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Old 05-28-08, 12:45 PM   #1
mrpayroll
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Agreement may mean end of cable set-top boxes

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080528/...YEUl9sdHADMQ--

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By JOHN DUNBAR, Associated Press Writer
Wed May 28, 7:40 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The set-top box, a necessary appendage for millions of cable television customers for decades, is moving toward extinction.

A leading television manufacturer, Sony Electronics Inc., and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association said Tuesday they signed an agreement that will allow viewers to rid themselves of set-top boxes, yet still receive advanced "two-way" cable services, such as pay-per-view movies.

In most cases, cable viewers also could dispose of another remote control since they could use their TV's control rather than one tied to the set-top box.

The agreement marks a significant meeting of the minds between cable companies and one of the world's dominant makers of consumer electronics. The two industries have been feuding for a decade about how best to deliver cable service to customers while allowing them to buy equipment of their own choosing.

Sony agreed to use the cable industry's technology in its sets as soon as possible but could not say when the first such televisions might be appear in stores.

The agreement is between Sony and the nation's six largest cable companies: Comcast Corp., Time Warner Cable Inc., Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bright House Networks. The six companies serve more than 82 percent of cable subscribers.

Cable subscribers are generally locked into renting a set-top box from their provider if they want more than the most basic cable TV service.

More than a decade ago, Congress ordered the cable industry to allow outside electronics makers to compete for the boxes. The industry responded by developing the "cable card." The cards are inserted into competing boxes, televisions or other devices and unscramble the cable signal.

The cards have been the source of frequent customer complaints and never proved popular. In addition, sets can only receive signals from their cable company, not vice versa. Subscribers were unable to enjoy "two-way" features such as video on demand, on-screen channel guides and cable company-provided digital video recorders.

Customers will still be able to attach their own devices like TiVo digital video recorders, according to the NCTA.

Under the new system, customers will still need to get a cable card from their provider, but the agreement means, hopefully, technical glitches will be eliminated, "two-way" services will be available and there will be no need for the clunky boxes.

The cable association said it was hopeful other electronics manufacturers will also agree to use the same technology.

The industry hopes to head off action by the Federal Communications Commission to impose a two-way standard on the industry.

"Every member of the FCC has encouraged the parties to resolve these highly technical issues in private-sector negotiations," said Kyle McSlarrow, president of NCTA. Tuesday's announcement means they have done so, he added.

The FCC declined to comment on the agreement Tuesday.
This doesn't affect me at all because for most of this decade my set top box has included Tivo, ReplayTV or now just a DVR.

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Old 05-28-08, 01:08 PM   #2
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I work for Cox and I can tell you that cable cards are a monumental pain in the ass. They are a bitch to get working, and have constant problems. I'd rather have a clunky DVR set-top box than a cable card in my system.
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Old 05-28-08, 01:37 PM   #3
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Wait, is Sony making this change for all of their sets, or is it a high-end feature (because I'm sure it'll cost money to put this in the set). Also, they're only one television supplier.

I agree with mrpayroll, though, the only reason I even have a set-top box is for the HD DVR. I'd go HD-TIVO if only the box wasn't prohibitively expensive to own and cable cards weren't a pain in the rear not only to use, but even to get from the cable companies themselves.
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Old 05-28-08, 01:43 PM   #4
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I think the article overstates things. The only thing this agreement does is adopt a 2-way cable card standard. It may bring cable card systems up to speed on interactive features, but it doesn't mean it will work any better than it does today.

This is a great move by the cable industry. For the last 20 years they have been reaping huge profits by leasing cheap cable boxes, and now that everyone wants a more expensive DVR box they decide to actually support cable card, a scheme in which they still charge a lease fee without incurring any of the equipment expense.
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Old 05-28-08, 01:55 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KillerCannibal
I work for Cox and I can tell you that cable cards are a monumental pain in the ass. They are a bitch to get working, and have constant problems. I'd rather have a clunky DVR set-top box than a cable card in my system.
Give me a break. The Cablecos are doing everything they can to slow adaptation of any sort of access control mechanism that allows third party equipment to be connected to the plant. There is no reason that it should take 10 years for a viable third party device to come to market (Tivo Series 3). Do you think perhaps the reason that cablecards are so difficult to get working is because the cablecos want it that way?

And have you priced the cost of a cablecard setup? It costs almost as much to use your equipment as it does to rent cableco equipment.

This latest announcement is only the latest in a long string of promises designed to distract the FCC, avoid competition, and drag out their monopoly on control of customer equipment.
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Old 05-28-08, 02:14 PM   #6
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Another side of things...Cablecos could use this against the sat companies. I can already hear the ads...'why settle for a clunky box and another remote from DirecTV when you can watch everything with just your TV and TV remote.'

It amazes me how these scumbags are treading water. Give the sat companies 5 years and you'll see their HD offerings blowing away cable and I'm sure they'll have internet offerings that trump anything cable has now.
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Old 05-28-08, 02:24 PM   #7
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I love cable. Cablevision has been good to me for the last 5 years. I have cablecards in 2 Tivos and my other TV and have never once had a problem with it.

They came to my house for an hour, programmed them, and left.
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Old 05-28-08, 03:01 PM   #8
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Agreed that this is just smoke and mirrors. Start offering a la carte pricing and you'll get my money.
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Old 05-28-08, 03:09 PM   #9
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Yeah, unless TVs start including DVRs this won't be of much help.
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Old 05-28-08, 04:08 PM   #10
Matthew Chmiel
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Quote:
Originally Posted by milo bloom
Agreed that this is just smoke and mirrors. Start offering a la carte pricing and you'll get my money.


I could care less about cable unless I could pay a (lower) amount for the channels I specifically want, which to be honest, would only be a handful.

I have a Netflix subscription and an AppleTV to meet any needs I might have with television at this point.
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Old 05-28-08, 04:16 PM   #11
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considering I can only receive cable from 1 provider, I'd like them get rid of the monopoly certain companies have over areas.....
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Old 05-28-08, 05:08 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dick_grayson
considering I can only receive cable from 1 provider, I'd like them get rid of the monopoly certain companies have over areas.....
Here, here! I only have one cable option as well. I could go with a satellite company but they don't offer local channels in HD yet. Some of us are really stuck behind two shitty options when it comes to subscription television.

And as Raul3 said, this new development won't mean anything to those of us who use DVRs. I can see the clear advantages of eliminating the box, though.
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Old 05-28-08, 05:09 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by milo bloom
... Start offering a la carte pricing and you'll get my money.
Just don't expect your bill to decrease significantly with ala carte pricing.

I know a lot of people are expecting that is what will happen, because they only want a few channels rather than the dozens, or hundreds, that come with typical cable/satellite "packages."

Their reasoning goes something like this (and BTW my examples are extremely simplified and for conceptual purposes only): DirecTV subscriber gets 100 channels for $100/month. He figures each channel costs him $1 each. He thinks, "I only watch 10 channels, so if ala carte pricing is instituted, I'll just get those 10 channels and save $90 a month."

Sorry, no. It isn't going to work that way. Under an ala carte plan, the above subscriber will probably be charged $10 per channel.

In the subscription TV biz, "packages" or "bundled" programming will always give buyers more for their money. Whether they want it or not.

Per unit, ala carte is always more expensive. Just look at the industry where the expression "ala carte" originated.

Restaurants.
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Old 05-28-08, 05:47 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon2
Just don't expect your bill to decrease significantly with ala carte pricing.

I know a lot of people are expecting that is what will happen, because they only want a few channels rather than the dozens, or hundreds, that come with typical cable/satellite "packages."

Their reasoning goes something like this (and BTW my examples are extremely simplified and for conceptual purposes only): DirecTV subscriber gets 100 channels for $100/month. He figures each channel costs him $1 each. He thinks, "I only watch 10 channels, so if ala carte pricing is instituted, I'll just get those 10 channels and save $90 a month."

Sorry, no. It isn't going to work that way. Under an ala carte plan, the above subscriber will probably be charged $10 per channel.

In the subscription TV biz, "packages" or "bundled" programming will always give buyers more for their money. Whether they want it or not.

Per unit, ala carte is always more expensive. Just look at the industry where the expression "ala carte" originated.

Restaurants.
Yep. If you want ESPN under a la carte pricing, expect to pay $15-20. For one channel. You'll probably be able to get the Golf Channel for a buck, though.
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Old 05-28-08, 05:48 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tracer Bullet
Yep. If you want ESPN under a la carte pricing, expect to pay $15-20. For one channel.
Hey, someones got to pay my salary!

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Old 05-28-08, 08:51 PM   #16
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A la carte would be expensive, and most folks would take packages because they would be in their best interest. A la carte is still a good idea, though. The folks who literally only want ESPN and ESPN2 for $25 a month can have it. Anything to stimulate something that even looks like competition is a positive step. It probably wouldn't have a big impact on the price charged, but at least there would be another option out there.
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