Motorola to Demo Set-Tops with Antennas

New Boxes Aimed at Giving Cable Operators Leverage During Retransmission-Consent Talks

By Todd Spangler -- Multichannel News, 4/26/2007 5:10:00 PM

Motorola plans to demonstrate prototypes of two set-top boxes that provide antennas for receiving local-TV-station channels at The Cable Show in two weeks -- the first look at a technology that may give cable leverage in contentious carriage negotiations with broadcasters.

The Motorola devices represent pre-standard implementations of a Cable Television Laboratories specification, currently in development, that would allow set-tops to switch between digital over-the-air signals and digital-cable channels.

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Comment: This is the first implementation (that I've heard about) of CableLabs' new specification for an interface that would let settop boxes receive digital broadcast signals off-the-air, and integrate them seamlessly into the cable TV channel lineup. The cable industry sees it as a way to do an end-run around the retransmission-consent hassle, while the broadcast industry claims that if a broadcast signal goes through any cable-company-provided equipment, the cable company is still "carrying" it, and consequently, must obtain retransmission consent.

It's only a matter of time before some fourth-party entity (say, Dell or Apple) builds a CableLabs-compliant device (TV set, settop, DVR, whatever) that subscribers can purchase on the open market. When that happens, will the cable company still be "carrying" the broadcast signal?

I guess we'll find out when it gets to the Supreme Court.

Neal McLain

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Neal McLain
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