CableCARD Deployments Push Past 47M

The nation’s top nine incumbent cable operators have deployed more than 47 million MSO-supplied set-tops with CableCARDs, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association told the FCC in a report filed Friday (May 9). That’s up from about 45 million when the NCTA filed its FCC report in late January.

The number of CableCARDs deployed in leased devices continues to dwarf the number of modules used in devices with CableCARD slots sold at retail, including TiVo DVRs and a  limited number of HDTV models. In its latest report, the NCTA said the nine largest U.S. MSOs have deployed over 616,000 CableCARDs for use in retail devices, just 10,000 more than the 606,000 reported in January.

The NCTA has been issuing these CableCARD deployment updates regularly since the FCC-mandated integrated set-top security ban took effect July 1, 2007.

The NCTA has repeatedly called on the FCC to end the set-top ban. Last fall, Reps. Robert Latta (R-Ohio) and Gene Green (D-TX) introduced  legislation  that aims to “remove the unnecessary and costly” set-top security integration ban, putting forth an FCC estimate that the mandate has cost cable operators and consumers more than $1 billion.

Additionally, a draft provision in the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) seeks to eliminate the FCC’s integration ban, though the current draft would retain the FCC’s power to reinstate the ban on any successor to the CableCARD regime.

The proposed bill or CableCARD provision in the STELA action would clear cable operators to deploy devices with integrated security, though the cable industry has pledged to continue supporting retail CableCARD devices. TiVo, meanwhile, remains highly dependent on CableCARDs for the delivery of linear cable digital TV services, and is seeking to preserve those rules over fears that an elimination of the ban would put it and its products at a significant disadvantage.

TiVo isn't the only retailer with skin in the CableCARD game. Last fall, Samsung launched a retail CableCARD device called the Smart Media Player that supports digital cable TV services over QAM and over-the-top apps from Netflix, VUDU, and Amazon Instant Video, among others.

The AllVid Tech Company Alliance, meanwhile, continues to urge the FCC to introduce a rulemaking effort that would produce a successor to the CableCARD that could be applied to all forms of multichannel channel video distributors, not just cable operators