CableLabs, CTAM Play Rename-the-POD Game with CableCARD Adoption

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Take out the POD and plug in the CableCARD: Cable Television Laboratories Inc. will be doing away with the longstanding point of deployment (POD) name for OpenCable-ready conditional access modules, opting instead for the more consumer-friendly CableCARD trademark.

It will be used to stamp future digital set-top boxes and cable-ready TV sets that meet the OpenCable specifications.

Why the name change? Marketing, it turns out.

The OpenCable specification has aimed for retail digital set-top box distribution via a POD slot. Consumers would buy boxes at retail outlets and then obtain a POD conditional access card from their local cable operator to authorize service.

The recent "plug-and-play" negotiations between the cable industry and consumer-electronics manufacturers have sought to extend that to integrated television sets able to pass through one-way cable services.

But as cable marketers and CE manufacturers began thinking about retail distribution, they realized POD just wouldn't sell with consumers, according to Michael Davis, project director of OpenCable's business relations.

"I think it was just both parties saw the time was right to reconsider the name, and there was pretty much consensus that POD was not a very consumer friendly name," he said.

Several months ago, CableLabs and the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing began the hunt for a new moniker, asking for submissions from cable operators and electronics makers. That generated a laundry list of potential names, some of which hit the marketing test wall pretty quickly.

Cable Access Card didn't fly because of the onerous CAC acronym, nor did the clunky Cable Access Module make the grade.

"There was a big effort to try to get the POD renamed something 'digital-cable ready,' and nobody came up with anything that worked," Davis noted.

After sorting through the pile, CableLabs and CTAM settled on CableCARD.

"That is most likely what we will call it, and all of the television manufacturers have been made aware of that and were given an option to come up with something better," Davis noted. "And that's where we landed. So I think the materials you will see with the television will all say CableCARD on it."

One-way, digital cable-ready TVs may be on shelves as soon as this Christmas, "and certainly into the first half of next year," he said.

Meanwhile, the work will begin on consumer-education material explaining how cable-ready TVs and boxes at retail work, and what consumers need to do to sign on for cable service, Davis said.

At the CTAM Summit in Seattle last week, Time Warner Cable senior vice president of strategy and development Kevin Leddy said MSOs may consider giving retailers dummy cards to show the consumer how their CableCARD-equipped box would work. But how operators will distribute the cards after the customers purchase the units remains a key question, he noted.

Matt Stump contributed to this report.

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