Cable Operators Have Deployed 32M CableCard Set-Tops

Industry Has Distributed 554,000 Standalone CableCards for Use in TiVo DVRs and Other Devices

Through the end of 2011, the 10 largest U.S. cable operators have rolled out more than 32 million CableCard-enabled set-tops -- and just 554,000 standalone CableCard devices for use in TiVo digital video recorders and other devices, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

The NCTA provided the figures in its quarterly report on CableCards to the Federal Communications Commission. CableCards provide authentication and encryption to access cable TV programming; the cable industry originally designed the specification for third-party devices to comply with FCC regulations.

Under the FCC's "integration ban," which went into effect on July 1, 2007, operators are required to use CableCards in their own set-tops. The integrated set-top ban was supposed to foster better MSO support for retail devices that use CableCards. But the policy has not resulted in the FCC's hoped-for surge in sales among third-party cable-ready navigation devices.

The NCTA has argued that the integrated set-top ban should be eradicated, saying it adds cost to operators while serving no purpose.

Instead the FCC last year added new CableCard requirements, which include: ensuring access to switched digital video by retail devices; prohibiting box-price discrimination; requiring that consumers have the option of self-installing CableCards; providing subscribers with information on the cost of retail set-tops vs. leased boxes; making it easier to get retail devices to market by streamlining testing and certification; and allowing cable operators to provide basic HD boxes with integrated security functions.

The FCC is currently considering a successor to the CableCard regime. The new "AllVid" regulation would force all multichannel video programming distributors -- including satellite and telco TV providers -- to deliver video to third-party hardware devices using a common set of technical interfaces.