News flash: No one wants CableCards

Tue, 09/23/2008 - 8:10am
Brian Santo

It looks like CableCards are here to stay, given that there are now 7.8 million set-tops deployed with the things. And still hardly anybody wants them.

As of Sept. 22, 29 consumer electronics (CE) manufacturers have had 594 Unidirectional Digital Cable Ready Product (UDCP) models certified or verified for use with CableCards, according to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

On the other hand, Cablevision Systems, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable have deployed just over 346,000 CableCards for use in UDCPs in the entire history of the program.

By contrast, since the “integration ban” went into effect on July 1, 2007, the top-10 MSOs have already deployed more than 7.8 million operator-supplied set-top boxes with CableCards.

“Therefore, in less than 15 months, cable operators have deployed more than 20 times as many CableCard-enabled devices than the total number of CableCards requested by customers for use in UDCPs in the last four years.”

But that was the NCTA putting a happy face on the situation. More than a year after being forced to deploy the devices – with millions of consumers having ready access to CableCards – the number of people who want to take advantage of them remains miniscule.

And the ecosystem – the combination of cable, CableCard and CE products – still doesn’t work that well. Comcast reported that CableCard installations almost always take longer than others because there is almost always a unique problem with supposed “plug and play” CE.

The other four of the top-five operators reported a number of odd problems that they certify have nothing to do with equipment they’re responsible for.

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