Light Reading

Starz Aligns on MPEG-4

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner
6/3/2008
50%
50%
Repost This

Faced with a satellite bandwidth crunch amid the launch of new linear hi-def networks and an expanded menu of HD-VOD content, Starz Entertainment LLC is giving the vote to MPEG-4.

But the premium programmer won't go to MPEG-4 across the board right away. Initially it will use the advanced compression scheme, which promises to boost bandwidth efficiency by as much as 50 percent, on its HD channels -- Starz, Starz Kids and Family HD, Starz Edge HD, and Starz Comedy HD. Encore HD will also be delivered in MPEG-4 when it launches later this summer. (See Starz Lights MPEG-4 Plan and Encore HD Set for July.)

Starz expects to start the transition in mid-July and complete it about a month later. The MPEG-4 migration "is only for the affiliates that have signed on for our new HD services," notes Ray Milius, Starz's SVP of programming operations and IT. Starz will continue to offer east and west feeds of the flagship Starz service in MPEG-2. "Over time we'll migrate people over to the MPEG-4 service," he adds.

Starz delivers HD channels in MPEG-2 today at about 19 Mbit/s but anticipates delivering hi-definition networks in MPEG-4 in the range of 9 Mbit/s to 10 Mbit/s.

That's all fine, but most, if not all, deployed set-tops can decode only MPEG-2 signals. What happens to them?

To ensure that the new signals can be viewed through those boxes, Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) is supplying the DSR-6050, a digital satellite receiver/transcoder that supports both MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 outputs. Those receivers also support DVB-S2, a satellite modulation that boosts satellite transponder output by 50 percent. The latter upgrade will allow Starz to pitch video on demand, including HD titles, more efficiently in MPEG-2.

DSR-6050

Today, Starz serves up to 126 hours of HD-VOD content to affiliates such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), which now claims to offer 500 HD choices.

Under most circumstances, it's up to the cable affiliates to purchase receivers. However, to help with this transition, Starz is picking up a portion of the costs for the new transcoders for operators that opted to launch the programmer's expanded HD package early on.

Starz is gaining carriage for its broader HD package, but "one of the reasons we want to migrate now is that the universe is not huge yet," Milius says. Starz does not break down how many subscribers take its hi-def services, but, overall, Starz has 16.8 million subscribers and Encore has 31.4 million.

Demand and necessity
Although not every Starz affiliate will be ready to roll out these new networks right away, Milius says the time was right to start the MPEG-4 transition, based on demand and necessity. Operators are requesting Starz's beefier HD package, while Starz is cramming everything into limited satellite capacity.

"We were frankly out of bandwidth on the satellite," Milius says.

Starz transmits programming via five transponders on three different Intelsat Ltd. satellites. For the moment, Starz pipes in all of its HD content via the Galaxy 13 bird.

Among premium programmers, Starz isn't the only one pitching a tent in the MPEG-4 camp. Last year, HBO announced plans to deliver all 26 of its HBO and Cinemax channels in hi-def and in MPEG-4 by the third quarter of 2008. (See HBO Bets Big on MPEG-4 .)

Starz may do the same for its 41 feeds, but it's not ready to pinpoint when that might happen.

"At some point I think we will have everything... in HD. I think the marketplace will force that," Milius says. "We're cautiously moving forward based on the demand for distribution because it doesn't do me any good to put all 41 of our feeds up in HD just to have nobody take them."

MPEG-4 usage should grow as operators deploy more set-tops with dual MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 support. Operators are likewise expected to spur demand for the new boxes by marketing MPEG-4-only HD tiers.

For its part in the consumer transition, Motorola has introduced a line of "DCX" cable boxes that support both codecs. (See Moto Plants Seeds for MPEG-4 .) Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Pace Micro Technology , two other significant cable suppliers, also have new set-tops with MPEG-4 baked in. (See Pace Adds MPEG-4.)

By July, Motorola expects the "mainstream" of box shipments to include models with larger hard drives and MPEG-4, according to Marty Stein, senior marketing director for Motorola's IP video services unit.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

(0)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Flash Poll
LRTV Custom TV
Optimizing SDN & NFV Architectures Through Application Awareness

4|23|14   |   6:24   |   (0) comments


Jerome Tollet, CTO at Qosmos, explains how network equipment vendors and operators deploying SDN and NFV can take advantage of network intelligence delivered by DPI to strengthen products and services.
LRTV Custom TV
Wind River Demonstrates Carrier-Grade Software for NFV

4|22|14   |   5:00   |   (0) comments


Wind River VP of Product Management, Glenn Seiler, takes a look the industry's first and only complete NFV software platform designed specifically for the unique carrier-grade and high-performance needs of telecom networks.
LRTV Documentaries
Cable Eyes Big Technology Shifts

4|16|14   |   03:02   |   (4) comments


US cable engineers are facing a lot of heavy lifting in the coming years, notes Light Reading Cable/Video Practice Leader Alan Breznick.
LRTV Custom TV
Maximizing Customer Experience & Assuring Service Delivery in an IP World

4|15|14   |   4:57   |   (0) comments


Steven Shalita, VP of Marketing, NetScout Systems, Inc., discusses the challenges cable/MSO operators face in assuring the delivery of new IP-based services. Key points include the value of proactively managing performance, and using rich analytics and operational intelligence to better understand service and usage trends, make smarter business decisions and ...
LRTV Documentaries
Bye-Bye DVD: Consumers Embrace Digital Video

4|10|14   |   04:17   |   (7) comments


Veteran video analyst Colin Dixon, founder and principal analyst of nScreenMedia, says research shows 56% are using digital video already.
LRTV Documentaries
Video: TW Cable Puts Multicast Gateways to the Test

4|8|14   |   04:13   |   (1) comment


Tom Gonder, a chief architect at Time Warner Cable, explains how its trial of multicast gateways is impacting IP-based video plans.
LRTV Custom TV
Managing & Monetizing Big Data in Operator Environments

4|7|14   |     |   (1) comment


At Mobile World Congress, Gigamon's Director of Service Provider Solutions, Andy Huckridge, and Heavy Reading Analyst Sarah Wallace discuss the 'big data' issues facing carriers and operators today.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Data Center Energy – Build Your Data Center in a Modular Way

4|7|14   |   2:13   |   (0) comments


Dr. Fang Liangzhou, VP Network Energy Product Line, shared his thoughts about the challenges for data centers during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Agile Network Solution – An Overview of Huawei's Agile Network Solution

4|7|14   |   2:31   |   (0) comments


Ajay Gupta, Director of Product Marketing, Networking Product Line, gives an overview of the Agile Network Solutions during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s eLTE Voice Trunking, Video and Data Applied for Railways

4|7|14   |   1:38   |   (0) comments


Gottfried Winter is the Sales Director at Funkwerk, a German specialist in GSM-r terminals and a long-time partner of Huawei. At CeBIT 2014, Winter talks to Light Reading about this partnership and the integration of enhanced voice trunking, video and data functions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
LeaseWeb Speaks Highly of Huawei's Datacenter Products

4|7|14   |   1:37   |   (0) comments


Rene Olde Olthof, Operations Director LeaseWeb, talks about the next data center transformation during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Documentaries
Comcast: Reshaping the Cable Network Architecture

4|3|14   |   07:11   |   (8) comments


Shamim Akhtar, Comcast's architect and senior director of network strategy, explains why the cable company is moving to a more distributed network architecture.
Today's Cartoon
Hot Topics
WhatsApp Threatens Carrier VoLTE
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/18/2014
The Hungry, Hungry Cloud
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/22/2014
Who's Ready to Play Broadband?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 4/21/2014
What's the Magic of Private Equity?
Carolyn Mathas, 4/22/2014
AT&T Turns Up Gig Heat in 21 New Metros
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/21/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed