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FCC Allows Samsung to Sell Smart Media Players With Digital-Only Tuners

Doug Lung

Last week the FCC granted a request from Samsung to allow the company to begin selling smart media players with digital only tuners.

The commission waived Section 15.118(b) of the FCC rules which requires cable ready equipment to “be capable of receiving all NTSC or similar video channels on Channels 1 through 125.” Without it, Samsung would not have been allowed to sell its Smart Media Player with its digital cable only tuner. It concluded the waiver was in the public interest because “it will reduce the cost and power consumption of the Smart Media Player and provide consumers with a retail set-top box option that can better compete with devices leased by cable operators, thus enhancing competition in the retail set-top box market.” 

The waiver was conditioned on Samsung's “commitment to a labeling, marketing, and retailer education campaign to protect against the possibility of consumer confusion regarding the capabilities and limitations of the Smart Media Player due to the lack of an analog tuner.

There was no opposition to the waiver request. The only response to the Public Notice was a filing by Samsung reiterating its arguments.

The FCC noted that “There remain only a small number of analog only cable systems and that number continues to decrease.” Samsung said 81.3 percent of cable subscribers now subscribe to digital cable services. In granting the waiver the FCC Media Bureau stated: “we believe that the number of consumers likely impacted by this waiver is further reduced by the fact that analog customers for the most part will not be interested in purchasing a retail set-top box.”

The Samsung waiver request was filed on May 21, 2013. Now that TiVo and Samsung have both received waivers for their devices without analog tuners, the next waiver request to watch will be the one from EchoStar wanting to import the Channel Master K77 Internet-enabled DVR without an analog tuner. Unlike the Samsung device, the K77 is designed to receive off-air signals. Also, unlike the other two companies EchoStar did not voluntarily commit to educating consumers about the functionality of the K77 devices.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.