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FCC restructures set-top box proposal, now wants pay-TV providers to supply 'cable' apps

By Shawn Knight
Sep 9, 2016
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  1. The Federal Communications Commission earlier this year introduced a proposal that would give consumers more choice when selecting a set-top box from their cable or satellite provider.

    In a nutshell, the FCC wanted to give customers the option of selecting from an array of set-top boxes rather than the single option they’re forced to rent from their provider. To accomplish this, they wanted pay-TV providers to hand over programming information to third-party device makers who would then be in charge of loading their own user interfaces over the cable content.

    Unsurprisingly, this proposal received plenty of pushback from industry influencers. The two sides reconvened and have seemingly come up with a solution that better caters to both sides’ interests.

    For example, if you wanted to watch Dexter, the search query would return all of the online places you can watch it as well as when episodes air on pay-TV.

    Under the new proposal, pay-TV operators will instead create apps that would allow subscribers to watch their programming on a set-top box like a Roku or Apple TV device. The implementation would be similar to how you watch Netflix or Hulu on those devices today. What’s more, cable programming would be globally searchable alongside other apps.

    For example, if you wanted to watch Dexter, the search query would return all of the online places you can watch it as well as when episodes air on pay-TV. This approach would cut down on the fragmentation that currently exists between online and pay-TV sources and eliminate the need to lease a box from a provider to be able to watch the content you pay to access each month.

    The savings could be significant. According to FCC estimates, the average household in the US last year paid $231 in set-top box rental fees.

    The problem I see with this solution is that you’re changing the delivery vehicle of pay-TV from traditional coaxial or satellites to an Internet connection. Today’s Internet connections are pretty speedy on average but they aren’t perfect. Even with a fast connection, there will be times that you experience buffering or a drop in image / audio quality and I’m willing to bet that you’d be looking at a minute or so transmission delay at minimum.

    What’s more, streaming television in your home is only going to slow down the connection for other family members that might be using the Internet at the same time. Plus, programming would count against your monthly data cap (unless such data is exempted). Furthermore, it means that you’d have to have an Internet connection to watch pay-TV. While that’s very common, there are still some people that don’t have a need for home Internet service but would still like to watch pay-TV (grandparents, anyone?).

    Sure, I suspect traditional set-top boxes will remain an option for years to come but you have to think, at some point in the future, it’s all going to move to the Internet.

    The FCC will vote on the proposal on September 29.

    Image courtesy Bloomberg News

    Permalink to story.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 9, 2016
  2. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Enthusiast Posts: 62   +39

    We watch cable TV through Sony Playstation VUE on our two Roku 2 devices. One unit is connected directly to the router while a second is connected by Ethernet through a powerline adapter. I have rarely experienced buffering issues and only once was it an issue on a Friday night watching a VOD program. While I'm out the cost of two Rokus (around $110) I save $35-40 a month not having to rent two cable boxes plus multi-room DVR (free with PlayStation Vue), I already owned the rokus anyway so the $110 was moot.
     
  3. ZackL04

    ZackL04 TS Rookie

    I tried the service the week it launched this spring. I liked it but had a few gripes, Im wondering if you can clarify if they are still prevalent. Fist issue was buffering everytime I changed the channel that took nearly 20 seconds to clear up. Second was what looked like a hitch in the feed that was most apparent during live sports. For example Hockey was still being played and watching the puck travel from one end to the other was not as smooth as it is on my Directv service.

    Can you tell me if these are still issues?
     
  4. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Enthusiast Posts: 62   +39

    We have had Playstation Vue since early July so my experience has been since then, my roku 2 upstairs get 20mbs down through its speedtest app (our ISP is 25mbs down and 5mbs up).

    On the Roku each channel in Vue is basically its own app so switching from Channel 2 CBS to TBS takes three clicks. Click back to leave Channel 2, click on TBS app then click on the live feed on TBS (or one of its VOD programs). Once you select the live feed, the program may take one second to load (two max) but is often instantaneous. A VOD program may take 2-3 seconds to load.

    I watched the Olympics, several MLB games on ESPN, several NFL pre-season games and last night's NFL game on CBS & NBC. I have yet to see any slow down or buffering on live sports. In fact my brother was watching a MLB game with me this weekend and could not tell the difference between the VUE feed of ESPN and his cable feed.

    It also seems the programs load quicker in September then it did in July, perhaps Sony is investing in their upstream issues.
     
  5. MoeJoe

    MoeJoe TS Maniac Posts: 401   +208

    Burn !
     
  6. Joe Potosky

    Joe Potosky TS Rookie

    Wait a second....

    I want to purchase a box with record abilities and not have to RENT from the cable company a box that can record or pay a premium to another service for this ability.

    How does the proposed apps help?
     
  7. Camikazi

    Camikazi TS Maniac Posts: 817   +231

    I'm going to be moving to Amazon Fire TV Sticks and PS Vue within the next month to get rid of my cable bill and have just the internet bill. It will cost me $120 one time cost for the 3 sticks I need and $35 a month for Vue, that is still less than I pay a month for my cable service ATM. After the first month my bill should be about 50% less than before and I get all the channels I watch on TV anyway.
     
  8. Xclusiveitalian

    Xclusiveitalian TS Evangelist Posts: 699   +58

    Cable is dying and will be dead hopefully soon. More and more people, especially young adults are not getting cable cause they see it is clearly a scam. Plus, my generation doesn't make enough to afford cable with rent SKY HIGH and wages lower and lower.
     
  9. spydercanopus

    spydercanopus TS Evangelist Posts: 814   +93

    I have something peculiar happening with our new cable boxes.

    We just got our first TiVo rented from the cable monopoly with a TiVo Mini in the bedroom.

    The TiVo mini has no TV Tuner and relies on a connection to the main TiVo for all live or recorded TV.

    To transmit that TV signal to the Mini they installed a MoCa adapter which uses the home Coax jacks to network together instead of WiFi or Ethernet. The MoCa is also the only way either TV get's Internet content. They are not connected to our router.

    So the setup goes
    Wall Coax inputs to MoCa > MoCa Coax outputs to Cable Modem > Modem patches to Router via Ethernet

    Yet somehow we can "cast" YouTube from a WiFi device to the TiVo... Even tho the Internet on the TiVo's are not part of the router's network.

    This makes me think my home network is somehow visible to the cable company via their Coax cable.

    I can see how the TiVo and Mini can communicate over Coax using the MoCa, but there is a Modem between the MoCa adapter and our router, so how is this possible?
     
  10. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Enthusiast Posts: 62   +39

    Are you signed in (as a registered user) to Youtube on both your phone and tivo?
     
  11. spydercanopus

    spydercanopus TS Evangelist Posts: 814   +93

    Nope. I never even opened the YouTube app on the TiVo and I t just magically showed up as a casting device on YouTube mobile app and even browser based YouTube.
     
  12. Camikazi

    Camikazi TS Maniac Posts: 817   +231

    Everything I read about MoCa says that it does have to connect to your home network at least at one point and from there on coax is what you can use to add more. If you have a TiVo BOLT it most likely is connected to your home network since it has built in MoCa and the Minis use it as a way to get on your network. Look around, one of them (most likely the main one) is connected to your router since that is actually necessary for MoCa to work at all.

    https://www.tivo.com/assets/images/mytivo/howto/MoCA/1b.jpg That is how the main connector works, it gets its internet by connecting to the router. Check out the cables and you should see where the link is.
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2016
    dirtyferret likes this.
  13. spydercanopus

    spydercanopus TS Evangelist Posts: 814   +93

    You're right! I knew it had to be connected and it was on one from another room through the Ethernet jack so I didn't see it.

    I feel dumb now. Thanks for pointing that out. I was stumped.
     

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