SDV: Cable's Stepping Stone to IP Video?
Keynoting here this morning at a Light Reading conference dedicated to cable's multi-screen video strategies, Jay Kreiling, Comcast's vice president of video services, noted that SDV "plays a role in the [IPTV] ecosystem," when asked if there were specific linkages between the two technologies.
IPTV is no longer a four-letter word to cable, with most major operators now trying to figure out how to migrate to IP-based video services without disrupting the industry's MPEG-based digital video legacy. Among major MSOs, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is expected to test out Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s Mediaroom platform in Los Angeles later this year. (See TWC Taps Microsoft Mediaroom for IPTV Test .)
Comcast hasn't revealed any specific IPTV activities beyond its PC-centric TV Everywhere Xfinity TV service, but Kreiling noted that cable is growing more interested in IP video as it seeks out ways to help customers consume video across different platforms and across myriad devices. "You want a common language," he said, contending that IP offers "promising potential to serve as that convergence point."
He said SDV can help cable get there "to a certain extent."
Comcast has conducted some limited SDV trials, but has generally kept the technology on the back burner as it instead went aggressively after an analog-reclamation project fueled by simple Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) devices. Comcast has that initiative -- internally dubbed Project Cavalry -- completed in about 43 percent of its footprint and hopes to have 80 percent of the job done by the end of the year. (See Comcast's $1B Bandwidth Plan .)
Project Cavalry has used standard-def DTAs exclusively so far, but hi-def versions could enter the picture if the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) OKs proposed rule changes that could clear the way for operators to use HD-DTAs with integrated security. (See FCC Inches Towards Net-Agnostic Gateways.)
Kreiling noted that Comcast is supportive of HD-DTA, since up to two thirds of US homes now have HD sets, and such devices would let customers view HD programming on their secondary sets cost-effectively. Once volumes kick in, it's believed that HD-DTAs will sell for less than $50 per unit. For now, CableOne remains the only US operator to get special dispensation from the FCC to use HD-DTAs, and that's for just one small market in Tennessee. (See Cable ONE Looks to Pump Up HD-DTA Volumes and Scoop! Cable ONE Makes HD-DTA Picks .)
Comcast is now getting ready to deploy SDV later this year in an undisclosed number of markets, with more on tap for 2011. A recent FCC filing from Comcast didn't describe the IPTV potential of SDV, but it did note that the MSO believes SDV could help it free up capacity for at least another 50 hi-def channels. (See Comcast Getting Ready to Uncork SDV.)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable