Charter Communications will begin rolling out 100,000 Motorola Broadband Media Centers in the fourth quarter, bringing HD, PVR and DVD functionality to its digital subscribers. The first market to receive the boxes will be Rochester, Minn.
The boxes, which came out of a joint development between Digeo and Motorola, have an 80GB hard drive for the dual-tuner PVR, a feature that should level the playing ground with digital satellite boxes, which typically offer PVR functionality.
Mark Depitro, Motorola Broadband vice president of marketing and systems engineering, expects cable operators to begin deploying boxes with greater functionality.
According to Digeo COO Bert Kolde, the services provided include the ability to store music, photos and other things on the set-top's hard drive. "While PVR has been an effective subscriber acquisition for satellite, we think the media center is a more robust platform because you can do HD, play DVDs and have applications like digital music, photos home networking," he says. "There are a lot more services that the cable operator can bundle to trump DBS."
Digeo and Motorola began working on the Broadcast Media Center in early 2002. Charter has ordered two models: the BMC9012, for single-TV support, and the BMC9022D, which can support two TVs simultaneously. Charter's order breaks down to 80,000 BMC9012 boxes, which cost less than $500 each, and 20,000 BMC9022s, which cost about $700 (including a second, lesser set-top for the second TV).
The BCM9022 connects to the second set-top box through the legacy cable wiring in the house, according to Kolde.
Adi Kishore, Yankee Group media and entertainment strategies analyst, believes that, long term, the multi-TV PVR will be the model for cable operators. "It could cost twice as much as a single-TV solution and still be more economical for an MSO," he says, adding that the thin client on the secondary set would eventually cost around $50.