Video services

Hey, You, Get Onto My Cloud

Cable was a cloud before the cloud was cool. Like the Internet cloud, cable's content and services have been drawn from a network-based distribution system.

Now multiple system operators (MSOs) are looking to utilize their own IP clouds to support new interactive program guides (IPGs), user interfaces (UIs) and interactive applications on cable television. The result is a better user experience for cable customers, with the prospect that MSOs will stem the ongoing decline in basic cable subscriptions.

Nearly all of the major U.S. MSOs are working to improve their current IPGs and take advantage of a growing field of Docsis-capable set-top boxes (STBs) that can deliver data and apps for TV. According to a new Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, Cable Looks to the Cloud to Improve User Experience, widespread rollouts of cloud-based IPGs are slated for 2012.

The focus on better user interfaces is long overdue. While legacy STBs and outdated on-screen guides are limiting cable's potential, consumers are being wowed by over-the-top (OTT) Web services and connected devices that offer superior content navigation and search capabilities.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is planning, for next year, a system-wide rollout of its IP-fueled, graphically rich XfinityTV guide, which provides access to linear programming, on-demand content, bonus features, ITV apps, and certain Web and social media. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) recently said it is deploying a cloud-based guide in parts of Syracuse, Los Angeles and Dallas, with wide deployment planned next year. Cox Communications Inc. has been rolling out its tru2way-based Trio guide, while Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), which has fielded Docsis-capable set-tops, has demonstrated a new IPG.

Suppliers are offering advanced on-screen guides with improved search functions, including TotalGuide from Rovi Corp. , Snowflake from NDS Ltd. , Nitro from SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC), and Moxi guide from Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), which is included in a hybrid gateway. Among those that are developing cloud-based ITV applications for cable are ActiveVideo , Ensequence Inc. , FourthWall Media Inc. and Zodiac Interactive .

To fulfill their cloud-based aspirations, cable must put a robust IP delivery infrastructure in place and determine the right mix of features and apps that will win over consumers, the report says. MSOs are providing select applications through their private managed networks, not by opening a pipeline to the wide-open Internet.

The new IPGs essentially serve as a portal, providing opportunities for cable operators to place ads, offer t-commerce, provide customer care tips and upsell services. The ability of IPGs to provide substantial revenue remains to be seen, the reports says, noting that banner ads on current IPGs are not known to be a significant revenue source.

With a new IP-connected IPG in place, cable's guide infrastructure can migrate to a full-fledged service delivery platform. Cable then can utilize its own cloud to deliver TV Everywhere programming and other content to multiple device platforms. The result is a branded MSO experience across multiple screens. In the process, cloud-based IPGs serve as a central building block in cable's migration to all-IP service delivery.

— Craig Leddy, Contributing Analyst, Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider

This report, "Cable Looks to the Cloud to Improve User Experience," is available as part of an annual single-user subscription (six issues) to Heavy Reading Cable Industry Insider, priced at $1,595. Individual reports are available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/cable.

craigleddy 12/5/2012 | 4:48:40 PM
re: Hey, You, Get Onto My Cloud

An update to the new Heavy Reading Cable Insider on cloud-based IPGs:

* Motorola at SCTE introduced DreamGallery, a new guide supported by a cloud-based HTML5 video tool suite that MSOs can use to update the interface. Shaw Communications plans to use DreamGallery on its Moto DCX 3200 boxes. Expect DreamGallery to become part of Moto's hybird gateway offering.    

* Look for Cisco to introduce a new IP-fueled IPG for cable operators in its next version of Videoscape for cable (v 4.5).

* Rovi has completed the code work to enable MSOs to integrate their current iGuide IPGs with the newer TotalGuide, which provides richer interactive features supported by Rovi cloud services.

* A newcomer has emerged from stealth mode: Zinc.tv, a Web-based IPG option targeted for delivery by tier 2 and 3 cable operators.     



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