Heartland Cable upgrades with Pico Digital headend and STBs

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016
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Heartland Cable Deploys Pico Digital’s CONDOR System, Including Digital Headend and PVR Set-Top Boxes

  • Rural Illinois Cable Operator Lauds System’s Simplicity, Price Tag, and Picture Quality

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Pico Digital Inc. today announced that Heartland Cable, a cable operator serving a dozen rural communities in North Central Illinois, is upgrading to digital with Pico Digital’s CONDOR end-to-end headend broadcast cable TV system for small operators. Built and shipped as a turnkey system configured to the specific needs of the customer, CONDOR delivers the improved video and audio quality provided by digital TV technology while offering a content discovery system that allows subscribers to easily and conveniently navigate available content choices.

Heartland Cable is deploying CONDOR for new-build subscribers and is gradually expanding the system to include current customers who are presently receiving analog signals over coaxial cable. CONDOR components purchased by Heartland Cable include a full cable TV headend, with a standard definition (SD) and high definition (HD) encoder (SDQ6 and PD1000), mux scrambler edge QAM (IPQC), and Verimatrix conditional access system. On the client side, Heartland Cable is deploying Pico Digital VMX-1 set-top boxes to subscribers.

“In selecting a digital system, the cost of headend equipment was a big concern for us, as was picture quality,” said Steve Allen, owner of Heartland Cable. “We wanted a good HD offering to be able to compete effectively with satellite operators. The cost of the STBs was another huge concern. After looking at various systems, we liked the simplicity of CONDOR and its reasonable cost, and our subscribers absolutely cannot believe the picture quality — especially the HD channels, but even with SD. Customers who had been going to the dish companies are now coming back to Heartland Cable because the picture we’re getting through CONDOR is brighter and clearer than anyone else’s.”

CONDOR is designed to give subscribers a higher-quality, more convenient viewing experience. An easy-to-use, customizable electronic program guide (EPG) shows viewers what’s on TV and allows them to bring up detailed information about programs of interest while providing operators with the opportunity to generate advertising revenue. Subscribers can record their favorite programming using the set-top box’s personal video recorder (PVR) and easily access recorded content via a library screen.

“A lot of our existing customers were attracted to satellite because of the DVR capability, but with CONDOR we’ll be able to offer that as an option as part of an upgrade to the VMX3.1 STB,” Mr. Allen added. “For now, we’ve had a lot of positive customer response to the PVR feature in the VMX1.1 STB. Features like this are helping us get back former customers who tried satellite, and to get new customers who find that we’re much less expensive than the alternatives. And it’s definitely helping our bottom line, as well.”

In addition to offering upgradeable set-top boxes, the CONDOR headend enables customization to fit any operator’s channel lineup and scrambling needs through an optimal combination of Pico Digital’s PD1000 and SDQ6 HD and SD encoders, Verimatrix conditional access system, and IPQC video edge QAM. Pico Digital also provides tools for data ingestion, content aggregation, and service monitoring, as well as managed services that can interface with an operator’s existing customer management and billing systems.

“Pico Digital designed CONDOR to be flexible and scalable, and to meet the needs of cable operators now and in the future,” said Andrew Isherwood, CTO at Pico Digital. “Heartland Cable represents a textbook case of the benefits CONDOR brings to operators of every size. With CONDOR, Heartland Cable now has an affordable and secure end-to-end digital cable TV system that will increase its revenues while delivering a better consumer experience.”