August 2, 2011
Charter Communications Inc. 's aggressiveness with Docsis 3.0 and switched digital video (SDV) signals that the MSO is establishing the groundwork for a big transition to IP video.
It's still losing basic video subscribers, mostly on the low, analog-only end, but Charter, coming up on the second anniversary of exiting Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is gearing up to make its home-side video products more attractive while getting itself prepped for TV Everywhere. (See Charter Leaves Chapter 11 .)
"I think 2012 is going to be a bit of a shift for Charter relative to the video product," Charter President and CEO Mike Lovett said Tuesday on the company's second-quarter earnings call.
Some of that is tied to Charter's deal with TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO), which will center on the Premiere DVR, a hybrid IP/QAM box that will let the MSO blend its traditional linear and on-demand video services with over-the-top, Web-fed content, while getting access to a richer user interface. (See Charter Throws In With TiVo.)
But longer-term, the work it's doing on its network should prepare Charter to do much more. It announced today that Docsis 3.0 is available on 85 percent of its footprint, with 68 percent wired up for switched digital video. Both projects are expected to finish by the end of 2011.
Although Docsis 3.0 is used to produce faster Internet speeds and SDV is primarily being used to free up bandwidth for other services, both are tools that will help MSOs prepare their jump to IP video. (See SDV: Cable's Stepping Stone to IP Video? )
It's conceivable that Charter will continue to set aside Docsis 3.0 channels for high-speed data services and over-the-top video support, but it could carve out some spectrum and bond other channels to create a wideband, IP path for its own managed services. In fact, the Docsis 3.0 specs support multicast elements that can help cable operators deliver on-demand content, and their linear channel lineups as well, more efficiently over IP. (See Docsis 3.0 Tackles Linear IP Video.)
Charter, like other MSOs, is fine-tuning its technical strategies, but Lovett called Charter's hook-up with TiVo the "first phase of our next-generation television strategy." Charter, he said, expects to launch its integrated TiVo product later this year and follow with "soft launches" to the majority of its markets by the early part of 2012.
"We feel like that's going to close the gap significantly relative to our video product," Lovett said.
Farther out on the network, Charter's been developing a hierarchical VoD platform that rides its fiber backbone, setting the table for a video-optimized content delivery network (CDN) that could come in handy for future IP video and multiscreen services. (See Charter's VoD Network Tastes of CDN .)
Lovett didn't reveal much about Charter's future plans involving TV Everywhere, but did say it's the MSO's preference to have authentication provisions built into all of its agreements with programmers.
Charter next-gen video strategy beyond the TiVo offer is said to be in flux. However, it's expected to take more shape sometime after Jay Rolls, Charter's newly named chief technology officer, takes the helm on Aug. 22. (See Cox Vet Jay Rolls Named Charter's CTO .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable
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