Operators take more STB risks
July 14, 2008
Faced with stiff competition in the cable market and from telcos vying for TV viewers, traditionally risk-averse cable operators are becoming increasingly ‘bipolar’, supporting a roadmap that may require the deployment of new STBs with more advanced features and functions, while also apparently aiming to drive the ubiquitous STB to extinction.Meanwhile, STB vendors are offering a variety of new features to entice operators. When it comes to STBs, operators have traditionally tread carefully, and have largely been unwilling to ‘shop around’ much for new technologies.According to ABI Research analyst Paulhwa Lee, because some operators are facing stiffer competition, they are now willing to experiment a little more, venturing into offerings such as Electronic Programme Guides, wireless support, home networking support for MoCA or HomePlug, and expanded hard drives â€“ all at increasingly affordable prices.ABI also identifies a growing trend toward partnerships and consolidation, citing STB giant Motorola's acquisition of Chinese STB vendor, Dahua Digital; decoder manufacturer Broadcom's partnership with Chinese STB vendor Coship; and semiconductor specialist NXP's acquisition of Conexant's STB operations.Some operators, too, are partnering with new STB manufacturers. This is because as the United States market matures, subscriber growth slows and evolves towards STB replacement. STB sales may still be driven by one-off developments such as the CableCARD mandate, the digital to analogue transition, and the unification of data and video. But operators know that these transitions are CAPEX-intensive. At every opportunity, operators are trying to standardise and commoditise STBs by formulating standards and consortia such as tru2way and CableLabs, so many STB manufacturers are looking to fresh markets in Asia, Europe, and Latin America.