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New Set-top Boxes Driving CableCard Growth, Says NTCA

Set-top boxes supplied by cable operators—and not CableCard-ready devices purchased by viewers—are the main drivers of the deployment of the CableCards, major cable companies said in their first self-report card since the July 1 ban on most integrated set-top boxes, or those containing both tuning and security functions in the same device.

The National Cable and Telecommunications Association told the FCC that the country’s top 10 cable companies—with 90 percent of the nation’s cable subscribers—had deployed about 650,000 set-top boxes with CableCards between July 1 and Sept. 12. By contrast, more than three years after the availability of CableCard-ready devices, viewers had requested fewer than half that number—just 278,000, NCTA said.

The number of CableCard users is still just a small percentage of cable 80 million or so subscribers. The industry has said its longer-term goal is to move past the cards to a downloadable security system.

Among the top five cable companies, Cablevision, Cox and Charter require professional installation, or “truck rolls” for installation of the cards. Time Warner cable reported a 4 percent self-install rate, while Comcast avoided truck roll for 15 percent of installations.

The monthly cost to leasing a cable card varied from $1.25 (Cablevision) to an average of $2.07 (Time Warner). Comcast said its first card to a customer was free, with additional cards $1.50.

Installation fees for the cards, made by Scientific-Atlanta and Motorola, ranged up to $46.95.