FCC Grants TiVo a Pass

TiVo Won’t Have to Use DLNA Standard Until June 2017
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In a win for TiVo and a set-back of sorts for the Digital Living Network Alliance’s new “VidiPath” secure IP home networking standard, the FCC granted TiVo a waiver that will defer it from having to implement the DLNA’s technology until June 1, 2017.

In the FCC order released on Thursday, the Commission acknowledged that TiVo does not use an “open industry standard” as required by the rule, but did “find that its network interoperability solution enables subscribers to set up a home network and, given TiVo’s market share, we do not believe that a temporary waiver will undermine the goals” of the rule.

The rule on leased cable set-tops is set to take effect on June 1, 2015 (smaller cable MSOs had until Sept. 1, 2015 to comply), so TiVo has effectively secured a two-year waiver.

TiVo, which counts Suddenlink Communications, Grande Communications, RCN Corp. and Mediacom Communications among its U.S. MVPD partners, filed its petition for a waiver or a clarification of the rule for its products and services supplied to cable operators in August 2014, arguing that all of its products, including those sold at retail and wholesale to MSOs, already contain proprietary technology that would support the kind of home networking functionality supported by the DLNA standard, and that having to “back up” to the DLNA standard would impair its ability to  compete at retail and at the wholesale level. TiVo uses the technology in its whole-home DVR platform for set-tops and mobile devices.

The DLNA urged the FCC to deny the waiver, holding that its guidelines had been available long enough for TiVo to implement. The FCC said it sees benefits in expanding the availability of DLNA-compliant home networking equipment, but again cited TiVo’s “relatively small subscriber base” as a reason why a waiver wouldn’t undermine that process. Plus, TiVo’s currently deployed implementation “deliver much of what the rule intended to accomplish,” the FCC noted.

The National Cable Telecommunications Association and Verizon did not ask the FCC to deny TiVo’s petition but did ask the Commission to use it as an opportunity to waive the rule on an industry-wide basis. The FCC denied their request.

DLNA released the CVP-2 guidelines in March 2014, and followed in September with thedebut of the “VidiPath” brand and a certification  program -- initiatives that will provide a secure, in-home IP networking path, enabling MVPDs to deliver subscription TV content (and bridge their user interfaces and navigation systems) to VidiPath-certified retail CE products such as set-tops, gaming consoles, tablets and streaming devices.

Several major U.S. cable operators, meanwhile, are pushing ahead with the DLNA standard, as VidiPath was a focus of the INTX show in Chicago earlier this month.  Among the demos, DLNA showed Comcast’s Xfinity VidiPath Service for its X1 platform running on the MSO’s production plant and displaying on smart TVs and tablets. This video from an Imagine Park session at INTX shows VidiPath operating in tandem with X1. 

In addition to Comcast, DLNA members such as Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable have deployed or are expected to soon deploy set-tops and gateways outfitted with VidiPath servers.

Even with delayed support from TiVo, some analysts believe VidiPath is poised to take off. ABI Research recently projected that VidiPath-certified devices will be available in about 40% of all U.S. cable homes that subscribe to “advanced services” by 2016, expanding to 70% by 2020. If additional capabilities are added to VidiPath in the coming years (such as cloud-based deployment models and support by OTT video providers), ABI said adoption among the advanced cable service footprint could grow to 100%.  

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