Video services

Cablevision Confident About HD Capacity

Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) says it's not worried whether it will have the necessary capacity to handle demand for the coming wave of high-definition content. (See Cablevision Loss Widens.)

"We think that we have the capacity to carry as many HD channels as can be launched," Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge said during a call with reporters and analysts yesterday.

A portion of that capacity will be freed up using switched digital video (SDV), a technique whereby linear channels in a "switched" tier are streamed out to a given service group only when a customer selects them for viewing.

Cablevision has already deployed the capability widely with its primary SDV tech partner, BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND). (See Cablevision Switches With BigBand.)

Today, Cablevision is carrying about 70 channels in this switched format, and the majority of that consists of "ethnic" programming, according to Rutledge.

Next on the SDV list is HD programming.

Cablevision -- which serves 3.1 million basic video customers, with 2.5 million taking the MSO's digital video service -- "just tested and proved out to ourselves that HD switched video works," Rutledge said. "We are prepared to launch additional HD channels as they become available to us."

The MSO had 898,000 HD customers at the end of the quarter and currently provides 42 HD programming services.

Expect that number to rise sharply, considering what the competition is doing. DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) expects to offer up to 100 HD channels by year-end.

Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), which, according to Cablevision estimates, has built out fiber to pass about 1.1 million homes in the MSO's footprint, plans to offer 150 hi-def nets and north of 1,000 HD video-on-demand titles via its FiOS TV platform by the end of 2008.

On Thursday, Charter Communications Inc. also updated its HD growth plans during its third-quarter earnings report. (See Charter Posts Q3.)

Charter president and CEO Neil Smit said his company will offer more than 100 "HD viewing options" in most markets by year's end. Those "options" will include linear networks as well as HD-VOD titles.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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