Light Reading
Premium programmer is migrating the bulk of its HD networks to MPEG-4, with Motorola cast in the role of transcoder extraordinaire

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
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Interviews
From 4G to 5G: Alcatel-Lucent's Dave Geary

11|25|14   |   09:09   |   (0) comments


Dave Geary, President of Wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, talks about the evolution of the 4G market, small cells, partnerships, 5G and the IoT.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building a Secure Telefonica Network With Huawei's High-End Firewall

11|24|14   |   4:37   |   (0) comments


Andrew Davies, IP architect of the Telefonica, a leading digital communications company, discusses the Huawei security gateway solution and putting the solution into the testbed.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partners with Spirent to Verify CE12816's 10GE Port & TRILL Networking Capabilities

11|24|14   |   2:50   |   (0) comments


Spirent Communications is the world's leading supplier for telecom testing appliances and solutions. Spirent has been in a close partnership with Huawei for a long time.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Saudi Airlines & Its ICT Transformation

11|24|14   |   2:07   |   (0) comments


In this video, Saudi Airlines discusses its network problems and how Huawei's Agile Network is its all-in-one solution.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Agile Switch Benefiting Saudi Arabia's Yamamah Hospital

11|24|14   |   2:40   |   (0) comments


Saudi Arabia's Yamamah Hospital speaks about how Huawei's Agile Switch has improved the medical service's network infrastructure.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
FanPlay & Huawei Build a Wireless Agile Smart Stadium

11|24|14   |   2:13   |   (0) comments


FanPlay is a cloud-based white label service, which is effectively a football fan engagement platform underpinned by mobile payment technology.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Building an Agile Stadium

11|24|14   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Stadiums may be thousands of tons of concrete and steel, but they now need to be agile. Being at the stadium may not be as alluring as it once was. Sports franchises and stadium operators discuss how to get fans back.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Helps ChinaCache Tackle Challenges in the Internet Industry

11|24|14   |   3:09   |   (0) comments


ChinaCache is China's largest content distribution network supplier. Huawei's CE12800 has provided ChinaCache with very strong support in its establishment of an infrastructure network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Cefinity on Managed Security Services & Next-Generation Firewall

11|24|14   |   7:05   |   (0) comments


Cefinity is a cloud management service provider in Southeast Asia. Ivan Zhang, CEO of the company, discusses the implementation of security service management in the cloud era.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Agile Gateway in the Eyes of Cefinity

11|24|14   |   2:11   |   (0) comments


Cefinity is a managed service provider for enterprise networks. The company currently uses Huawei's AR series routers for the most complete range of functions. CEO Ivan Zhang speaks about the advantages of the AR series routers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
CTO of Bus-Online Talks About Huawei's Agile Gateway

11|24|14   |   2:53   |   (0) comments


Bus-Online covers around 100 million users everyday. In addition to providing mobile TV, and advertising services to the public, Bus-Online has also entered the field of mobile Internet.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Amsterdam ArenA as an Agile Campus

11|24|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


The Amsterdam ArenA, home of the Ajax soccer team, can be a crowded space. ArenA has partnered with Huawei to work on bringing ample bandwidth to 53,000 people at the same time.
Upcoming Live Events
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 8-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
April 14, 2015, New York City, NY
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
Irish Telecom outlines the rise of VoIP technology, including its adoption within businesses and their perception of its quality.
Hot Topics
Bell Labs Chief Slams 'Toy' Networks
Robert Clark, 11/19/2014
$38.3M: Ain't That a Kik in the SMS
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 11/20/2014
Do You Have a 2020 Vision?
Dennis Mendyk, Vice President of Research, Heavy Reading, 11/21/2014
Operators Should Block Ads to Get Their Cut, Startup Says
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 11/24/2014
$35B+ Spectrum Auction Dings Verizon, Shines Dish
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/24/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed