Dutch cable operator Ziggo has become the first pay TV service provider to launch interactive, CI+ conditional access modules (CAM). CAMs enable pay TV content to be viewed directly on the TV set, without the need for a set-top box, provided the TV set supports a DVB-common-interface (DVB-CI) PCMCIA slot. CAMs have remained limited in their ability to handle interactive operations, and only support the viewing of linear TV channels. For features such as video on demand (VoD) and operator-designed electronic programme guides (EPG), a STB has remained essential. This launch enables Ziggo's TV subscribers to watch VoD content on their TV sets without the need for a STB, using technology from Active Video Networks. The user interface (UI) is delivered over IP with the help of Active Video Network's cloud-based service while the VOD content is still delivered over DVB-C.
Ziggo has been a CAM pioneer, and was the first pay TV provider to offer CI+ CAMs. It began offering them to its subscribers in late 2009. CI+ CAMs have been well received by operators, and by the end of 2012 over 54 pay TV providers were offering them to their subscribers. However, the actual scale of the growth has remained small compared to STBs. In 2012, just 5.3m CAMs were shipped globally compared with 252m pay TV STB shipments in the same year. Moreover, growth in CAM shipments has slowed down - in 2011 CAM shipments grew by 49% compared to previous year while in 2012 the comparable growth contracted to 14%. IHS expects that CAM growth in 2013 will remain relatively flat.
CAM uptake is limited by two key factors. Firstly the sale of CAMs in geographically constrained to countries where DVB-T/T2 and DVB-CI support is mandated. This is principally the European Union, but also includes the rest of Europe because TV set manufacturers typically produce a single TV set range for the whole region, to reduce costs. The installed base of DVB-CI/CI+ compatible TV sets outside of Europe is entirely negligible, although Vietnam recently mandated CI+ compatibility in its digital TV specification.
The second limiting factor is that, to date, CAMs provide only the most basic of pay TV experiences: linear TV channels and not much else. This lack of ability to handle interactive functions is seen as a major drawback by pay TV operators, as well as consumers. Pay TV operators are keen to increase their ARPUs by offering advanced services to their subscribers such as VoD and DVR. This makes the CAM proposition less appealing to operators, and as a result some may never offer CAMs. Even operators who have already adopted CAMs mainly considered them as an option for secondary TV sets, or for very low ARPU subscribers. Similarly, from a consumer stand point, access to non-linear content such as DVR and VoD is a key feature of pay TV services.
Whilst CAM uptake isn't that significant on the global scale, in Western Europe CAM shipments in 2012 were equal to ten per cent of the STB market: a worrying trend for STB vendors to the region. The majority of pay TV STB shipments to the region are high value IP-connectable HD and HD-DVR units. To date, the technical limitations of CAMs have protected these shipments. However, the introduction of VoD, EPGs and other interactive features in CAMs poses a possible threat to the future growth of STB shipments in the region. Ziggo's interactive CAM is a bespoke deployment, but the next release of the CI+ specification - v1.4 - in 2015 will make this functionality common place, and will likely stimulate growth in CAM shipments, as they become a more complete and viable alternative to STBs.