Samsung Developing CableCARD Retail Video Device

Its Smart Media Player to Handle Linear Subscription TV and Over-the-Top Video Services
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Samsung is developing a retail video device equipped with a CableCARD slot that's designed to support traditional subscription video services alongside over-the-top fare from sources such as Netflix and Vudu, a recent FCC filing reveals.

If all goes to plan, Samsung’s proposed Smart Media Player will be released to retail partners by the end of this summer. 

The filing, dated May 20 and posted at the Zatz Not Funny blog, discusses Samsung’s plans for a retail device capable of obtaining “unidirectional” linear cable TV via a CableCARD and OTT content via a broadband connection. A Samsung electronic guide/user interface would tie it all together:

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In product materials provided to the FCC, Samsung diagrams show how the Smart Media Player would support TV services from MSOs such as Comcast, Cox Communications, Time Warner Cable or Charter Communications in tandem with OTT offerings from Netflix, Vudu and YouTube, among others.

Samsung’s plan came to light in an ex parte document filed as part of an effort by the CE company to gain an FCC waiver that would lift a requirement that Samsung outfit the proposed device with an analog tuner. TiVo, which already makes DVRs with CableCARD slots and OTT video capabilities, is seeking a similar waiver that could be applied to future retail products. TiVo’s request remains pending.

If Samsung green lights the product plan, it would mark a rare new entry of a CableCARD device targeted for retail distribution. Samsung is already a key supplier and partner to the U.S. cable industry. In addition to selling set-tops directly to MSOs such as Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks and Cablevision Systems, Samsung has also forged agreements to support subscription video services and apps from Comcast and TWC in connected televisions sold at retail.

Samsung noted that the Smart Media Player will include a QAM digital tuner, holding that demand for retail devices with analog tuners are waning ane as MSOs complete their all-digital video migrations. New FCC rules handed down in December 2012 cleared the way for cable operators to secure basic tiers in all-digital systems. Echoing arguments already made by TiVo, Samsung added that analog tuners also burden the device with unnecessary costs and power requirements.

Samsung said an expedited waiver is critical to the company’s launch plans. It asked the FCC to consider granting TiVo’s pending waiver in a broad enough fashion as to cover similar CableCARD-enabled devices, or, in granting TiVo’s request, to establish a streamlined, accelerated process for subsequent waiver petitions.

“If Samsung cannot provide Smart Media Players to retailers by the end of the summer, it risks losing the opportunity to obtain any shelf space in 2013, including during the all-important holiday season,” the company said. This would delay consumer access to the Smart Media Player until early in 2014, an unnecessary wait that would be unfair to consumers and serve no purpose.”

Samsung also told the FCC that the public has had the opportunity to raise concerns regarding TiVo’s latest waiver request, but none have arisen. 

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