Eshoo Praises Comcast/TiVo Agreement

Says Accord Opens Door To More Consumer-Friendly STB Market
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A plan to offer Comcast’s linear and on-demand services to retail-bought TiVo boxes without need for a CableCARD received some praise from Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Communications and Technology Subcommittee who also represents Silicon Valley in Congress.

“In nearly every American home today is a television, and more often than not attached to that television is a cable box rented from a cable provider. For millions of consumers, renting a cable box from their cable provider isn’t a choice. It’s a pre-requisite for cable programming,” she said, in a statement. “With the announcement from TiVo and Comcast to enhance the compatibility of TiVo’s set-top boxes with Comcast’s cable service, the companies are opening the door to a more innovative, consumer-friendly set-top box marketplace, one in which consumers can decide the best device for their needs and where innovators can aspire to deliver even more cutting-edge technology.”

In an FCC filing, Comcast and TiVo revealed that they were collaborating on a two-way, non-CableCARD security platform capable of supporting the MSO’s full suite of pay-TV services. Though short on technical detail and the anticipated timing on when this CableCARD-free system would be deployed, Comcast has also pledged to offer its resulting CableCARD-free solution available to other cable operators “on commercially reasonable terms.” Comcast has also committed to continue providing and supporting CableCARDs in retail devices.

Comcast declined to comment beyond the scope of the FCC filing, noting that it’s “premature” to discuss details of the approach.  

The TiVo/Comcast filing did not say what precipitated the agreement, but it does enter play as Comcast’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner Cable comes under review. For its part, TiVo has yet to express an opinion on that deal, but company execs recently told the FCC that the MSO “has been particularly cooperative in making CableCARD work for TiVo,” and recently said that TiVo has historically performed well at retail in Comcast markets that have integrated support for the MSO’s VOD service. Earlier this month, Comcast and TiVo completed VOD integration work in all Comcast markets.

TiVo’s decision to work with Comcast on a security system that would be licensed by the cable operator also comes after TiVo had previously urged the FCC to pursue new rules that would produce a successor to the CableCARD that could be applied to all MVPDs, and not just cable operators. That’s been the historic pursuit of the AllVid Tech Company Alliance.

The cable industry, meanwhile, wants the FCC to abolish a ban on set-tops with integrated security that took effect in July 2007, allow the market to evolve on its own, and to refrain from pursuing new rules that would produce an all-MVPD successor to the CableCARD.

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