SDV -- The elephant in the room

Discussion in 'TiVo Series3 HDTV DVRs' started by HiKent, Jul 21, 2007.

  1. Jul 21, 2007 #1 of 118
    HiKent

    HiKent New Member

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    It's approaching a year since the S3 has been released. In the beginning there were the issues with getting cablecards, missing features (TTG, eSATA, HD search), and a slightly out-of-date software version. And SDV.

    Since then, the cablecard issues have all settled down (cable companys generally provide the cards even though they make it hard and overcharge). The software version is the same as Series 2, the HD search is there, and eSATA works great (even if it's unsupported).

    TTG and Multi-room are locked up in disputes with cablelabs.

    The next generation of Tivo HD is on the horizion.

    But what about SDV? To me, that has been the big question from day 1.

    I don't get many of my channels. And the situation is getting worse. My new HD channels don't work, and even some of the ones that I did receive have been move to SDV, and so were lost to me.

    I can't believe that Tivo would create the S3-lite if they did not have a solution in hand.

    "We're working on it" no longer seems appropriate posture.

    Is it a licensing issue? If SA and/or Motorola are being unreasonable, how long do you wait before taking your issues public? If it's the cable co's being unreasonable, wouldn't that be good to say? How would that be different from the TTG issue?

    Is new hardware in the S3-Lite required?

    Or does Tivo not have a clue how to solve SDV. That's not credible either.

    To me it's the elephant in the room. Why not address it?
     
  2. Jul 21, 2007 #2 of 118
    GoHokies!

    GoHokies! O2->CO2 Converter

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  3. Jul 21, 2007 #3 of 118
    HiKent

    HiKent New Member

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    Maybe you missed my point. I'm not talking about SDV sightings.

    I know what SDV is. I think it's well established it's widely deployed.

    My point is it's time for a clear, concise statement from Tivo that:

    1) A Series 3 solution is forthcoming if we can get our licensing issues solved,

    2) A series 3 solution is not forthcoming because hardware is missing, or

    3) We have no clue & are hoping you don't notice.

    This is not a discussion of what's happening in Austin or Chicago. It's about what's happening at Tivo.

    But thanks for your excellent description of SDV in the referenced thread. It explains why SDV is a *big deal*. And it's getting bigger. With the next generation of S3 on the way, Tivo must have clear knowledge of a solution. That's exactly why Tivo owes us some guidance instead of just sitting silent.

    Kent
     
  4. Jul 22, 2007 #4 of 118
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    Legally, Cable Companies are obligated to allow third party devices to access their networks in all ways that their own boxes can. For 10 years, the cable industry has evaded compliance with the 1996 Telecom law.

    This thread may be of interest: Will Cablecard 2.0 and beyond make S3 obsolete?

    Tom Rogers testified in May about the SDV question to Congress. It was discussed here.

    The issue is larger than SDV, and the same questions could be asked of Windows Vista MCE products- eg: are they hoping we don't notice they don't do SDV either? Do they have a plan? Do they have to work out the licensing? Really, they want SDV functionality every bit as much as Tivo. But everyone is blocked, and the entire CE industry is pissed off about it.

    Cable companies will not allow any third party device to connect to a Cable or FIOS system that does anything more than listen to whatever is sent down the coaxial cable. It is not legal to attach a third party device to a cable network that can change channels to SDV, PPV or VOD. This affects not just Tivo, but Micosoft, Intel, and every other CE company that wants to build a device with the fancy feature of being able to "change channels".

    The problem has political dimensions because the FCC has tolerated a near 7 year deadlock on a a standard for ANY bi-directional communication. There is speculation that the current administration is ideologically disinclined to enforce the 10 year old 1996 Telecom Act that states that third party devices shall have full access to video distribution networks such as those of the Cable companies.

    The NCTA has stated that it is working closely with Tivo for a solution to the problem, and Tom Rogers testified that he hopes the effort will bear fruit. Rogers is in no position to antagonize Comcast or Cox, and many observers here are skeptical that cable companies have any intention of doing anything except block access to their networks until they are threatened with FCC action.

    For this reason, I proposed that the FCC block all new introduction of SDV VOD or PPV channels if a basic bi directional agreement is not reached by a deadline set by the FCC. The rational for and discussion of that proposal may be found here.

    Lot's of possibilities on how to do basic Bidirectional. Last November, Sony, Intel, Microsoft and 5C proposed to the FCC that they create a standard as a solution to the deadlock. A recent FCC meeting was to discuss rulemaking regarding bi directional, but it was pulled from the agenda barely 24 hours before the meeting took place. Is Intel and Microsoft and Sony and Hitachi and Toshiba and Philips etc etc etc. willing to sit on their hands? Probably not.

    It is possible that upstream communication will happen via a USB dongle provided by the cable company. Various schemes have been discussed here dating back to one by ClassicSat that a USB dongle do the old style rf out of band signalling. More likely in my opinion is that a system capable of doing SDV would also be upgrading to Docsis signalling, because that is the standard they are all working towards. On Cable Company systems, such a usb dongle might sent Docsis packets to a DSG (docsis gateway- name for the new fancy routers/cable modems) that communicates with the Head end to request SDV/VOD/PPV channels. In the FIOS case, a dongle would send the request via Moca to the Moca enabled router that communicates via the FIOS ONT to request channels. The most complicated case is PPV- Tivo Corp knows the channels and fees, does the UI for confirmation for PPV, then authorizes the channel request via the dongle to the Docsis (or Moca) gateway.

    The term "elephant in the room" suggests that there is some sort of conspiracy of silence on a massive issue. It is much bigger than Tivo, and my estimation is that Cable companies are going to stonewall and make empty unfulfilled promises until the FCC leadership changes.

    Anyway, that is an encapsulation of the various discussions on the board, probably leaving out some gaping holes here or there and not attributing everyone properly, but there you are.
     
  5. Jul 22, 2007 #5 of 118
    HiKent

    HiKent New Member

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    Justin,

    Thank you for clarifying the issues and situation. I have been following these discussions, the one on the Rogers testimony to Congress in particular. It is that testimony juxtaposed with the release of a second generation Tivo HD box that seems paradoxical:

    Everyone says the new HD programming is going to be SDV. That's what I'm seeing on my TWC system.

    So why would Tivo develop a second generation "Tivo HD" which can't receive HD programming (because it's SDV)? Wouldn't that be a show-stopper?

    The only conclusion I can draw is that Tivo has a SDV solution & is waiting on paperwork. To build a second generation w/o a solution seems too foolish to contemplate.

    Doesn't it seem odd to everyone else?

    Kent
     
  6. Jul 22, 2007 #6 of 118
    bbock727

    bbock727 New Member

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    How do you know SDV is causing you not to receive channels? I get a black screen on one of them, no audio or video. Does that mean theres an SDV problem w/ it?
     
  7. Jul 22, 2007 #7 of 118
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    Your premise is wrong. The world doesn't change to all SDV overnight. Look at what your local company is doing. That is all that matters, and I doubt that everything will be SDV. If there is always a viewer of a channel in a service group, then that is a bad candidate for SDV.

    In any case, regarding SDV solutions, maybe the cableco's promised Tivo a dongle- maybe the so called S3 lite (increasingly seems like a misnomer) has some circuitry integrated on the mother board. Who knows. But whatever the story is, it isn't public yet so it's pointless to speculate. What we know is that Cable doesn't have to really do anything. We also know that Tivo cannot allow cable company intransigence to dictate their delivery of new product. Recall that Cableco's also solemnly promised MCards by this time last year.

    Surprize. They didn't deliver, and to this day, few cable systems support MCards, so had they made their plans dependent on the cable companies they either would have delivered a box in 9/2006 that wouldn't work on any system until very recently, or 2) they would not have shipped the S3 until the integration ban.
     
  8. Jul 22, 2007 #8 of 118
    Redux

    Redux No intent to annoy

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    Indeed.
    It is far from certain that much of the world will change to SDV at all, ever.

    For most of us, in terms of what impact it will have on us any time soon, what we have is a technique that local cable operators can use to gang channels that nobody is watching anyway, to save a little bandwidith for the channels they are watching, which will stay where they are. A non-event.

    By the time anybody gets more creative beyond that, SDV technology will have been replaced with something else anyway.
     
  9. Jul 22, 2007 #9 of 118
    GoHokies!

    GoHokies! O2->CO2 Converter

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    Maybe you missed my point. There is discussion of that in that thread.

    You're not going to get a statement from Tivo past "We're working on it". If they had a solution, they would test it and roll it out. If they didn't, there is no point in saying "We're still working on it".

    Your statement that you believe that SDV is "widely deployed" illustrates your ignorance of the matter.
     
  10. Jul 22, 2007 #10 of 118
    LCD1080

    LCD1080 Member

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    As long as I continue to receive Discovery HD on my S3 I'm satisfied. There's about as much chance that a popular network like Discovery will switch over to SDV as there is that snowball production is going into high gear in Brazilian jungle.
     
  11. Jul 22, 2007 #11 of 118
    HDTiVo

    HDTiVo Not so Senior Member

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    Also, TiVo has to have something to sell. This is what they can do. Sure SDV slows down the show, but TiVo has to keep on keepin' on.

    I have changed my mind so many times on how I would factor this in to my own decisions about purchasing one-way cable devices that I have no idea what I think.

    That's what they've done with TTG/MRV. And Mac support for... "We are working hard on working towards..."


    Justin:

    What you wrote in your first post was really good. I especially liked the USB dongle ideas.
     
  12. Jul 22, 2007 #12 of 118
    mike_camden

    mike_camden New Member

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    I think that your statement is unfair to the OP. Over the past couple of months, I too have followed all of the posts on this board regarding SDV very closely. While the thread you previously referenced does provide a good description of SDV and much follow-up, the discussion is too scattered to succinctly address the questions posited by the OP (the same ones that I also have).

    Justin's follow- up post was very helpful; however, I would caution anyone to get their hopes up too much about how a possible change to a Democrat administration would help the situation. Unfortunately the other side of the political aisle is every bit as much susceptible to special interest influence, and the cable companies wield a pretty big hammer here (just look at campaign donations). I think the only thing that is going to level the playing field is if other companies such as MS, Sony, Intel, etc that also have a lot of cash and can play the political game at the same level as the cable companies (which Tivo cannot do on its own, especially with such a minuscule number of subscribers compared to the overall pool) get involved.

    How do we really know the channels "that nobody is going to watch" are the only ones which will end up on SDV? Sometimes I think wishful thinking seems to supercede an understanding of economics on this board. How many Tivo Series 3 subscribers are there as compared to the entire pool of cable subscribers? Maybe a fraction of a percent? If it isn't already apparent with the debacle over cable card installs over the past year, the major cable companies don't care about your wishes or needs if you're a Tivo user; they are too large and too entrenched to worry about individual needs. It seems that cable TV entertainment is becoming an inelastic good in America (as price increases and/or quality of service/customer service diminishes, the demand for cable TV generally remains the same). Cable companies know this and given the lack of real competition will continue to act in a way that doesn't take into account the wishes or needs of their customers unless an outside influencer requires them to act differently (real competition, true regulatory enforcement, etc).

    From all that I have read on this board, we only have a few points of data to consider when speculating over which channels will be moved to SDV. We have TWC putting all new HD channels and moving current ones to SDV in certain markets (including popular channels like ESPN2 and National Geographic). We have Comcast claiming to have 800 channels of HD in a couple of years. Even with their VOD trickery with that number, it still seems unlikely unless they clear up A LOT of bandwidth. How are they going to do so without moving a lot of HD channels to SDV? I think someone's point in the other thread that the cable companies moving the major networks to SDV will be too flagrant for the FCC and the networks to ignore is valid, so I don't see that happening. Outside of that, I think just about anything else is in play.

    Much like the OP, this worries me. I love Tivo (I had 2 DirecTivos and an HD DirecTvo iwhen we had DTV and I currently have a Series 2 and a series 2 DT), but the SDV issue IS the proverbial elephant in the room for me also. It's why I didn't purchase a Series 3 during the rebate period, and it's probably why I won't purchase a Series 3 Lite until more on how/if Tivo is able to address the SDV issue becomes known. I don't know how many more there are just like me, but reading the polls posted here recently, there seems to be several that are just sitting it out to wait until Tivo is able to announce a resolution.
     
  13. Jul 22, 2007 #13 of 118
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    Mike, thank you for taking time to compose your note.
    Where else on the Web is the subject treated as deeply, with the breadth of aspects covered, with laymans as well as accurate technical explanations provided, with multiple points of view described? It's a little intimidating for new folks to post, and it is best to be offer welcoming responses or none at all. Naturally many new posters are unaware if an issue such as this one has been discussed backwards and forwards for the last few years. It is also common for folks not to use search effectively or get frustrated by the dispersed nature of the information. But it is also easy to understand the frustration of some regulars to read yet another note that suggests no one has been paying attention to this issue, and that in particular Tivo management either stupid or trying to pull a fast one on consumers. It's like blaming the rape victim. There's considerable emotion there, and it is also proper to understand that many feel that consumers and Tivo are being victimized by cable companies.

    I'm not sure what portion of the formula you feel is inadequate. At the rawest level, there are four parts. 1) political players that can achieve political advantage by playing to consumer issues 2) a deep level of consumer disgust over being chiselled by "walled garden" (including cell phones) approaches that the politician can tap into. 3) commercial interests that are mobilized and highly motivated to see an outcome that would be produced by an activist policy to redress the injustices. 4) likeliness of the political players coming to power.

    Motive and opportunity. All the pieces are in place so I regard it as inevitable that MSO will be facing a significantly alterred regulatory environment if they don't settle things on their own terms while they still have the initiative. Internal institutional politics being what they are- they will likely just wait and see what materializes rather than attempt to anticipate and pre-empt.

    You yourself mentioned 3. The November 2006 letter reveals a formidable array of companies. Actually, the current adminstration could still tap into this force as well. Possibly Chairman Martin is interested in taking real action. His words at CES were encoraging, but considering the sluggish pace towards a ruling on basic bidirectional, I don't see it. It's been 6 months since he made those remarks and what we are seeing is that discussion of the issue is being removed from meeting agendas, not added- and that is just the preliminary discussion phase they won't even enter into. My guess is that Martin will continue to decline to enforce the 1996 Telecom law. Still, extreme pessimists were proven wrong. The integration ban was not delayed yet another year, and waivers to major cable companies could have been but weren't issued.

    Actually, it is precisely economics that drives this estimation. SDV rollout can be performed on a per channel basis, and channels can be reassigned in and out of SDV at the provider's discretion. Certainly, if the SDV node switches were free, they would make all channels switchable. But if getting a near instantaneous switch to a channel were an inexpensive proposition it would have been done long ago. In a city with a high number of users per node, you will have many channels that are always being watched. So, the SDV switch and head end support for it is wasted. Even in areas where there are low numbers of users, there is often a correlation between geographic location, socio-economic group and viewing patterns, so you still will have channels being watched continuously. And really, "coninuously" is really the wrong question. The key to look at is not the low load times, but what happens during prime time when you are trying to optimize the greatest number of revenue opportunities with the same size pipe. And look at what is happening on the network- the common channels at that time are being watched. Using an SDV switch on one of them delivers no benefit whatsoever. So why waste the money.

    Since the percentage of analog cable households remains near 50%, the channels devoted to this segmnet cannot go to SDV until there is a significant outlay for digital boxes. Even for digital customers with boxes, while some SDV systems support the ability of legacy set top boxes to change channels via proprietary RF switching, other schemes require new set top boxes. So there is significant latency (as with most CableLabs plans) in the ramp up to SDV.

    This is the cost side of the rationale for the phased implementation of SDV. They can add more as need requires, but there is a point of diminishing returns. It is anyone's guess where that point is, but even if the number is 50%, then it represents a significant number of channels that owners of third party boxes cannot access.

    So it has nothing to do with wishful thinking. They aren't going to go to high percentages soon, but it is irrelevant anyway. The conclusion is the same- even if consumers are prevented from changing channels to one quarter or one half of the channels they used to recieve, they are going to be pissed off.

    The ire needs to be focussed where the problem lays- the FCC.

    Folks may wish to express their opinions to members of the Senate Commerce committee and/or their congressional representatives. It's time for the FCC to complete implementation of the 1996 Telecom law. More than enough time has been given to the cable industry. It's time to bust some heads.
     
  14. Jul 22, 2007 #14 of 118
    HDTiVo

    HDTiVo Not so Senior Member

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    So where does INTC building OCAP support into their (CE?) processors next year leave us?
     
  15. Jul 23, 2007 #15 of 118
    classicsat

    classicsat Astute User

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    This new TiVo doesn't have SDV because they don't have the means to include two-way in any product now, for reasons Justin gave, and discussed in other threads.

    The reason for the new TiVo, is to bring down prices to get more Series 3 TiVos in the field as soon as possible, because the original Series 3 cost too much.
     
  16. Jul 23, 2007 #16 of 118
    classicsat

    classicsat Astute User

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    Nothing directly, since TiVos currently don't use Intel hardware.

    Now it could see, by Cablelabs, the FCC, and Congress, as a beginning acceptance of OCAP, and therefore no need for a non OCAP-two-way solution.
     
  17. Jul 23, 2007 #17 of 118
    CharlesH

    CharlesH Member

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    I find it hard to see how the cablecos can get a good spin on their dragging of their feet on this two-way business. After all, the cablecards, and thus the cable companies, control what channels you are authorized to receive, no matter how your device happens to chose a particular channel. You are not going to be able to receive any channel unless you have paid your cable company for it somehow (subscription, PPV, VOD, whatever), and the head end has sent the relevant authentication codes to your cablecard. And equipment like TiVo is certified to enforce copy protection restrictions and such. So how exactly are the cablecos "disintermediated" by third party software which controls what program you want to see? :confused: Or are they concerned about third-party devices getting video content from sources other than through them (e.g., Unbox)?
     
  18. Jul 23, 2007 #18 of 118
    Justin Thyme

    Justin Thyme Contra sceleris

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    Read that announcement. They licensed it for a narrow product. As usual, cable reality benders are trying to convince everyone that Intel has endorsed OCAP, which Intel most certainly has not, and the Intel folks seem a little peaved about the NCTA's disinformation campaign.
     
  19. Jul 23, 2007 #19 of 118
    TiVotion

    TiVotion Early Adoptersaurus

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    You know what I find to be the ultimate irony where SDV is concerned?

    I've got hundreds of channels, and there are times when I can't find a thing to watch. I mean, seriously, we have to find a way to have 500 channels, so we have to look for ways in the industry to "time share" them because we're out of bandwidth.

    Remember that old Bruce Springsteen song, "57 Channels and Nothing On"? Ha! 57 channels. Those were the days.
     
  20. Jul 23, 2007 #20 of 118
    mmohler123

    mmohler123 New Member

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    our tivo HD has a problem where it pixilates on certain channels. It affects the picture as well as the sound. Its onle 6 months old and is extremely aggravating
     

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