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Cablevision to Deliver Net Content to Set-Tops

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) said it will begin testing a new service in June that delivers all sorts of media sourced from a customer's PC -- including iTunes content, digital photos, and even over-the-top video shipped in from the Web -- to digital set-top boxes.

Cablevision's "PC to TV Media Relay" service will enable cable TV customers to replicate the information and images appearing on their PC screens onto their TV screens without any extra special home networking equipment, other than the cable modems and the non-IP digital cable set-tops they're already using.

The service will require a special PC software client, but Cablevision won't be using Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) , WiFi, or some other rather complex home networking technology to get that content from the PC to the TV screen. Instead, that content (or at least a replication of that content) will be delivered upstream from the cable modem to Cablevision's headend, where it will be processed and converted into a format (probably an MPEG-2 video stream) that's then sent back down the cable plant so it can be read and rendered by the MSO's non-IP set-tops. Cablevision customers will also have to tune the set-top to a dedicated digital channel just for this purpose.

Cablevision isn't giving any nitty-gritty technical details at this point, but this smells a lot like the technology it's already got in play from ActiveVideo , which uses a process to deliver all manner of Web apps to the set-top -- pretty much what Cablevision appears to have in mind here. Clearleap 's platform takes a similar technical path, but it's not the ITV partner of record at Cablevision. (See Cablevision Tunes Up With ActiveVideo, ActiveVideo's Year of Reckoning , Cablevision Taps ActiveVideo, Winter Games Go Interactive… for Some TV Viewers, and Clearleap Brings Blip.tv & Others to Cable .)

Cablevision intends to launch a technical trial by June but isn't talking about how it will be priced, packaged, or even when the MSO intends to offer it commercially to its 2.9 million digital video subscribers. They may not want to give Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), which is using a different method to get PC and Web-like content and apps to the set-top, too much of a heads up. (See Verizon Tests Internet Video on FiOS, Verizon Adds FiOS TV Apps, and Verizon Adds Twitter, Facebook to FiOS.)

However, a company spokeswoman confirmed that PC to TV Media Relay will allow for anything that's displayed on the PC screen to be delivered to the TV screen, with the goal of accomplishing all this in "real-time" following a simple button click. This includes Hulu LLC content, iTunes content, and Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) streams.

"With our PC to TV Media Relay service, we are putting an end to the need for families to huddle round their laptops or PCs to watch content together," says Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge, in a prepared statement. "This new service will make it easy for our television customers to take broadband services including Internet video, as well as family photos or anything else displayed on a computer screen and move it to the television with the click of the mouse."

Cablevision also notes that its Media Relay technology is also capable of extending PC-sourced content to other consumer electronics (CE) devices, including smartphones and other mobile devices that happen to be connected to the in-home network. Interestingly enough, ActiveVideo also has a CE strategy that might fit in here. (See ActiveVideo Goes Over-the-Top With CE Play.)

The coming service follows along Cablevision's other cloud-like video strategies. The company has also developed an ambitious "Remote-Storage DVR" service designed to store recorded shows on the network and stream them to set-tops. That product caused a big legal dust-up with studios and networks over copyright concerns, but the MSO, which got clearance for it from the Supreme Court last year, still hasn't launched it. (See DoJ: Butt Out of Cablevision RS-DVR Case and Inside Cablevision's 'RS-DVR' .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:42:11 PM
re: Cablevision to Deliver Net Content to Set-Tops
Among other tech speculation, it probably makes sense for this service to leverage Cablevision's switched digital video platform, which is already offered across the Cablevision footprint...and Cablevision doesn't have the spectrum to give everyone a full-time dedicated piece of the spectrum for this Internet-channel approach. But perhaps part-time access to a sliver of it (like with VoD streaming) fits in. JB
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 4:42:08 PM
re: Cablevision to Deliver Net Content to Set-Tops

The news doesn't tell whether the upstream video is available for viewing to all cable customers or only to the one generating the source.

If the former, this opens a whole front of technical and legal issues. How do they all compete for the shared medium/channel? How does the MSO charge the viewers? How does the MSO prevent illegal or copyrighted material from being broadcast?

If the latter, how does the MSO (technically) prevent other customers from viewing? And primarily, why should anyone pay for this service (to avoid "huddling round their laptops or PCs to watch content together") when a simple video cable between the PC and the TV set is a much cheaper and simpler alternative?


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