& cplSiteName &

Starz Aligns on MPEG-4

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

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        ADD A COMMENT
From The Founder
The independent evaluation of Nokia's key virtual network functions (VNFs) was a defining moment for the Finnish giant.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP’s Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it’s going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Documentaries
Leading Lights 2016 Highlights

5|25|16   |   02:26   |   (1) comment


Some of the high points from this year's Leading Lights awards dinner at the Hotel Ella in Austin, Texas.
LRTV Documentaries
Light Reading Hall of Fame 2016

5|23|16   |   05:43   |   (0) comments


Find out who has been welcomed into Light Reading's Hall of Fame this year.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE TM Forum Highlights

5|23|16   |     |   (0) comments


ZTE showcased its new ICT solutions at TM Forum in Nice.
LRTV Interviews
Gamma's MD on the Emergence of UC2

5|20|16   |     |   (0) comments


Gamma Communications Managing Director David Macfarlane believes the unified communications (UC) market has reached a tipping point.
LRTV Custom TV
The Ultimate 5-Minute Guide to Digital Customer Engagement

5|20|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this short video, you will hear all about how Digital Customer Engagement is the key to meeting customer expectations, keeping them happy, and maximizing revenue. VP Product & Marketing at Pontis, Ofer Razon, breaks down for us the five essential capabilities for successful Digital Customer Engagement. Don’t miss!
LRTV Custom TV
NFV in 2016: Part 1 – NFV Use Cases Get Real

5|19|16   |   05:57   |   (0) comments


Consensus is building around the key use cases for NFV, including managed IP services at the network edge and on customer premises, which can generate new revenues from enterprises/SMBs and consumers; Evolved Packet Core to support LTE migration; and adjacent technologies, such as TAS and IMS, to support VoLTE and next-generation charging and policy control ...
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's Steve Vogelsang on NFV – Part 3

5|19|16   |     |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang discusses the challenges of operational transformation and how Nokia helps its customers. Join Steve at the Big Communications Event in Austin the morning of May 24, on his keynote and optical networking panel.
LRTV Interviews
Level 3: Why UC Is In Demand

5|17|16   |   04:12   |   (1) comment


Andrew Edison, Level 3's senior VP of sales, EMEA region, talks about the drivers of growth in the unified communications services market.
LRTV Custom TV
ARM's OPNFV Action

5|17|16   |     |   (0) comments


At the ARM booth at MWC 2016, Joe Kidder and Bob Monkman speak to Light Reading about OPNFV and their upcoming action.
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's Steve Vogelsang on NFV – Part 2

5|16|16   |     |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang gives advice to service providers on how to move to NFV. Join Steve at the Big Communications Event in Austin the morning of May 24, on his keynote and optical networking panel.
LRTV Interviews
Interoute CTO on NFV's Maturity

5|13|16   |   06:46   |   (1) comment


Matt Finnie, CTO at international operator Interoute, explains how NFV has made life easier in terms of logistics and how Interoute can now enable a 'software-defined moment' for its customers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
UBBS 2016 Highlights

5|12|16   |     |   (0) comments


Highlights of Huawei's UBBS event in Hong Kong.
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
December 6-8, 2016,
June 16-18, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
Hot Topics
DT: Telcos Must Escape Vendor Prison
Iain Morris, News Editor, 5/24/2016
AT&T to Start 5G 'Friendly' Trial by 2016 End
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/24/2016
WiCipedia: Short Skirts & Back-Up Plans
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 5/20/2016
Eurobites: Be More European, EU Tells Streaming Services
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 5/20/2016
Cable Is Eyeing Its Retail Options
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/25/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
In this latest installment of the CEO Chat series, Craig Labovitz, co-founder and CEO of Deepfield, sits down with Light Reading's Steve Saunders in Light Reading's New York City office to discuss how Deepfield fits in with the big data trend and more.
Grant van Rooyen, president and CEO of Cologix, sits down with Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, in the vendor's New Jersey facility to offer an inside look at the company's success story and discuss the importance of security in the telecom industry.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.