HDTV and Settop Box Hell

A simple-minded question: Why do I need a separate settop box for every HDTV in my house? Why can’t I share a virtualized tuner elsewhere in the house, one that then streams data — network capacity aside — over wired/wireless networks to the various in-house display devices?

And a related question: Are there any HDTV manufacturers with IP interfaces? Anyone seen any such thing?

[Update] Lee points me to the AVAtrix Home Theater Routing System as one solution. Others have mentioned the Avocent MPX1000 HD Extender. Anyone know if that’s shipping?


  1. Technically, you don’t. As a custom integrator (a real integrator, not an over-hyped stereo store), that’s what we do: rack the tuners and other sources in a central equipment room, and stream the feeds to display locations via a dedicated cat5 video network.
    Since all of the controllers and music/movie servers I work with are IP based, IP video monitors would make me very happy, but right now they’re still around the corner.
    On a related note, you might be interested in the case brought by the networks against Cablevision’s plan to offer networked DVR service, and how that violates “fair use.”

  2. Or you can just buy a Cable-Electronics 1-in/5-out or 1-in/9-out component video splitter (http://www.cable-electronics.com/Upload/component_amp_specsheet%20(3).pdf) to split the output from your set-top box to multiple TV’s and use Cat5 cable and IR receivers to control the unit. There are also mini-component cable bundles (amde by Belden and others http://www.belden.com/pdfs/Prodbull/NP201.pdf )that are a little bit easier to run than regular component video cables

  3. This EDN blog gives a hint of how this kind of solution will start to be popular very soon: “networked DVRs/STBs” that take advantage of high-speed transmission like 200 Mbps powerline networking.

  4. I’ve installed the simple version of the AVAtrix Home Theater Routing System so I can watch my High Def DirecTV Tivo. It works pretty well and I’m overall happy with the situation.
    As far as a nice IP based system to stream all your HD content, I think that it will need to be a ‘closed’ system (if we get anything at all) based on the limitations placed by us today by HDCP. I blogged about that a while ago:

  5. It costs the provider more – at least for cable and DBS.
    We don’t have HDTVs with IP interfaces because of the issue with ordering services – how do I know what channel lineup you are subscribed to? How do I sell you VOD? How do your kids order their free SpongeBob VOD? How does the provider keep control over the look and feel of the product? And we still have to have DRM between the source and the TV – how do we know that the TV is trusted?
    IPTV can potentially do this, since they are already on a network, but still end up with having to pay for a big STB to provide GUI and DRM.
    And then the TV is going to cost more since it will a niche market.