Video services

CES 2011: TW Cable, Sony Make IPTV Connection

LAS VEGAS -- 2011 International CES -- An IP-fed video service from Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) will gain a presence next to Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and other over-the-top (OTT) providers later this year on a number of new broadband-connected Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) Bravia TVs.

And this feat will be done without a separate set-top, tru2way middleware, or the CableCARD. The technical details of how they actually will execute this remain scare, but it will be done over IP and likely involve digital rights management (DRM) instead of a more traditional form of conditional access security.

Rather than just providing a conduit to TW Cable's video-on-demand (VoD) lineup, the deal, mentioned yesterday during a Sony press conference here, reporetedly will let these Sony TVs deliver the MSO's entire VoD and linear lineup without requiring a separate set-top box. TW Cable was not immediately available for further comment.

The deal is coming down as TW Cable and other MSOs begin to pursue IP video migration strategies and seek out stronger partnerships with consumer electronics companies.

For its part, TW Cable is believed to be testing Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Mediaroom in the Los Angeles market. It has also dropped hints that it is building a video-optimized content distribution network (CDN) that could factor into its overarching IPTV strategy. TW Cable is already a champion of switched digital video (SDV), a technology that could create the foundation for a relatively smooth transition to IP video. (See TWC Taps Microsoft Mediaroom for IPTV Test , Time Warner Cable Hints at Video CDN Plan and SDV: Cable's Stepping Stone to IP Video? )

And more of these types of deals are expected this week. Boo-Keun Yoo, Samsung Corp. 's president and GM of the company's visual display business, is slated to keynote at CES this afternoon, and it's believed that the CE giant will announce multiple partnerships with cable operators.

Tuesday's announcement marks the latest attempt by cable and Sony to make a retail connection. Sony has dabbled with the idea of using a tru2way-certified "set-back" box that can be affixed to the back of certain Bravia models. It's uncertain if Sony ever intends to support that sort of setup now that tru2way's role at retail appears to be dead. (See Sony-Comcast Store Has Tru2way 'Set-Back' Box , Sony Drives ADB's Set-Back, IP Will Trump Tru2way and Tru2way: Epic Fail at Retail.)

Earlier, Sony was promoting Passage, a security system that lets cable operators run a new security platform alongside legacy conditional access systems from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). The aim was to help Sony enter the US cable set-top sector and help to create a strong retail cable box market. Although it didn't take off during the early part of the decade (Charter Communications Inc. was Passage's primary MSO licensee), a source says domestic cable is starting to take another look at Passage, which Sony introduced in 2002.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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