It might be almost time to throw away that CableCARD.
In a partnership that would have been hard to imagine in earlier years, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) are working together today to develop a solution that would give TiVo retail set-tops access to Comcast interactive services without a CableCARD device.
Multichannel News uncovered an FCC filing that points to an agreed-upon, non-CableCARD approach that could also be extended to other "compatible customer-owned devices."
Details on the solution are limited, but the cable industry has been working for years on developing downloadable security technology. It's possible that the Comcast/TiVo strategy involves some version of a downloadable security product.
The integrated security ban that came into effect in 2007 was meant to open up the cable market to new retail devices. However, outside of traditional set-tops, CableCARD products never caught on, in part because of a complicated installation process.
Meanwhile, despite early battles, TiVo has continued to make progress with the cable industry. In addition to pairing its retail boxes with cable services, TiVo has also formed agreements with numerous operators that allow consumers to lease TiVo set-tops with a cable subscription. Some cable companies are even introducing the Netflix app on those leased TiVo boxes. (See TiVo Cable Partnership Pays Off.)
The new deal with Comcast is also notable because it suggests how the cable giant might evolve its strategy for supporting third-party hardware platforms. Comcast has been far more cautious than other cable companies (including Time Warner Cable) about porting its Xfinity services to other devices. Yet with a continued migration toward IP video delivery, the opening up of that experience to more retail products appears slow but inevitable.
In Comcast's FCC filing from this week, the company did note that it would continue to support retail CableCARD devices even with a new, non-CableCARD solution in the works. Comcast also said that it would offer its new solution up to other operators "on commercially reasonable terms."
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading