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  #1  
Old 08-31-2015, 06:17 AM
gdippel gdippel is offline
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NY Times Editorial regarding STBs

Apparently someone at the Times is frustrated with their cable company.
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/31/op...ol-left-region
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  #2  
Old 08-31-2015, 07:29 AM
wayner wayner is offline
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They seem to get some of the technology wrong as I don't think they totally understand CableCARDs.
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Old 08-31-2015, 08:35 AM
reggie14 reggie14 is offline
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What did you think was inaccurate, wayner? Certainly the CableCard discussion is dumbed-down, and it's probably the case that the author doesn't know what CableCards are doing at a technical level, but overall it seemed pretty accurate to me.

I do, however, find the comparison to activating cellular phones to be funny. First, those generally do require a trusted "electronic card" that is provided by the network operator. And two, some companies (e.g., Verizon and Sprint) don't exactly have great records when it comes to activating compatible phones/tablets that weren't purchased from them.

I really don't think CableCard itself has inhibited the market that much. Most of it I think it just a lack of consumer interest, but the certification model certainly creates a barrier to adoption. CableCard is both over-engineered now. Bulk decryption shouldn't be performed by the card, just key management (like SIM cards). That would bring costs down for the CableCard itself substantially.

DRM is still going to be a major deterrent. It's unfortunate that DRM is automatically accepted as a sensible and effective anti-theft/privacy tool. I'm not as anti-DRM as most (for instance, I do think some DRM pretty effectively discourages the "casual" piracy that I saw all the time with CDs), but in the case of TV I think it mostly just acts as a barrier to third-party STBs and DVRs. The lack of a trusted hardware token effectively requires some sort of security certification program. If the FCC and cable companies accepted that they're not going to be able to stop paying customers from recording content in a DRM-free format (and post it online), then you could design a pretty secure system without requiring security testing (or, at least, not significant testing).

Anyways, I don't think whatever the FCC comes up with is going to help the third-party STB market (partly because I don't think the FCC will adopt a new rule). I get the impression that the "downloadable security" idea was actually supported by the cable companies, who haven't been particularly fond of the "separable security" requirement that previously forced them to use CableCards in their own boxes. Downloadable security would probably make things easier and cheaper for the cable companies without necessarily making it any easier for third-party STBs. The regulatory agencies are generally driven primarily by the companies they regulate (which isn't a bad thing), so don't expect anything too disruptive for the cable companies- either on the business or technology side.

I think cable TV is a lost cause. If you want to give consumers more choice, force the media companies to open up their licensing. It has to be easier for someone like Google or Amazon to stand up their own streaming services roughly equivalent to cable TV.
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Old 08-31-2015, 08:44 AM
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tmiranda tmiranda is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by reggie14 View Post
I think cable TV is a lost cause. If you want to give consumers more choice, force the media companies to open up their licensing. It has to be easier for someone like Google or Amazon to stand up their own streaming services roughly equivalent to cable TV.
I agree with this statement. I am relatively sure my kids (now 13 and 15) will never subscribe to cable TV. Cable is a lost cause in the long run. In the short run ew will have to deal with crappy STBs
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  #5  
Old 08-31-2015, 06:55 PM
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KryptoNyte KryptoNyte is offline
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I'm not so sure about cable's life being that short.

I see the major networks, individually, envisioning their services as superior, and raising their prices - we already see it with disagreements and blacked out channels on virtually every service. Everyone thought the A la carte method via cable or the Internet would be best, but in practice, the bundles on which cables companies have made deals are apparently very hard to beat, currently.

Should the cable company get desperate, the last gasp is that they seem to have control over the physical service into our homes, and there is little competition in that segment. Even a service like Netflix is ultimately dependent on the one providing the cable end service. Perhaps at some point in the future, high speed Internet will be a free service offered to all, but we're not there yet.

The last 20 years have been a strange time for media. Not long ago, the average user couldn't play a video file of any substantial resolution on a computer. Now, the technology has surpassed the need, and we are facing the issue of how folks get paid to create this media, and how the middle man gets paid to deliver it, and more importantly, if the middle man is truly required.
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Old 08-31-2015, 07:05 PM
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KryptoNyte KryptoNyte is offline
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I really believe that the conundrum is exposed and magnified by the simple fact that there is so much technology in place that we can do virtually anything with media over the wire[less], yet an endeavor like Redbox can pop up in the middle of it all and still make a buck.

That's hilarious.
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  #7  
Old 08-31-2015, 07:36 PM
reggie14 reggie14 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KryptoNyte View Post
I'm not so sure about cable's life being that short.
Well, I'm not sure it's particularly short either, I just don't think they'll evolve. The industry will cling to their current business model until it collapses. They won't go under, though. I certainly don't know this for sure, but I suspect their profit margins are considerably higher for high-speed internet than TV. If they raised prices just a little they could probably make the same amount of money, but they'd be resigning themselves to life as a utility, which seems to terrify them.

But, I do think their hold on the market is quite tenuous. They're simply not needed as a content provider- just as a delivery mechanism. The strong hatred so many people have for them would greatly spur interest in alternatives, even if they're more limited and/or more expensive.

And I think tmiranda is right about younger folks- cable/satellite subscription rates will continue to fall. At a certain point, they'll fall to a point where ESPN's business model will collapse. Either ESPN will decide they could get more subscribers on their own, or Comcast/Verizon/TWC will decide the cost of ESPN (which will have to grow to offset subscriber losses) isn't worth keeping it in the basic package. If/when that happens I think it will cause a spiral effect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by KryptoNyte View Post
Should the cable company get desperate, the last gasp is that they seem to have control over the physical service into our homes, and there is little competition in that segment. Even a service like Netflix is ultimately dependent on the one providing the cable end service. Perhaps at some point in the future, high speed Internet will be a free service offered to all, but we're not there yet.
High speed internet as a free (tax-supported) service to all? While the companies have set a low bar, I highly doubt the government would do any better.

Anyways, yes, the cable companies will be fine. They have a huge head start on any competitors. And even without a major push for Fiber-to-the-Home, the coax going to your house has a lot of room to grow, particularly if most of it didn't have to be used for broadcasting video. I think prices will go up, and more shady paid-peering disputes. Some of that is just the market restructuring, but hopefully the FCC can keep things from getting out of control.
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Old 08-31-2015, 07:42 PM
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KryptoNyte KryptoNyte is offline
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Should be interesting to watch this evolve over the next couple decades. Over the past few years, I've often wondered if a few savvy folks would be able to start a community based coop to provide a new wire to the homes in their area, with the primary purpose of providing a community funded and managed system of delivering data, without the greed of big business and the fear of big government.

As you can see, I'm still a believer in the cable when it comes to speed and human safety.
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Old 09-01-2015, 03:28 AM
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Fuzzy Fuzzy is offline
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Coaxial RF cable is still a very good method of data distribution, especially since the majority of use is asynchronous anyway. The topography of the typical citywide cable system is incredibly flexible, and the equipment requirement pales in comparison to fiber to the home, especially when you consider the added cost of equipment needing to be distributed around the neighborhoods (it's far 'safer' to have simple nearly hermetically sealed power amps spread throughout the city than much more environmentally sensitive fiber switches).
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Old 09-01-2015, 07:26 AM
reggie14 reggie14 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KryptoNyte View Post
Should be interesting to watch this evolve over the next couple decades. Over the past few years, I've often wondered if a few savvy folks would be able to start a community based coop to provide a new wire to the homes in their area, with the primary purpose of providing a community funded and managed system of delivering data, without the greed of big business and the fear of big government.
Well, I know that's been done, particularly in rural areas.

I'm pretty skeptical that that approach would be cost-effective in urban or suburban areas. Municipal-owned service (whether they lease to commercial ISPs or operate it themselves) seems like a better approach. It's too bad the commercial ISPs have fought against municipal ISPs so hard.

I also wonder about performance and quality of service, particularly for streaming video. Would small ISPs be able to effectively get data off their transit line(s)? I suspect there's a gap between being small enough where this isn't a problem, and being large enough to make Netflix caching boxes economical.
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Old 09-01-2015, 08:39 AM
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tvmaster2 tvmaster2 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fuzzy View Post
Coaxial RF cable is still a very good method of data distribution, especially since the majority of use is asynchronous anyway. The topography of the typical citywide cable system is incredibly flexible, and the equipment requirement pales in comparison to fiber to the home, especially when you consider the added cost of equipment needing to be distributed around the neighborhoods (it's far 'safer' to have simple nearly hermetically sealed power amps spread throughout the city than much more environmentally sensitive fiber switches).
yup, what he said - they've been making it work since the 60's, and it still does, essentially.
Plus, for every one of us tv-tech-geeks, there are 10 non-geeks (mother in law, brother in law, brother in law's girlfriend, my wife) who can't possibly wrap their head around any technology BUT the cable box. OK, my wife can deal with TiVo, but when the cable card's start acting up, it's over to me.
But I would like the option to buy one, as I have with my satellite receivers, as opposed to rent them.
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Old 09-01-2015, 10:47 AM
pjpjpjpj pjpjpjpj is offline
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Everyone says "today's kids won't ever have a cable subscription", and they are probably right for the most part. But they'll need some way to get their media; whether that be a cable/fiber running to their residence with a wifi router, a mobile plan, both, or some method we haven't even dreamed up yet. But one way or another, the data to feed whatever device they consume from, whether that be a phone, tablet, PC, TV box/stick, smart TV, whatever, has to come from somewhere. So I expect the cable/satellite companies to move to being THAT provider. It's already started, really; most (if not all) cable companies offer high speed internet. I expect they'll buy or merge with wireless carriers eventually, or maybe even start their own wireless service. I can imagine Time-Warner has the money to compete with Verizon and the like. Point being, they aren't going to just throw in the towel and die if cable as we know it becomes an unfeasible business model in the future.

And I've been preaching what tvmaster2 said for years. For every one of us, there are lots of people who just want their cable box, and no matter how much they might complain, they don't know enough (or even care to learn) to try some "new" technology. The cable bill is just a necessary evil of their lifestyle. That's why I've always argued that the cable-free society is still decades and decades away.
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  #13  
Old 09-01-2015, 01:06 PM
reggie14 reggie14 is offline
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Certainly the current service providers are pretty entrenched. The wireline providers have a huge head-start on infrastructure that would be exceedingly expensive to duplicate. The wireless providers not only have spent billions on the infrastructure, but they have licenses covering the prime spectrum. While new spectrum is being made available, there's very little that can be made available in the lower bands. That creates a huge impediment to anyone wanting to stand up a wireless ISP.

But, it's more interesting to think about the future of TV. I'm sure tvmaster2 and pjpjpjpj are right that cable TV in its current form will be around for a while, in the sense that I expect there will be a market for tens of millions of subscribers. But, making a rather dangerous prophecy, I think they'll be a market for tens of millions of subscribers to streaming alternatives (true alternatives, as opposed to supplementary services) in <10 years.

I don't think cable TV will really evolve as a service- the companies will just focus on data. Depending on how the net neutrality stuff plays out we may see a lot of bundling. But, I *don't* think we're going to see cable TV embrace anything that disruptive to their business right now.

Mari Silbey wrote a nice article about the FCC's DSTAC group. The report isn't out yet, but her article seems to show the wide gap between the MVPDs and the technology companies. The MVPDs seem very opposed to the tech companies' gateway model (AllVid, basically), despite it functionally being not that different from CableCard.
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