Cable VoD Coming to Blu-ray Boxes

Vendors claim they've found a way to turn Playstation 3s and other broadband-connected Blu-ray players into cable VoD machines

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

August 17, 2010

4 Min Read
Cable VoD Coming to Blu-ray Boxes

Cable-supplied video-on-demand (VoD) services could be on their way to Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) Playstation3 consoles and other Blu-ray players following an integration deal struck between Clearleap and Related Content Database Inc. (RCDb) .

Deployments are still out on the horizon somewhere, but the companies claim they can turn broadband-connected Blu-ray players into cable VoD machines by teaming Clearleap's Web-based content management, ingest, and delivery system with RCDb's Blu-ray disc software and data services. [Ed. note: Blu-ray and tru2way share similar Java-based technical underpinnings.]

The resulting platform, they claim, generates a new "target profile" for a cable VoD asset (for example, a movie or TV show) that can be streamed progressively in H.264 format to Blu-ray players via high-speed Internet connections. That Blu-ray profile would be complementary, or in addition, to the different profiles cable operators already support to deliver movies to legacy MPEG-based set-tops or via IP to iPads and PCs using HTML5 or Flash.

The benefit to cable could be twofold. It would give them a way to combat over-the-top (OTT) video service providers by offering Web-based access to their own VoD libraries, and give MSOs a path into the surging Blu-ray market, which is estimated to currently encompass more than 15 million devices.

Among the possibilities envisioned, a cable operator and a CE maker could co-brand a Blu-ray player that highlights access to the MSO's VoD service. Taking the CE theme further, it would also give cable VoD another way to reach the broadband CE world, coming into play just as MSOs like Cox Communications Inc. figure out ways to offer cable VoD on TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) boxes sold at retail. (See Cox, TiVo Strike a DVR Deal.)

"As a platform, this lets us reach huge numbers of consumers who have already purchased the [Blu-ray] box," says Clearleap CEO Braxton Jarratt. "The barrier to getting this up and running for an operator is relatively low from a consumer standpoint."

The entire process "is not so different than what people are doing today to prepare content for VoD streaming," notes RCDb CEO Zane Vella. "It's nothing more than another target profile."

But the catch with the existing implementation is that operators would be required to supply customers with special streaming discs from RCDb that provide the Java front end, the underlying user interface, and navigation system, and the keys needed to unlock access to the cable operator's VoD vault.

MSOs that jump on the idea would have to supply those discs, but would likewise have the option of using one of RCDb's UI and navigation systems or developing customized versions that could replicate or go beyond the interactive program guide functions they use in tradition digital set-top boxes.

"There's nothing preventing that," Vella says, noting that the memory and processing power of most standard Blu-ray players far surpass what's available in most legacy cable boxes.

It's a concept that has already shown some success. Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) subscribers, for example, must use similar streaming discs with RCDb's technology to Playstation 3s to access and stream movies and TV shows from Netflix's "Watch Instantly" library. Nintendo of America Inc. Wii consoles also need a similar disc to access Netflix content. Sony and Netflix, by the way, are working on a disc-less way of doing that. RCDb's reference for embedding its technology directly into the software of Blu-ray players could also remove the disc from the equation for the cable VoD example, Vella says.

The Clearleap-RCDb collaboration is in its early phases, but the companies hope to have cable MSO trials underway before the end of the year.

Clearleap already has its video publishing and back-office platform deployed with several MSOs, including Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and Mediacom Communications Corp. , with most of that activity centered on the production and preparation of local content. Clearleap's system also allows Web-sourced video to be played back on legacy, non-IP set-tops. (See Clearleap Reels In a Big Fish , Clearleap Lands Mediacom Deal , and Clearleap Aims to Make Web Video a Commodity.)

The Blu-ray effort with RCDb deepens Clearleap's reach into the broadband video device market. Earlier this year, Clearleap hooked up with Roku Inc. , marking the first deal for Clearleap's new IP VoD product, and lab trials are already underway. (See Clearleap, Roku Shop Web Video Combo to Cable.)

Clearleap and RCDb demonstrated the integrated system at this week's CableLabs Summer Conference in Keystone, Colo. RCDb's deal with Clearleap comes about three months after its splashy industry entrance at The Cable Show in Los Angeles. (See RCDb’s Web TV Coming-Out Party.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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