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Over-The-Top Monkey Business

Larry was officially unleashed on cable this past week. The Light Reading editorial armada descended on Denver for SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, scouring the show floor for the latest and greatest.

I had the the pleasure of breaking bread (tortillas, actually) with The Philter over a fine Tex-Mex lunch hosted by Cisco/Scientific-Atlanta, now the cable Ÿber vendor.

A topic of lively discussion was whether cable and the "over-the-top" video players can learn to play nicely together.

The new party line says Google and Yahoo are cable's real competition in video, not Verizon and AT&T. Then there's the growing cadre of Internet video upstarts like Akimbo, YouTube, and DaveTV.

The upstart crowd is doing a nice job of assembling "viral" and user-generated content. But distribution is limited to the PC screen, or in Akimbo's case, a proprietary IP set-top box. Couldn't they team with MSOs?

Of course, cable MSOs can add value to these services by providing preferential QoS treatment for video streams. But what proves far more interesting is moving these "long tail" services into cable's video-on-demand (VOD) offerings. In this model, YouTube and friends would essentially become cable programming networks -- Homey Box Office if you will -- aggregating and filtering user-generated video content for on-demand broadcast to the TV.

The wheels may already be in motion. YouTube is doing its best to entice cable giant Comcast for carriage. This week, the YouTube independent filmmaker DoorMaker posted a catchy new video featuring a Comcast technician.

DoorMaker notes the tech came to his house to replace a faulty cable modem. "After spending an hour on hold with Comcast's central office, he fell asleep on my couch," DoorMaker tells us.

Videos like this make it clear that Internet video may prove synergistic for cable in short order.

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