Following in the footsteps of Cablevision Systems, Comcast has become the second major US cable operator to offer a cloud DVR service to its video customers.
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), the largest MSO in the US, announced Tuesday that it's launching the cloud DVR service in its Boston region to new Xfinity TV subscribers. The new network-based DVR service allows subscribers using Comcast's X1 IP video platform to download DVR programming to as many as five TVs or other video devices at the same time.
In addition, Comcast announced the launch of a live in-home video streaming service for Xfinity TV customers. The new video streaming service permits subscribers to stream nearly the MSO's entire linear TV channel lineup to IP-connected mobile devices, set-tops, and media gateways.
To deliver these new download and streaming features to subscribers, Comcast is also introducing a new Xfinity TV app for Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iOS tablets and smartphones, as well as a dedicated portal for viewing on computers. With the new app, subscribers can reportedly download up to 10 recoded programs on their iPads and iPhones for later viewing, among other things. The MSO plans to offer the same download-to-go functionality for Android devices but didn't say when it will do so.
Notably, though, Comcast has stopped short of using its cloud-based technology to deliver out-of-home streaming to its video customers. While out-of-home video streaming is considered crucial to the success of TV Everywhere services, content rights issues have blocked most cable operators and other service providers from offering robust out-of-home streaming services so far.
Comcast, which seems to like to launch its next-gen video products in Boston after rolling out X1 there in May 2012, said it intends to extend its "X1 DVR with cloud technology" service to "additional markets" later this year. The MSO did not name the markets but, if past patterns hold, it will more than likely be another major Northeastern market like Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington, D.C.
The launch of cloud DVR service by the largest US MSO is significant because it signals another shift away from the clunky, costly set-top boxes on which the cable industry has traditionally relied for decades. Cloud-based delivery of DVR and other TV services promises to be a cheaper, more efficient way of bringing video content to customers. Cloud-based delivery also enables cable operators to reach a much wider range of set-tops and other video devices at the same time.
Besides Comcast, such major US MSOs as Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cox Communications Inc. , and Charter Communications Inc. are also exploring network-based DVR service. Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), which pioneered the service and fought a legal battle for it that went up to the Supreme Court, has been offering cloud DVR in the New York metro area since 2010. (See Cablevision's Expanding Network DVR.)
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading