The modern age of cable television was born on Sept. 30, 1975, when Muhammad Ali boxed Joe Frazier in the "Thrilla in Manila" fight. HBO beamed the fight telecast by satellite, transforming an industry that was bound by the limits of terrestrial distribution into one with nationwide service potential. The result was an explosion in television programming choices. Over the next five to ten years, most major cable networks launched by using satellite delivery, including CNN, C-SPAN, Discovery, Disney Channel, ESPN, MTV, Playboy, Showtime and superstation TBS.
Now the industry is moving toward a new and no less revolutionary form of video delivery: content delivery networks (CDNs). Cable CDNs represent the most significant change in television distribution in more than 35 years, according to the latest Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, Video CDNs to Revolutionize Cable Television Delivery.
Once implemented by multiple system operators (MSOs), CDNs will speed cable's migration from QAM-based MPEG2 video to full-IP delivery of all video-on-demand (VoD) content and linear programming networks, the report says.
Cable CDNs rely on many of the same concepts, architectures and technologies as the CDNs that handle Internet traffic worldwide. Yet Comcast Corp. and Time Warner Cable Inc. are building CDNs that are optimized for video that will run end to end across the MSOs' fiber-based managed networks.
Other U.S. MSOs are exploring whether to create their own CDNs or join with Comcast, TWC or others in a so-called federated CDN or CDN Interconnect (CDNI). Some MSOs could rely upon traditional third-party CDNs, such as Akami, Limelight Networks Inc. or Level 3 Communications Inc., for all or part of their IP video delivery needs.
The Heavy Reading report explores the prospects for video-optimized CDNs for cable, including the market drivers, supporting technologies, MSO roadmaps, opportunities and challenges, and the supplier market. It also profiles seven cable suppliers that support CDNs with various solutions.
The flood of over-the-top (OTT) video coursing through cable's pipes and the industry's migration to eventual all-IP service delivery is spurring interest in CDNs. CDN architecture, along with adaptive streaming and other supporting technologies, will help MSOs manage bandwidth costs while enabling them to extend services across multiple video platforms.
Cable's CDN development is at an early stage and there are many challenges ahead, including technical issues, content rights questions and potential regulatory scrutiny. A federated CDN appears to have many advantages but it will be difficult to pull off among disparate MSOs.
Yet the MSO interest level is high and CDNs are looming as a new launchpad for cable content, cloud-based apps and interactive services. Not only will CDNs eventually reduce or even replace the cable industry's reliance upon satellite delivery for programming, but they also will help cable to provide customers with more content, new cloud-based guides and interactive applications, anytime and on any device, for a better user experience.
â€” Craig Leddy, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider
This report, "Video CDNs to Revolutionize Cable Television Delivery," is available as part of an annual single-user subscription (six issues) to Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/cable.