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Are cable companies afraid of TV tuner cards?

Are cable companies afraid of TV tuner cards?

If you record your favorite shows via a TiVo unit or a cable company set-top box, the DRM needs of the content provider are pretty much covered. Sure you can wrestle media files from these closed-system boxes, but it's more trouble than the casual user wants to go through.

However, as more and more of us are using our media-friendly PCs, equipped with TV tuners and IR remotes, to watch TV on a computer and burn DVDs or share copies of shows, the issue starts to get a little touchier.

Time Warner Cable may have taken the first step toward getting the genie back in the bottle, offering a trial service to 9,000 customers in San Diego who subscribe to both cable TV and high-speed Internet access from the company. Trade mag Broadcasting and Cable (and earlier, the San Diego Union-Tribune) reports that users will be able to view full-screen, full-resolution content from 75 basic cable channels on their PCs via a special, protected RealNetworks feed, without needing any TV tuner hardware. The technology has promise, although latency issues are still being worked out.

This initial trial doesn't address the needs of viewers who want to time-shift shows for later viewing, but it does hint at future rollouts of IPTV services, perhaps designed to make multimedia PC setups even more DRM friendly.