Do Cable Subscribers Always Need a Cable Box?

If you are a cable TV subscriber, the era of receiving cable without a box has effectively come to an end. The reason that all your TVs may now require a box, even if you don't subscribe to premium pay channels, is that your cable service has finally gone all-digital and, on top of that, may also be implementing copy-protection (scrambling) on most, or all, its signal feeds going into your home.

Extra Equipment, Extra Cost-


  1. This change not only affects what you need to receive your cable TV programming but also add extra costs to your monthly cable bill.
  2. If you have more than one TV in your home and want them to all be able to access basic cable channels independently, each TV will require that you rent a box from your cable provider.
  3. If you have a mix of analog, HD, and 4K Ultra TVs in your house, the box provides both a standard-definition analog RF cable output for connection to the analog TV and an HDMI output for connect to HD or 4K Ultra HD TVs. You can also connect the RF output of the box to an HD or Ultra HD TV, but that option will only supply a down-converted analog cable signal, in order to access HD, you will need to use the HDMI output.
  4. Since digital cable TV signals are usually copy-protected, video recording fans will find it more difficult to record cable TV programs using a DVD Recorder or VCR. This means an added expense to rent or buy a cable DVR or TIVO to record TV shows from cable. Also, you usually can't copy those recordings to DVD or VHS.

The Backstory-


  1. Although the FCC required most TV stations to convert from analog to digital broadcasting on June 12, 2009, cable providers were not included in this deadline. However, since about 2012, cable services have implemented their own schedule to eliminate analog and non-scrambled cable services.
  2. As a result, if you have an older "cable-ready" TV that feature may no longer be usable. Since almost all content is now copy-protected and scrambled, to receive even basic cable signals from a service you need an external box provided by the cable company.
  3. Tuners built into analog TVs have not been compatible with over-the-air TV broadcast signals since 2009, and although they are still compatible with analog cable signals, if the cable service no longer offers this option, an external box is required.


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