Cable Show 2013: LG Enters the Cable Box Biz

Washington -- LG Electronics is looking to add some retail flash as it reengages with the cable industry in a big way here this week at The Cable Show.

The consumer electronics giant has launched lineup of IP-connected devices, including models that use its own NetCast Smart TV operating system and the Google TV OS and are designed to blend cable-supplied, live subscription TV services, VOD and whole-home DVR capabilities with over-the-top apps from Hulu, Vudu, and YouTube and other sources.

LG said it will use DLNA-complaint boxes to connect to a home video gateway in order to receive terrestrial or pay TV programming and video-on-demand, meaning that none of the new LG devices appear to be outfitted with CableCARD slots. LG is wrapping all apps and services within its own user interface.

LG has previously developed TVs with CableCARD slots, a move that enabled those HDTV models to support subscription digital cable TV services (but not cable VOD) without a separate set-top box. Monday’s announcement offers a clear indicator that the consumer electronics giant has completely reengaged with the cable industry.

LG is entering the show here with a family of seven different devices, including set-top models that are capable of supporting downloadable security and Ultra HD/4K video.

  • IPTV Set-Top: In addition to cable-supplied live video and VOD, LG said the device supports Google TV outfitted with the Google Play app store, Google Chrome browser, and integrated home monitoring and automation capabilities.
  • Android Mini-Box/Dongle: A media player with the Jelly Bean 4.2.2. operating systems with on-board 802.11ac Wi-Fi for HD streaming to devices hanging off the wireless home network.
  • NetCast OTT Set-Top: Offers live linear, VOD and DVR and OTT fare, and uses LG’s DLNA-compliant “Smart Share” technology for accessing protected content over a home network.
  • Ultra HD Set-Top: Adds 4K reception and playback via a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, HEVC compression, with support for DOCSIS 3.0 and the 2.0 version of the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA), a home networking platform that supports speeds up to 800 Mbps.
  • Next-Generation “OpenTV 5” IP Set-Top: Combines an IP-capable box with Nagra’s OpenTV 5 middleware and conditional access protection, 802.11n for file sharing with a home gateway.
  • “Low-Cost” MPEG-4 Cable Set-Top: Device will support “downloadable conditional access security.”
  • Wi-Fi Dongle: Allows users with Miracast smartphones to “mirror” the phone’s screen directly onto the big screen TV over a Wi-Fi connection.

A company spokeswoman said the LG-made Google TV STB is available today, while the Netcast IP box will become available in the second half of 2013. The company said it “has the flexibility and relationships to distribute most of these devices through retail or to service providers.” However, LG did not announce any distribution relationships Monday.

The LG official added that final pricing will be determined by individual service provider volumes and final feature sets.

 “Consumers are seeking ways to get all of their subscription-based services, cable feeds and video-on-demand in one place, and they want options that feel natural to them,” Kurt Hoppe, director of smart TV innovation and new business for LG Electronics USA said, in a statement. “With LG’s portfolio of set-top boxes and open Smart TV platforms, cable operators have a comprehensive response that will satisfy subscribers’ entertainment needs now and in the future.”

At the show, LG said it will also demo premium cable apps and services running on LG Smart TVs and smartphones, including Rogers Communications’ authenticated Anyplace TV service and HBO GO.