In a move that should help create a more streamlined process of watching video in your home (and maybe even reduce your cable bill), TiVo and the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) have unveiled an external adapter that will connect to your TiVo and allow for cable providers to use switched video without sacrificing the DVR’s functionality. Even better, the external adapter will eliminate the need for yet another set-top box. The adapters will begin shipping to TiVo and other CableCARD device owners in the second quarter of 2008.
Switched video (also called switched digital video) is a term coined by the cable industry to describe the distribution of video through a cable with limited capacity. A non-switched video system will eat up huge sums of bandwidth because any and all available channels must be made available through a coaxial cable. A switched video system, on the other hand, will only make available those channels that have been requested, freeing up much more bandwidth and ostensibly allowing for a considerable amount of cost savings for cable providers.
According to the NCTA, the idea of switched video has always sat atop its list of beneficial developments in the industry, but getting it to work was another matter altogether. It wasn’t until the organization and TiVo decided to collaborate that they were able to come up with an effective, and external, solution.
“Today’s announcement is a major breakthrough resulting from marketplace discussions that provides benefits for consumers and cable operators,” NCTA CEO Kyle McSlarrow said in a statement. “We very much appreciate TiVo’s willingness to work on a marketplace solution that will enable TiVo users to enjoy innovative switched digital services without the need for a set-top box.”
OK, so we now have the ability to use an external adapter to allow cable companies to use switched video, which will allow them to save money, but will those savings get passed on to consumers?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to whether or not this cost savings will reduce your cable bill. As most cable companies have pointed out, switched video will help the organizations create less costly devices that do not require an OCAP programming environment. And while this may be enough to satisfy a reduction in cost, those same cable companies have been quick to add that a total conversion to the SDV system could take years to complete. During that time, the cost savings will obviously be reduced and the opportunity for a lower cable bill may not become a reality.
Calls have been placed with NCTA asking for a comment on the possibility of a lower cable bill but thus far, the organization has not responded.
Don Reisinger is a freelance technology journalist who covers everything from Google to HDTVs. He currently writes for over 15 popular technology publications, including CNET’s Digital Home, InformationWeek and PC World.