Light Reading

Comcast Opens Up Its Video Cloud

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) will let other cable operators tap into a video content delivery network (CDN) that forms the foundation of its Project Infinity video-on-demand (VoD) initiative.

The Comcast Media Center (CMC) , Comcast's Denver-based digital content factory, announced Monday that it will let Headend In The Sky (HITS) affiliates access the centralized, cloud-based CDN, promising to make "thousands" of VoD titles available to its cable partners. HITS, which distributes linear TV channels, interactive TV apps, and some on-demand content to affiliates via satellite and landline links, counts many Tier 2/3 cable operators as customers.

Under the new CDN approach, the CMC will maintain a central, primary VoD library and push the most popular titles to edge caches and local VoD servers based on algorithms and other tricky math. Pushing that content to the edges will help MSOs save on transport costs while letting them tap into a massive VoD library that doesn't have to be replicated in local markets.

The new HITS On Demand offering stems from a video CDN Comcast has developed for its own cable systems. The current version supports VoD on MPEG-2 set-top boxes, though there's speculation that Comcast will adapt it to handle MPEG-4 and IP-connected devices, as well.

The CMC won't say how many VoD titles it will offer to HITS affiliates early on, but Comcast's cable systems currently support about 30,000 VoD "choices."

The CMC will be pitching the new offering at this week's National Cable Television Cooperative Inc. (NCTC) Winter Education Conference in Austin, Texas, a confab tailored to independent cable operators.

Why this matters
The notion of cable-federated CDNs has been gaining interest, so the move isn't unexpected. And there's money to be made. HITS On Demand will help Comcast generate dollars from affiliates while helping the company recoup the investments it's made, and continues to make, in Project Infinity. In turn, smaller MSOs will be able to preserve their existing VoD platform while tapping into a much larger VoD vault and enjoy the kind of storage scale that only major cable operators tend to have.

Comcast's shift into the affiliate CDN model also spells more competition for Avail-TVN , a company that's crafted a video distribution network for the Tier 2/3 crowd, and coupled that with a multi-screen/TV Everywhere component called AnyView that relies on adaptive bit rate encoding.

For more
Read more about cable's CDN ambitions.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
12/5/2012 | 5:42:03 PM
re: Comcast Opens Up Its Video Cloud

Does Comcast do transcoding of video at its caching sites for multiple formats for delivery of video to smartphones and tablets?

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:42:00 PM
re: Comcast Opens Up Its Video Cloud

I believe the Comcast CDN  is doing just constant bit rate MPEG-2 and only for STBs, at least for now.  I also think that are using something outside of this CDN for all the TV Everywhere content, but I'd have to double-check that.  Anyone else know if their TVE content is riding this CDN as well or if they are using something (or somebody else, ie. other CDNs) to handle that? JB

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