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Comcast to Run Small Net-DVR Trial

CHICAGO -- The Cable Show -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) intends to conduct a small trial of a network-based DVR that's similar to the service Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) has launched in the Bronx and parts of Connecticut. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), meanwhile, believes it already has the technical foundation to do the same following its wide deployment of services like Start Over.

"Ultimately it's just an elegant way to deliver [DVR] service," Comcast Chief Technology Officer Tony Werner said on a panel here Thursday afternoon when asked to comment on a report that the MSO was getting ready to test out a cloud-based DVR later this year or early 2012. Werner said Comcast intends to start with a "very small" trial and didn't say where the MSO would conduct it nor commit to anything beyond that.

Following court battles with programmers and content owners, Cablevision launched its remote-storage DVR, called DVR Plus, in the Bronx in January for $10.95 per month -- the same price for its set-top-based DVR services. It's since extended the service, called DVR Plus, to its Connecticut systems and will be launching it next in Brooklyn. (See Cablevision's Network DVR Branches Out, Brooklyn on Deck for Cablevision's Network DVR and DoJ: Butt Out of Cablevision RS-DVR Case .)

Cablevision's system isn't terribly efficient from a storage standpoint because it makes individual copies of every show customers request for recording in order to avoid copyright entanglements, but the MSO is hopeful that the service will allow set-top unit prices to drop significantly. (See Cablevision Eyes $50 Set-Top.)

Werner said the RS-DVR concept makes whole-home DVR implementations easier in part because boxes would not require technology like Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) to share recorded content on a home network.

SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC), which counts Comcast among its major customers, introduced its RS-DVR product here at the show, claiming it can supplant local set-top DVR services at about 20 percent of the typical cost MSOs pay to equip and maintain a traditional DVR customer.

TW Cable has previously shown interest in Cablevision's approach, but has opted for services like Start Over, which let customers restart shows that are already in progress, but don't allow them to fast-forward through the ads. Mike LaJoie, TW Cable's CTO, said the operator has the technical baseline to develop a DVR Plus-like service. (See Time Warner Cable Eyeing Network DVR Case .)

"We are basically capturing everything and recording it … we have agreements to offer that with programmers who are enlightened enough to do that," LaJoie said.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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