WATT THE…?! LA Times Gets it Wrong on Cable Box Energy Efficiency
June 19, 2014
In March we reported that the new voluntary energy conservation agreement (VA) among multichannel video providers, device manufacturers and energy advocacy groups would soon be working to deliver energy savings for 90 million American homes. The VA included commitments to efficiency standards that would improve set-top box efficiency by up to 45 percent and rack up more than $1 billion in consumer energy savings annually.
So imagine our surprise when in spite of this agreement (which was embraced by the US Department of Energy and received strong bipartisan praise), we saw a report in the LA Times on Monday with a headline proclaiming cable TV boxes had become the second biggest energy users in many homes. Even more unfortunate is that we’ve seen this erroneous story picked up by others who are not even trying to check the facts.
The energy efficiency advocates NRDC, ASAP, ACEE and NCTA, CEA and the CCTA have already submitted a joint letter to the LA Times correcting what we see as a deeply unfair portrayal of advances made under the Set-Top Box Energy Conservation Agreement. You can see that letter here. Whether or not the LA Times chooses to address our letter, it’s important to correct what we see as an incredibly misleading report.
As a baseline, an average TV set top box consumes less than 12-kilowatt hours (KwH) of energy per month. Based on the average American household energy consumption of 903 KwH per month, a TV set top box is responsible for just 1.3 percent of a typical household’s energy use. Compare that to 46 percent for heating and cooling.
The LA Times article suggested that cable boxes that were rated for 500 watts were “about the same as a washing machine” and could cost “$8 a month for a typical Southern California customer.” First, a 500-watt rating on the back of a set top box has nothing to do with power consumption and is most likely a UL safety rating. Second, an average set-top box consumes less than $2 per month of power. Even a DVR set top box without the latest energy efficiencies running at 30 watts of power when on, costs about $3 per month in Southern California.
The article says experts report the VA “will provide only a fraction of the potential gains and take years to realize.” Again, wrong. While traditional US Department of Energy approaches would have taken eight years, the voluntary approach immediately offered significant energy savings. After only one year of operation, companies are already ahead of schedule, with 85 percent of new set-top box purchases already meeting Energy Star 3 efficiency standards, and many models offering even greater savings.
Throughout the article, readers are misled, left with a false picture of both the power consumption of these devices and the current efforts to achieve greater efficiencies. As part of the significant transparency and monitoring requirements of the VA, service providers are making the energy usage of new set-top boxes available for consumers to review. We encourage you to see for yourself how the VA is both reducing energy consumption and saving consumers money.
“The cable industry remains fully committed to giving American consumers the open Internet experience they expect and deserve. Maintaining an open Internet is not only the right thing to do, it’s vital to our ability to attract and keep our customers. Nevertheless, we stand ready to work constructively with the FCC and other stakeholders – as we did in 2010 – to develop a balanced approach that protects the open Internet while fostering continued investment and innovation in America’s broadband networks.
“But as we do so, we will continue to reiterate our unwavering opposition to any proposals that attempt to reclassify broadband services under the heavy-handed regulatory yoke of Title II. Treating broadband as a utility-like Title II service would reverse years of settled precedent, dry up investment in broadband deployment and network upgrades, and result in protracted litigation and marketplace uncertainty.
“The Internet is a feat of human ingenuity that has thrived under a light regulatory touch that has attracted more than $1.3 trillion of private investment since 1996. We urge the FCC to continue on a responsible path that will continue to fuel the private network investment that is essential to the continued growth and health of the Internet.”
Says That Route Would Mean Lawsuits And Less Investment In Broadband
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association told the FCC Wednesday that while it could live with new net neutrality rules, it could not do so if they were tied to Title II classification of Internet access.
NCTA blogged as much earlier this week, but made it official with a filing to the FCC that did not bury the lead.
“[T]he existing transparency rules provide a strong foundation for promoting Open Internet principles, and, to the extent the Commission determines that additional safeguards are necessary, the Verizon decision provides ample leeway to adopt such measures pursuant to Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act,” NCTA wrote. “In light of that recently confirmed authority, it is wholly unnecessary to pursue a Title II reclassification theory. It also would be immensely destabilizing.”
For one thing, that is because Title II would land the new rules in court, NCTA made clear.
“At a minimum, pursuing Title II reclassification would plunge the broadband industry into a lengthy period of uncertainty while a new round of appellate proceedings ran its course—a process that can be easily avoided by relying on the roadmap provided by the Verizon court.”
NCTA has said it would be at the table to help draft supportable net neutrality rules, as it was the first time. In both instances, a main goal is to avoid the “nuclear option” of Title II.
But even if the FCC could reclassify broadband services, it would be unwise to do so, says NCTA. “The burdens and uncertainty associated with Title II regulation (or even the threat of such regulation) would deter broadband providers from making the substantial additional investments required [as much as $350 billion] to deploy new and upgraded broadband infrastructure.”
NCTA also echoed a growing refrain from Title II opponents: Reclassification would not prevent the paid priority “fast and slow lanes” that has become the flashpoint for net neutrality advocates. “Reclassification would not support a categorical prohibition on Internet “fast lanes” any more than Section 706 would. Section 202 of the Act does not impose a duty of “nondiscrimination,” but rather proscribes only “unjust” or “unreasonable” discrimination.”
NCTA President Michael Powell knows a little bit about the issues, having been on the commission when classification issues were being debated and decided back in the early 2000’s.
Digitalsmiths, the personalized video search and recommendations unit of TiVo, said Charter Communications has begun to deploy its platform on the MSO’s TV Everywhere mobile app, and plans to extend access to additional platforms in the months ahead.
Under the deal, Charter is rolling out Digitalsmiths’ Seamless Discovery platform to present personalized search and video recommendations on the Charter TV app for iOS and Android devcies, and will offer it on additional platforms and devices, presumably to include set-top boxes, “in the coming months.” Charter is testing a new cloud-based UI for set-tops in employee homes, and intends to offer it in customer homes in select markets by mid-year.
One aim of these new recommendation engines is to present viewers with relevant content on channels that they might not normally tune to. Last week, Nielsen said its latest Advertising & Audience Report found that the average U.S. TV home receives 189 channels, but that the average number of channels tuned per TV home in 2013 was 17.5 – a figure that has remained relatively constant over a six-year span.
Recent evidence shows that recommendations engines can boost that number. Cox Communications, which uses a personalized system from ThinkAnalytics on its Contour guide for set-tops and mobile devices, said it has seen the number of channels viewed per home rise from the 20 to 22 range, to 26 to 29, Steve Necessary, Cox’s vice president of product development, said in a recent interview.
“Charter continues to improve the overall entertainment experience for our customers with modern discovery features that provide relevant content recommendations,” said, Rich DiGeronimo, Charter’s senior vice president, product and strategy. “In addition to improving the customer experience, Digitalsmiths Seamless Discovery’s architecture easily integrates into Charter’s data aggregation systems to power the Charter TV App today, and additional cloud-based user interfaces in the near future,” Rich DiGeronimo, Charter’s SVP, product and strategy, said in a statement.
Ben Weinberger, co-founder of Digitalsmiths, said, “Gone are the days of consumers blindly channel surfing to find something to watch. We enable viewing personalization, where content is finding the consumer,” added Digitalsmiths co-founder Ben Weinberger.
TiVo, whose original deployment deal with Charter Communications has been in limbo, acquired Digitalsmiths earlier this year for $135 million. Digitalsmiths’ announced customers and partners include Time Warner Cable, Cisco Systems, Warner Bros., Paramount, Technicolor, Univision, Roku, Xbox, Sony PlayStation, Sharp, Turner Sports, the National Basketball Association, the PGA, NASCAR, zeebox, i.TV, and Australia’s Foxtel, among others.