs for UDCPs as of Dec. 6, 2007. In comparison, the top 10 U.S. MSOs had deployed more than 2.25 million "operator-supplied" set-tops with CableCARDs. (See CableCARD Update II .)

Considering that two-way applications such as switched digital video and video-on-demand have made UDCPs all but obsolete (at least until the "tuning resolver" becomes a reality), it's surprising that there was any growth in this category at all between reporting periods. (See CableLabs Spec Brings SDV to the Masses and NCTA Sees Solution to Switching Snag.)

Until we see those tuning resolvers and interactive "hosts" (set-tops, TVs, or DVRs) outfitted with the tru2way platform become available en masse, expect to see a lot more of what Cablevision is doing to ensure that customers can access hi-def networks delivered in the MSO's "switched" tier: giving away HD boxes to customers who are saddled with one-way "Plug & Play" CableCARD-based TVs. (See Voom Tunes .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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