Introduction to CableCARD Technology

Also known as Plug and Play

Woman sitting on bed, watching television smiling(focus on woman)
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CableCARD technology is not available for DirecTV, DISH Network or other satellite service subscribers. It is only valid for cable subscribers.

The purpose of the CableCARD is to eliminate excess clutter around the television set - mainly the set top box and cables coming to and from it. Essentially, the CableCARD makes it possible to watch cable TV programming without the aid of an external digital receiver (set top box).

This is a tremendous advantage for owners of wall-mounted flat panel televisions.

All televisions with a CableCARD slot will have a built-in ATSC digital tuner, which means the TV is digital cable ready. However, not all digital cable ready televisions will feature a CableCARD slot. How do you know if a TV has the slot? The sales information on the television will clearly state if it has a CableCARD slot. If there is no sales information, look on the back or side of the television for the slot. It will resemble the slot on an ATM machine where a credit card inserts into it.

The actual card looks like a thick, metallic credit card. They are not sold over the counter; they are only available through cable service providers that are equipped with the technology. Service providers may or may not charge a monthly fee for use of the CableCARD. In most cases, the cable company will require a service call to configure the card to the television.

A CableCARD will provide much of the same functions of a traditional set-top box.


  • Overall cost of programming can cost less
  • No longer need set top box to watch TV, especially beneficial for flat panel owners
  • Television will have built-in tuner, which is a non-direct benefit because in the absence of cable the TV will be able to receive OTA signals in an all-digital era


    • No access to Video On Demand (VOD) functions, Interactive program guide, Sports packages and Interactive/enhanced TV services
    • Will not be able to order pay-per-view (PPV) programming, like movies, wrestling, boxing, etc through remote control
    • Might not be able to use parental controls - will differ from TV to TV

    How to Trade in Set Top Box for a Cablecard


    Call your local cable provider if you decide that CableCARD technology is right for you. I suggest that you inquire as to the limitations of the CableCARD for your particular provider. As technology gets better, the downside of CableCARD technology will shrink. How quickly any advances hit the consumer end might also depend on the size of your local market versus the size of the company. For example, the Dallas market might see new advances before someone in Lufkin.

    To learn more about CableCARD technology, please read the Plug and Play fact sheet.

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