Video services

Comcast Tees Up IP Video Tests

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s IP video migration strategy is well underway and the MSO is using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus as its test bed, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

The paper said the MSO will be testing IP delivery of its linear TV feeds at the school in the "coming months" as Comcast vets ways to pipe content not just to IP-capable set-tops but an array of connected TVs, PCs, tablets and other devices that aren't set-tops. A versatile, cloud-based guide, will also factor into the tests. (See The Disappearing Set-Top and Comcast Connecting to Samsung TVs by Xmas .)

That Comcast is setting an IP video migration isn't surprising -- word of a managed IP service convergence initiative code-named "Xcalibur" began to surface in the fall of 2009, followed by a technical trial that's underway in Augusta, Ga. (See Comcast Forges 'Excalibur' for IPTV.)

Sam Schwartz, president of Comcast Converged Products, briefly described Xcalibur and the MSO's cloudy methods in a blog posted yesterday. The goal of Xcalibur, he noted, "is to take everything we've learned from the web and tablets and bring it right back to your TV screen."

And plenty of other evidence has emerged since that points to Comcast's IP video ambitions.

Of recent note, the MSO has been testing a souped-up IP-capable HD-DVR called Xfinity Spectrum (made by Pace plc ) that is part of the Georgia trial, with plans to start deploying it next year, according to the WSJ. (See Comcast's Internet + TV Set-Top Surfaces, Comcast Tests Broadband-Fed Xcalibur Service and Reviewer Sneaks A Peek at Comcast 'Xcalibur'.)

Although much attention has been lavished on that trial and that box, Comcast acknowledged last year that its line of RNG-class boxes, which are already being deployed by the millions, can be "flipped" to become IP set-tops and help to seed the transition. (See Comcast 'RNG' Set-Tops Have IPTV Potential .)

And that prep work extends well into Comcast's access network. It's expected that Comcast will use its widely deployed Docsis 3.0 platform to deliver managed IP video streams. Further out, the density of its Converged Multiservice Access Platform (CMAP) project will also help pave the way for Comcast's IP leap. (See Comcast Targets First CMAP Field Trial .)

Comcast is also building its own content distribution network (CDN). While the initial goal there is to expand its VoD library for legacy QAM-based set-top boxes, it could also fit well with its IP video strategy. (See Comcast's 'Project Infinity' Takes Flight .)

Going to IPTV will help Comcast match up with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) U-verse, but one of the big initial drivers of the migration is the desire to pipe subscription video services to devices like iPads and other devices in the home while factoring into Comcast's TV Everywhere efforts. (See Comcast to Stream TV to iPads, Android Tablets .)

It could also enable Comcast to deliver services over-the-top beyond its traditional franchise borders. But the MSO told the WSJ that it won't take that route for now, citing high costs and the lack of programming rights for that kind of distribution. (See Rumor: Comcast Plots OTT Stealth Attack.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

SteveDonohue 12/5/2012 | 5:04:08 PM
re: Comcast Tees Up IP Video Tests

Even if Comcast's tests on MIT's campus and in Georgia show that it can flawlessly deliver IPTV video to TVs, PCs, tablets and other mobile devices, it's not clear how much consumers may be willing to pay for the convenience of watching cable TV on the Web or mobile devices. That may be the biggest challenge for Comcast and other pay TV providers looking at how they can compete with over-the-top video. Cable cord cutters are beginning to turn to Web video becasue they want a cheaper option. Comcast and other pay TV distributors and programmers aren't known for coming up with cheaper options for their customers. While Comcast may be able to demonstrate that it has the technology for IPTV video, the bigger test may be proving that consumers are willing to pay for it. 


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:04:07 PM
re: Comcast Tees Up IP Video Tests

Some buy slingboxes for multiple hundreds of dollars, so there's some indication on the value that consumers place on it. It's not like there's no value on it. But I don't think they'll want to pay much of a premium for that added reach when they're already gritching about their cable bills sans TV everywhere. If gaining TVE rights cause another round of negotiation and msos have to pay more for it, guess who's going to be asked to pay the difference? (answer: it's not the service provider).  But if you had to set a value and were forced to pay additional for that kind of access (with "nothing" not being an option), what would you actually stomach paying?  $5/mo, $10/mo.?  JB



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