Cable VoD Coming to Blu-ray Boxes

Cable-supplied video-on-demand (VoD) services could be on their way to Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) Playstation3 consoles and other Blu-ray players following an integration deal struck between Clearleap and Related Content Database Inc. (RCDb) .

Deployments are still out on the horizon somewhere, but the companies claim they can turn broadband-connected Blu-ray players into cable VoD machines by teaming Clearleap's Web-based content management, ingest, and delivery system with RCDb's Blu-ray disc software and data services. [Ed. note: Blu-ray and tru2way share similar Java-based technical underpinnings.]

The resulting platform, they claim, generates a new "target profile" for a cable VoD asset (for example, a movie or TV show) that can be streamed progressively in H.264 format to Blu-ray players via high-speed Internet connections. That Blu-ray profile would be complementary, or in addition, to the different profiles cable operators already support to deliver movies to legacy MPEG-based set-tops or via IP to iPads and PCs using HTML5 or Flash.

The benefit to cable could be twofold. It would give them a way to combat over-the-top (OTT) video service providers by offering Web-based access to their own VoD libraries, and give MSOs a path into the surging Blu-ray market, which is estimated to currently encompass more than 15 million devices.

Among the possibilities envisioned, a cable operator and a CE maker could co-brand a Blu-ray player that highlights access to the MSO's VoD service. Taking the CE theme further, it would also give cable VoD another way to reach the broadband CE world, coming into play just as MSOs like Cox Communications Inc. figure out ways to offer cable VoD on TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) boxes sold at retail. (See Cox, TiVo Strike a DVR Deal.)

"As a platform, this lets us reach huge numbers of consumers who have already purchased the [Blu-ray] box," says Clearleap CEO Braxton Jarratt. "The barrier to getting this up and running for an operator is relatively low from a consumer standpoint."

The entire process "is not so different than what people are doing today to prepare content for VoD streaming," notes RCDb CEO Zane Vella. "It's nothing more than another target profile."

But the catch with the existing implementation is that operators would be required to supply customers with special streaming discs from RCDb that provide the Java front end, the underlying user interface, and navigation system, and the keys needed to unlock access to the cable operator's VoD vault.

MSOs that jump on the idea would have to supply those discs, but would likewise have the option of using one of RCDb's UI and navigation systems or developing customized versions that could replicate or go beyond the interactive program guide functions they use in tradition digital set-top boxes.

"There's nothing preventing that," Vella says, noting that the memory and processing power of most standard Blu-ray players far surpass what's available in most legacy cable boxes.

It's a concept that has already shown some success. Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) subscribers, for example, must use similar streaming discs with RCDb's technology to Playstation 3s to access and stream movies and TV shows from Netflix's "Watch Instantly" library. Nintendo of America Inc. Wii consoles also need a similar disc to access Netflix content. Sony and Netflix, by the way, are working on a disc-less way of doing that. RCDb's reference for embedding its technology directly into the software of Blu-ray players could also remove the disc from the equation for the cable VoD example, Vella says.

The Clearleap-RCDb collaboration is in its early phases, but the companies hope to have cable MSO trials underway before the end of the year.

Clearleap already has its video publishing and back-office platform deployed with several MSOs, including Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and Mediacom Communications Corp. , with most of that activity centered on the production and preparation of local content. Clearleap's system also allows Web-sourced video to be played back on legacy, non-IP set-tops. (See Clearleap Reels In a Big Fish , Clearleap Lands Mediacom Deal , and Clearleap Aims to Make Web Video a Commodity.)

The Blu-ray effort with RCDb deepens Clearleap's reach into the broadband video device market. Earlier this year, Clearleap hooked up with Roku Inc. , marking the first deal for Clearleap's new IP VoD product, and lab trials are already underway. (See Clearleap, Roku Shop Web Video Combo to Cable.)

Clearleap and RCDb demonstrated the integrated system at this week's CableLabs Summer Conference in Keystone, Colo. RCDb's deal with Clearleap comes about three months after its splashy industry entrance at The Cable Show in Los Angeles. (See RCDb’s Web TV Coming-Out Party.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:26:26 PM
re: Cable VoD Coming to Blu-ray Boxes

If operators end up supporting this, it might offer a nice step forward in terms of allowing MSOs to start matching up with Netflix by incorporating their VoD services into broadband video CE devices. It could lead to deals that allow Comcast, for example, to tout an Xfinity TV-branded over-the-top VoD service alongside Netflix, Amazon in Blu-ray devices.  But cable's obviously playing from behind here, so will that be enough? At some point they'll need to figure out how to stream their linear lineups on these devices, as well, without having to go full-on with tru2way. JB

On Demand Weekly 12/5/2012 | 4:26:19 PM
re: Cable VoD Coming to Blu-ray Boxes

The cable industry / MSO's must do a better job promoting and providing incentives to new & current subscribers if/when Cable VOD to Blu-Ray becomes a reality.


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:26:18 PM
re: Cable VoD Coming to Blu-ray Boxes

Any suggestions on how they should promote it once they get that far?  Slapping an Xfinity TV logo alongside Netflix and Amazon on the side of a Blu-ray box that can do cable VoD (Comcast's version, anyway) will only do so much, of course.  Maybe Comcast could do a leave Netflix and get two months free sorta promo that ties in VoD streaming with the rental piece (via its relationship with Blockbuster) JB

miar70 12/5/2012 | 4:26:17 PM
re: Cable VoD Coming to Blu-ray Boxes

I assume that they should be able to provide a straight forward price incentive over Netflix, subsidizing from the triple play revenue as well as have reduced infrastructure cost with the cost of the RCDb platform shared across multiple access networks.

The key issue will be if they can match the range of content available as well, then given a choice between Netflix and xFinity, at least an xFinity subscriber should find it cheaper to bundle and not switch over to Netflix.

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