Charter's VoD Network Tastes of CDN

Charter Communications Inc. is the latest cable operator to creep toward a video-optimized content delivery network (CDN) architecture after installing a centralized video-on-demand (VoD) library in St. Louis that manages and feeds content to almost all of the MSO's cable systems over a fiber backbone.

Charter is managing its VoD library using a Web-based content management and quality control system from Ascent Media Group LLC , a firm that's pursuing cable deals as MSOs of all sizes seek out ways to expand their VoD vaults using CDN-like architectures. (See Ascent Media Finds Its Cable VoD Niche and Charter Taps Ascent.)

Charter's deployment, the first to acknowledge the use of Ascent's VoD "accelerator" management system, is initially managing about 9,000 titles. From there, those titles are then shuttled and stored at Charter's local headends, existing VoD servers, and back-office systems for direct streaming. Ascent's management system, says SVP Rich Fickle, can also support a more hierarchical network whereby content is pushed to regional and edge servers based on title popularity.

Why it matters
Bandwidth and transport aren't free. To keep those costs in check while building out massive VoD libraries that will support more than 100,000 titles, cable operators, including Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), are starting to develop video CDNs that store all their on-demand in central libraries and use fiber backbones to distribute movie and TV files to regional caches and edge streamers.

Charter's centralization in St. Louis, and use of Ascent's management system, represents a step in that direction, laying the foundation for a much larger, tiered vault/caching/streaming architecture that could deliver video in several formats for a wide range of screens and video devices, including PCs, tablets, and smartphones.

For more
For more on cable's interest in, and motivations for, migrating to video CDN architectures, please check out these other stories:

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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