The patent (No. 7,877,468) describes "systems and methods for vertically integrated data distribution and access management." (See Concurrent Lands nDVR Patent.)
Boiled down further, the patent is really about the management and scheduling of network, storage, and caching devices and resources so they can ingest massive amounts of video and prepare it for almost immediate playback. Depending on the deployment model, some nDVRs will need to simultaneously ingest and prepare video for more than 150 channels. That ingest challenge -- considered the Achilles' heel of any nDVR -- becomes even tougher when HD video enters the picture.
"It's a huge technological challenge and this patent addresses that and presents a solution," says Concurrent EVP of corporate affairs Kirk Sommer, noting that the company has already incorporated the capability into its MediaHawk content delivery system.
He says the capability can be applied to a wide range of nDVR applications, including "Start Over" -- a service championed by Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) that lets customers restart shows already in progress -- and the Remote-Storage DVR service recently introduced by Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) that puts traditional set-top-based DVR capabilities, including storage, on the network. It could also apply to video-optimized content distribution networks (CDNs), Sommer says. (See Time Warner Cable Hints at Video CDN Plan and Comcast's 'Project Infinity' Takes Flight .)
Concurrent originally filed for the patent in April 2004, and it was granted on January 25, 2011.
Coincidentally, Concurrent received the patent just days after Cablevision soft-launched its RS-DVR service, called DVR Plus, in the New York borough of the Bronx. (See Cablevision's Network DVR Debuts in the Bronx .)
Sommer confirmed that Concurrent isn't involved in the MSO's RS-DVR deployment. However, it has worked extensively with TW Cable and Bright House Networks , which have both deployed Start Over and "Look Back," a newer service that lets subs catch up on certain programs that have aired within the last 72 hours.
Why this matters
Depending on how Concurrent plays this card, the patent could produce a string of lucrative licensing deals with traditional VoD rivals such as SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC) and Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), and perhaps extend to a CDN field that includes Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) and Limelight Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW)
Or, if licensing deals can't be struck, it could result in Concurrent issuing a litany of lawsuits.
"We will address our opportunities on a case-by-case basis," Sommer said. "We don’t have our signs set in any particular direction."
Here's a glance at recent nDVR deployments and legal developments.
- Cablevision RS-DVR Gets Limited Deployment
- Concurrent Bolsters 'Start Over'
- Time Warner to Expand Start Over
- DoJ: Butt Out of Cablevision RS-DVR Case
- Cablevision Girds for Remote DVRs
- Inside Cablevision's 'RS-DVR'
- Court Resurrects Cablevision's Network DVR