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CNET First Look
Ask Anything: What is CableCard?John Falcone explains how the slim card can free you from your cable company's box.
[ Music ] ^M00:00:05 >> I'm Rich DeMuro with CNET TV. Welcome to Ask Anything, the segment where there are no stupid questions. John Falcone joining us once again. Senior editor of Home Theater here at CNET telling us about cable cards. This is another buzz word we're hearing about. What is a cable card? >> Cable card is basically detachable security for your cable box. It's just a little card exactly like a PCN CIA card that you have for your laptop computer. That's how it's shaped anyway. But what it does is allow third party cable boxes that you can buy at the store to replace your existing cable box. It also works with a lot of HDTVs, thus eliminating the need for a cable box whatsoever. >> Now I've heard that the cable card, you pop it in, you still need a cable in the back of your box. You can't just put this in and you have cable. >> Right. You subscribe to cable service just as usual. You have the coax plugged into the back of your third party box or the back of your TV. And you just pop this card in the slot and after calling Cable Guard or having a tech come out which you still have to do, you get cable service without the box. >> Okay and what's the advantage of having that? Why would you want cable services without the box they give you from the cable company? >> Well a couple reasons. If you are using like a TV, you do lose the box with a lot of people just like a cleaner look. And unlike in the past where you were limited to analog cable, this gives you all your digital and high def sounds. So that's exactly what you would have with the box. The other advantage is that you can use third party boxes such as the Tivo DVR, the series three and the TIVO HD and some other products coming down the road as well. Which just gives you a choice instead of being limited to your cable company's DVR. >> Now there are some drawbacks to this. Right now with the current version you can't get pay per view or on demand? >> Absolutely, yeah. The cable card spec right now is limited to one way, downstream only. So that means it removes all the interactivity. So you can't view pay per view that you'd order on screen and you can't view video on demand. >> And how much does one of these cost? Do you purchase this? >> No basically you get these from your cable company. You just call up and say I have a new TV or Tivo and I need a cable card or two cable cards for it. And they pretty much charge you a few dollars a month just like you're renting, instead of renting the cable box, you're renting the cable card. >> Okay and you still have to have them come out to actually install it. >> You do have to have them come out and install right now, which doesn't really make a lot of sense. But that's the way they do it. >> And you need a pair so you can get two channels at once to record one channel, watch another or whatever. John Falcone, thanks so much for joining us again on Ask Anything, the segment where there are no stupid questions. I'm Rich DeMuro with CNET TV. ^M00:02:46 [ Music ]