Video services

Comcast Explores Network DVRs

Now that Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) has cleared a legal path for network DVRs in the U.S., it's probably only a matter of time before other MSOs start to think about how they can strike up similar services and reduce capital spent on set-top boxes.

Put Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) on the list of operators that's at least giving Cablevision's concept of the "remote-storage" DVR more than a cursory glance.

"I think it is a great opportunity," Comcast President Neil Smit said Monday at the Deutsche Bank Securities Media & Telecom conference in Palm Beach, Fla., in response to questions about Cablevision's recent product launch. "We are currently investigating that and I think we're very conscious of the content owners and the content rights."

After hurdling copyright challenges brought on by programmers, Cablevision introduced its RS-DVR product, branded DVR Plus, in January in the Bronx for $10.95 per month. Cablevision's hopeful that its use of downloadable security and reduced reliance on boxes without hard drives will let it buy boxes for as low as $50 per unit. (See Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx and Cablevision Eyes $50 Set-Top.)

For the moment, Comcast is still focused on local DVR/set-top combos, a video-on-demand (VoD) library that's currently comprised of 25,000 "choices" and its Xfinity TV Online product for PCs and tablets. (See Comcast's 'Project Infinity' Takes Flight and Comcast's TV Everywhere Play Breaks Out of Beta .)

But Smit did acknowledge that Comcast is working on a way for customers to port content stored on a DVR hard drive and take it with them for later playback. "We're looking at that capability. But I think a lot of functionality currently exists for the customer," Smit says.

If and when Comcast pulls the trigger on such a product, it already has a name ready to go. About a year ago, Comcast made the term "DVR2Go" a registered trademark, and Motorola Mobility LLC , one of Comcast's key suppliers, had previously used the same term in some public literature. (See Comcast Shoots for 'DVR2Go' Trademark .)

Comcast has played around with "portable" DVR technology in the past, most notably its work with Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) on a tru2way-based product that was never launched. (See Comcast, Panny Polishing Portable DVR .)

Overall, Smit seemed bullish on how Comcast can continue to evolve its video products. "I think video is really the battleground and the area where we see the most opportunity for innovation," he said, noting that Comcast's app for the iPad has already been downloaded more than 1.3 million times roughly five months after it was launched.

High on Wi-Fi
Smit also addressed Comcast's wireless strategy, noting that the MSO will continue to work with Clearwire LLC (Nasdaq: CLWR), but that the MSO has been expanding its use of Wi-Fi, hopeful that the two technologies will live together.

He said Comcast's Wi-Fi build in the metro Philadelphia area cost $20 million to $25 million. "We're not as dense as I would like to be, but at $4,500 an access point, we think it is a scalable solution for us."

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

SteveDonohue 12/5/2012 | 5:10:50 PM
re: Comcast Explores Network DVRs

One of the biggest limitations of the network DVR and physical DVRs deployed by Cablevision, Comcast and other MSOs is the amount of content subscribers can store. Largely for legal reasons, Cablevision allows subscribers to record the same amount of content on its network DVR as it does physical DVRs -- only about 24 hours of HD programming (or about 100 hours of standard def, for the few subs still watching standard def content). Viewers that record more than a handful of TV series each week may find that their favorite shows have been erased (or replaced by more recent shows in their cue) unless they hit play soon after the recording was made. Limiting the amount of content subscribers can store on a physical DVR or network DVR may help cable operators and networks protect their advertising business, and drive more subccribers to free on-demand content (where they can't skip ads) and to products like Time Warner Cable's Look Back, but those storage limits could also push some subscribers to the Web and to high-end DVRs with more storage like TiVo's Premiere box.



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