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Video services

Comcast Feels Like Starting Over

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) used this week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) to talk up an expanded library of hi-def VOD content, but the operator is also gearing up to offer the beginnings of a network-based digital video recording service starting in early 2009. (See Comcast Launches 'Project Infinity'.)

A company spokesman confirmed a report that the MSO plans to begin testing "Start Over" this year, with initial deployments to follow in early 2009. While Comcast has openly discussed its interest in adding the service, until this week it has not provided much specific information about the timing of deployment plans.

Start Over, an application championed by Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) that originated out of the MystroTV project, allows users to restart TV shows, at least those with copyright clearance, that are already in progress. Time Warner Cable is also exploring next-gen versions that extend the VOD availability window.

Time Warner also owns intellectual property linked to Start Over. A Comcast spokesman also confirmed that the operator is in licensing discussions with Time Warner Cable. Bright House Networks , which branched off from a Time Warner cable system venture in 2003, is already offering Start Over in markets such as Tampa Bay, Fla.

Here at the show, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) demonstrated an Comcast "RNG" set-top outfitted with tru2way technology running an app with the Start Over label. (See Slideshow: On the Hunt for 'tru2way' at CES .)

Functionality for Start Over will be included in the next iteration of the Comcast guide, an MSO spokesman said, but declined to say where or how rapidly Comcast expects to deploy the service.

Start Over, which disables the fast-forward function to prevent ad-skipping, is considered a subset of a full-fledged network-based digital video recorder. Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) is trying to take a different approach with its Remote-Storage DVR. Cablevision's concept, which is facing a legal battle with studios over copyright infringement claims, would rent out storage on its network servers to customers, who, in turn, would manually set their own recordings. (See Inside Cablevision's 'RS-DVR' and Cablevision to Try, Try Again.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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