Cable Show, Set-Top Moments in CES History

The cable industry has had an inconsistent relationship with CES, the annual technology product event set to take place this week in Las Vegas.

In most years, MSOs have ceded the CES spotlight to pay TV rivals such as DirecTV and Dish Network/ EchoStar, with a key exception coming in 2008, when cable unveiled tru2way, the ill-fated brand for the OpenCable Application Platform (OCAP).

But cable is expected to have something to say at CES 2017, while Dish is taking a pass on its annual show press conference. Multichannel News will be tracking the announcements that matter while also reporting from the ground in Las Vegas (bookmark

In the meantime, here’s a look back at some of cable’s prime CES moments.

2002: Eying the retail potential for cable-ready devices, Motorola introduced the DCP501, an $899 home theater system integrating a cable receiver, DVD/CD/MP3 player and stereo receiver. Motorola never said how many of those monstrosities it sold, but at least two cable operators — Charter and Cox Communications — made them available for purchase in some markets. The DCP501 is still available from third-party sellers on Amazon, starting at $129.99; good luck getting a cable operator to support it.

2005: Back when the cable and CE industries were seeking common ground on a two-way “Plug & Play” agreement, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Charter Communications and Samsung announced a couple of memorandums of understanding to support OCAP in digital TVs. TWC, BHN and Samsung agreed to write specs for OCAP-compliant TVs, while Charter and Samsung were to deploy “low-cost network interface units” and Samsung two-way HD TVs. LG Electronics also said it would integrate OCAP into a line of digital TVs and set-tops.

2008: As cable’s biggest play ever at CES, the industry rolled out the tru2way brand for interactive settops and TVs, with Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts using a keynote to promote the effort, declaring, “The era of an open, two-way cable platform is here.”

Panasonic rolled out a line of HDTVs powered by tru2way, but stopped selling them in 2010, and it collaborated with Comcast on a tru2way portable DVR/set-top device that Comcast trotted out at the show but never deployed.

Comcast also demonstrated how DOCSIS 3.0 would enable consumers to download entire movies in about four minutes.

2011: Authenticated apps from pay TV providers built into retail TVs started to show up. Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced partnerships with Samsung to provide programming on connected TVs, tablets and smartphones. TWC also struck a similar deal with Sony focused on its Bravia sets.

2012: Details of the now well known Reference Design Kit (RDK) for video and broadband set-tops and gateways first surfaced, with Broadcom announcing an RDKbased gateway platform. Now managed by Comcast, Liberty Global and Charter Communications (via its acquisition of TWC), the RDK has the support of more than 275 CE device makers, chipmakers, software developers, system integrators and service providers.

2013: Cox announced a new mobile app developed with Cisco Systems that supported live and VOD fare, and revealed plans to roll out a high-octane hybrid gateway with multiroom DVR capabilities that would create the foundation for the MSO’s next-gen Contour platform. While Cox still has subscribers on legacy Contour, it has since cast its lot with Comcast’s X1 platform.

2014: 4K was front and center as Comcast announced it was working on an OTTdelivered VOD app for Samsung televisions. The app, Xfinity in UHD, launched in December 2014.

2015: Charter Communications unveiled the Worldbox, a new hybrid IP/QAM box outfitted with downloadable security, a cloud-powered interface and the foundation for a wide range of apps and services. Cisco was announced as a “key” supplier of the box, but the irony, according to industry rumor, is that the box on display at the event was actually made by Humax, which was later confirmed a Worldbox supplier. Charter’s Worldbox still hasn’t been rolled out en masse. Meanwhile, Broadcom announced a modem reference design for DOCSIS 3.1.