Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

FCC plan would give consumer control of set-top box

The Federal Communications Commission’s plan to make it easier for cable TV subscribers to buy their own set-top boxes could not only lead to lower costs for consumers, but also a burst of attractive new offerings.

“It is going to spur innovation, and I think it is a good kick in the posterior for the pay TV companies,” said Mukul Krishna, the senior global director for digital media with Frost & Sullivan in San Antonio, Texas.

On Wednesday, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled a proposal that would require cable and satellite companies to open up their systems, so that consumer electronics firms could build compatible boxes and sell them directly to consumers. Currently, the overwhelming majority of cable subscribers rent their set-top boxes from the cable companies.

The FCC estimates the average household pays $231 a year in rental fees, up 185 percent over the past 22 years.

For instance, few of today’s set-top boxes integrate standard TV networks with Internet video streaming services.

Under Wheeler’s plan, which will be put to a vote of the five-person commission on Feb. 18, a consumer could purchase a box that could be used with any cable service. The one-time purchase could save consumers hundreds of dollars. It might also hasten the deployment of new features that complement the changing tastes of TV viewers.

“Consumers today would like to mix live television like CBS and NBC with Netflix and Hulu,” said Ken Plotkin, president of Hauppauge Inc. in Hauppauge, NY., a company that makes cable TV hardware for personal computers. But to watch Internet video, the viewer must usually shift from the cable box to a separate set-top box or to software stored on the TV. Under the FCC plan, a maker of Internet streaming boxes like Apple Inc. or could combine cable TV and online video, for a seamless viewing experience.

Such a service could be a major boon for video producers that target niche audiences, ranging from racial and ethnic minorities to religious groups.

“That kind of stuff tends not to make it to popular ratings-based channels,” said Matthew Zinn, general counsel of the set-top box maker Tivo Inc. in San Jose, Calif.

Instead, it’s mostly streamed over the Internet, where many potential viewers might never see it. Set-top boxes that combine streaming with standard TV could make these shows available to millions more viewers.

Zinn said cable operators have no incentive to help viewers find Internet video streams, which generate no revenue for them. However, if the FCC opens up the set-top box market, manufacturers could offer boxes with advanced user interfaces and personalization features that could detect a user’s tastes and interests and suggest other programs he or she might like, whether from the Internet or cable.

Cable companies aren’t happy about the FCC plan.

“The proposal, like prior federal government technology mandates, would impose costs on consumers, adversely impact the creation of high-quality content, and chill innovation,” said a blog posting by Comcast Corp. senior vice president Mark Hess.

And cable industry analyst Brett Sappington, of Parks Associates in Dallas, said that companies like Tivo already offer third-party cable set-top boxes, but few consumers purchase them.

“Many don’t even consider the option of buying a set-top box somewhere else,” Sappington said.

But Parks Associates estimates a third of US homes with broadband Internet access have purchased Internet video-streaming devices, so a box that could deliver both Internet video and cable TV might find an audience.


Boston Globe

Hiawatha Bray

More Articles
- X-Men: Apocalypse' Trounces Alice With $8.2M Thursday Night
- My Prince Experience - Tony Lesesne
- South Florida's new wave of Artistic talent - MUMFF
- FEDS reply to Apple
- Apple gets backing in FBI Phone case
- Star Wars: Episode VIII begins filming
- 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Named Best Sports Car for the Money
- Birth of a nation sells at Sundance for $17.5 Million
- Netflix subscribers set to hit 100mil by 2017
- Wednesday Night Comedy show to hit Miami
- NATPE 2016- Ted Sarandos of Netflix to moderate
- Tesla Model X - The high performance SUV
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens blasts away box office records
- Mazda to Showcase 'Car as Art' Exhibit
- The new Jeep Cherokee reinvigorates the 4x4
- Dr. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall Volunteers Distribute Food
- CareerSource SFL gets top award- FL department of education
- Miami Dolphins Announce 50th Season all time team
- Mazda to Unveil All-New CX-9
- T-Mobile CEO thinks Blackberry might be making a comeback
- The new 2016 Nissan Titan XD takes a gamble
- National Flight Academy receives grant to educate youth
- Ford program recognized by White House initiative
- Understanding the power of the black consumer
- JM Family- Nominations for African American Achievers awards
- MUMFF 2015 - A major success
- Tesla gets a power updgrade on the Model S
- Runcible, a new smartphone shaped like a pocketwatch
- Dynamic performance of the Dodge Viper ACR 2016
- 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Fuel Economy Improves Dramatic 25%
- Future car stirs surprise in San Francisco
- LMG announces BECON TV as Newest Media Partner
- Miami Music Club - Giving drummers a chance to shine
- 5 Things to know about Miami's Tech Scene
- MIA Urban Music & Film Fest building an entertainment hub
- Dodge Viper GT3 proves fastest track car 2015
- Miami Urban Music and Film Festival 2015 is on the horizon
- MIA Urban Music & Film Festival September 25th & 26th
- One of the last Tuskegee Airmen Lt. Col. Williams passes
- Google Cardboard: How VR and AR could take off at Google IO
- Carol City High Defeats Dillard, 31-28
- ASPA Awards recipients 2015
- LMG Entertainment screens six projects at MMFM
- Miami Dolphins Rookies Rebuilding Together Event
- Mazda Reports Second-Best May Since 1996
- LMG is June 2015 Supplier of the Month at Broward College
- Stan Lee brings World of Superheroes to YouTube Spaces
- Surprising ways to lower your data usage
- Chevy Introduces 2016 Corvette Z06 C7.R
- Twitter designs new home page to flock new users
- Teen cuts into Apple watch band market
- Auto advances - The center of Ft. Lauderdale Auto Show 2015
- Ground breaking Rock Band game to make a return on next gen
- Blast Motion Signs Miami HEAT'S James Ennis
- Sea snails now make the strongest material on the planet
- JM Family Announces 2015 African American Achievers
- The Kingsmen Secret Service Review
- 50 Shades of Grey Review
- Hidden Apollo 11 artifacts found in Neil Armstrongs closet
- New VP and General Counsel - South East Toyota Distributors
- Comcast Highlights waves made in the Black Community
- Geoffrey Alardo named M-DCPS Teacher of the year
- Mazda names Jacob Brown Product Comm Specialist
- Black Tech week to position SFL to be a Hub for business
- New Media CEO Suzanne McDonald wins top intl Business Award
- Genetically modded mosquitoes could be released in the keys
- LMG visits NATPE 2015 - Day 1
- Benefits of Pressured Decision Making
- Should there be a limit to artistic and journalistic freedom
- AutoFOCUS - What's the Appeal; My top 3 features
- Family Fest: Seeds of the African Diaspora
- Streaming devices poised to dominate the viewing preference
- The World's Smallest PC
- Chris Rock's Top Five Review
- 6 Ways to kick off 2015 on a High Note
- Mazda reports best annual sales in 20 years
- Cable Giants Partner For Set-Top Box Data
- NATPE Announces on Pace Registration numbers for NATPE 2015
- Raquel Regalado visits Miami High During ‘Hour of Code
- Boxing expert James Smith signs deal w/ Creative Talent inc
- Miami Beach's Alton Road finally completed
- Gloria Estefan Talks Autobiographical Musical, On Your Feet!
- Space probe makes first ever landing onto a comet
- Live local and diverse entertainment ready to take the stage
- 13th Annual AutoFOCUS Awards Recap
- 6 Surprising facts about Diabetes
- MIA Artist to tag Middle School to raise money
- Stampede of 2015 Custom Ford Mustangs
- Miami's Tobacco Road Last Call after 102 Years
- VP of SAMA to be awarded at upcoming AutoFOCUS Awards
- 13th Annual AutoFOCUS Awards to leverage past/advance future
- American Sabor tells Mia's Latin Culture in American Music
- New Miami Central Train Station could become an urban Hub
- Premium Cable Content...without cable
- NATPE 2015 announces Market and Conference Theme
- MAZDA2 Wins Japan's Car of the year