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TiVo: Undecided On Comcast-TWC Deal

TiVo has not yet expressed a position on the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, but the company gave Comcast high marks for its support for the CableCARD.

Among operators, “Comcast has been particularly cooperative in making CableCARD work for TiVo,” TiVo noted in an ex parte describing a meeting on May 8 between Tom Rogers, TiVo’s CEO and president, and Matthew Zinn, TiVo’s SVP, general counsel secretary and chief privacy officer, and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, Wheeler’s special counsel for external affairs Gigi Sohn, and Maria Kirby, the chairman’s legal advisor.

Comcast doesn’t lease TiVo boxes, but has integrated its VOD service with retail-bought TiVo DVRs in select markets. After putting that plan on pause last year, Comcast has since resumed that work and expect to complete VOD support for TiVo boxes sold at retail in in all Comcast markets by June 30. TiVo has no direct deals with TWC, but settled its pending litigation with the MSO last June.

The purpose of the meeting was to urge the Commission to grant TiVo’s July 2013 petition that seeks to reinstate the CableCARD rules that, TiVo claims, were “inadvertently vacated” by a D.C. court decision in which EchoStar won its challenge to FCC rules on the ability to record TV programming.  

During that same meeting, Rogers “noted that TiVo has not yet stated a position on the proposed Comcast-Time Warner merger,” according to the ex parte.

Rogers also reiterated TiVo’s position that the currently CableCARD rules should remain until a successor standard is adopted.

The current CableCARD rules are under siege. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association has repeatedly called on the FCC to end the set-top ban, arguing in part that it’s the massive base of CableCARDs deployed assures common reliance. The latest NCTA CableCARD report, issued last week, showed that the nation’s top nine incumbent cable operators had deployed more than 47 million of the security modules in MSO-supplied set-tops, while just 616,000 have been deployed for use in retail devices, including TiVo boxes. 

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.