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Cable Catchup

2:50 PM -- We're nearing the end of another week (while some of you poor souls at IBC are just getting started), but here's a wrap-up of other cable-related news of note:

  • Speculating an uncapped Comcast: Now that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is free from a 30 percent ownership cap, the MSO is now able to pursue acquisitions both big and small. Citigroup media analyst Jason Bazinet is already leaning on the really big side, claiming that a merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) -- the nation's largest and second-largest MSOs -- would be beneficial, despite beliefs by some that such a deal would never get past the Feds. (See Court Scraps Cable Ownership Cap .)

    Bazinet reasons that such a merger, which would create a 37 million-sub MSO monster, would benefit from $2.7 billion in cost synergies (including $1.6 billion in better programming costs), and that the combo would represent just 37 percent of the U.S. pay TV universe.

    But it doesn’t appear that Comcast is in a big hurry to pull the trigger on any cable system acquisitions. Speaking at a Bank of American Merrill Lynch Media conference earlier this week, Comcast COO Steve Burke said the MSO would look to get bigger "if the economics were right.

    "We don't wake up every day saying, 'How do we get bigger in cable?'" he continued, "But if there is a way to acquire cable systems for what we consider to be a good price, ones that are contiguous or well-managed, we would certainly look at whatever was out there."

  • Northern tiff: Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) is reportedly trying to block Shaw Communications Inc. from expanding into eastern Canada via its acquisition of Mountain Cablevision. The report notes that the MSOs have been operating under a deal that gives Rogers the east and restricts Shaw to the west. Although Shaw is among Canada's larger cable MSOs, it also operates a competitive satellite TV service called Star Choice, which had 892,976 subs at the end of the first quarter.

  • SOC it to cable: The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) reaffirmed at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a stance that cable, like the Motion Picture Association of America, strongly favors a waiver that would allow the use of "selectable output control" (SOC). The waiver, they claim, would allow MSOs to deliver (and secure) hi-def movies via digital set-tops in pre-DVD distribution windows. (See More Than VOD Window Dressing .)

    Some consumer electronics interests are against it, claiming that such a waiver would dampen consumer interest in products that are subject to such a waiver. Cable, predictably, thinks the opposite, holding that the waiver "would add consumer choices, rather than reduce them: the movies which would be provided using SOC would not have otherwise been provided in such an earlier viewing window due to content provider security concerns."

    According to an ex parte filing by the NCTA, cable spelled out that argument Wednesday, during a meeting with several FCC Media Bureau staffers, including bureau chief William Lake. NCTA general counsel Neal Goldberg and TWC EVP of technology policy and product management Kevin Leddy were among the cable guys at the meeting.

    In part, they described how cable would technically implement an SOC-enabled service. Not much of that detail is in the filing, but it did note that cable MSOs would use existing digital connectors and content-protection technologies to keep the movies safe from meddlesome pirates.

  • Harmonizing on convergence: Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) is the latest to join the "TV Everywhere" tech club with the debut of the MediaPrism "convergence suite," which aims to deliver video to TVs, PCs, iPhones, and other mobile devices. The suite comes equipped to support Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Silverlight, Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s adaptive HTTP Live Streaming, and Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) Flash... in addition to "legacy" mobile video formats and typical cable video delivery mechanisms. Harmonic's showing it off at the IBC show in Amsterdam. (See Harmonic Goes Multi-Screeen With MediaPrism .)

  • Clearleap bags Bresnan: Bresnan Communications LLC has signed on to use Clearleap 's Web-based platform to deliver and manage "The SPOT," a video-on-demand section comprised of localized channels featuring local job, dining, and events info. (See Clearleap Nets Bresnan Deal.) Bresnan, which was also expected to use the system for some linear programming, isn't using Clearleap's system to bring in Web TV content from partners such as Blip.tv , Next New Networks, and Revision3 . Not yet, anyway. (See Clearleap Brings Blip.tv & Others to Cable .)

    Bresnan marks Clearleap's largest announced win so far. The startup's first score was with Atlantic Broadband. Clearleap has close to 20 deployments, according to a spokesman. (See Clearleap Jumps on First Win.)

  • Insight changes coming: Insight Communications Co. Inc. CEO Michael Willner blogs that there are a number of "exciting changes" in store for customers that will be revealed in the next few weeks. Those changes will include some still-undisclosed new features and "updates to our current products," but that's about all that's being shared for now. This short, teaser spot about Insight's "change" campaign doesn't spell out much more detail. But Willner's previously hinted that Insight's been working on Docsis 3.0, so it's a good bet that speedier modem services may be playing a part in it all.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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