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Bridging Cable's Tablet Gap

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

SAN FRANCISCO -- The TV of Tomorrow Show -- As MSOs make plans to stream subscription video services to IP-connected iPads and TVs, they're also figuring out ways to bridge their interactive TV applications to a new world that doesn't use traditional set-top boxes. (See CES 2011: Samsung Puts MSOs in the Picture and Comcast Keeps Eye on the iPad Prize.)

They have good reason to do so. Cable operators and programmers have spent millions developing Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) and tru2way apps that are presently locked to set-top boxes, so they'll be careful not to abandon all that work and investment as the industry shifts to IP video and leans more heavily on devices that take a "virtual" approach to the set-top. (See The Disappearing Set-Top and Cisco: Set-Tops Are Going Away.)

One prime example is Canoe Ventures LLC , the cross-MSO advanced ad venture. It's using EBIF -- already deployed on more than 25 million set-top boxes -- for its request-for-information (RFI) service. So, real money could be left on the table if support isn't extended to iPads and connected TVs. (See The Disappearing Set-Top and Cisco: Set-Tops Are Going Away.)

There's no one way to bridge that gap, but panelists here discussed several options that are being weighed.

David De Andrade, a fellow for the office of the CTO at Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), said cable could put the EBIF user agent natively on IP devices, or plug it directly into browsers using platforms such as Javascript or Flash.

Among the more cloud-centric options, cable's also looking at transcoding EBIF into a Web application in a central location and delivering it directly to the end device. Another possibility is to ingest TV content centrally and extract the EBIF elements and make it available as a Web application, De Andrade noted.

Whatever direction that work takes, it should also work in the tru2way world. EBIF (sometimes referred to as "enhanced TV") is essentially a plug-in for tru2way, which can also support formats like Flash. That kind of common, technical baseline will help cable bridge ITV to other devices "and reach them a bit more cleanly," said Don Dulchinos, SVP of advanced platforms and services at CableLabs .

Canoe, meanwhile, is developing a Web services model, and is already using it for its ITV templates, said Malia Flynn, Canoe's vice president of product development. But EBIF remains the starting point. "The vision is to extend and create that national platform," she said.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:05:09 PM
re: Bridging Cable's Tablet Gap

Did anyone else read this and think: What are they going on about? Is this more "let's keep tru2way alive because it used to be relevant 5-years ago"?

The cable industry is such a frat house of nonsense. Shouldn't MSOs be trying to distance from tech built for a set-top world instead of reanimating corpses and trying to dance with them?


User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:05:00 PM
re: Bridging Cable's Tablet Gap

Hey Phil, I think you missed something. TWC is doing just that - I think they're the first of the MSOs are catching onto the fat pipe/802.11n combo to break free from set top boxes and serve straight to devices. Have a look at this article: http://broadcastengineering.com/news/time_warner_cables_mobile_tv_app_finds_ready_audience_051711/

I think what they're doing is spot-on. Check out http://bit.ly/liI6dT for more.

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:05:00 PM
re: Bridging Cable's Tablet Gap

Maybe TWC is ahead of the others but they are still thinking being outrun by AT&T, Verizon and anyone with a wireless network. Just saying that it's odd that cable MSOs won't just admit tru2way was a mess and move on. 


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