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Keenan's Avatar Keenan
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Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

I don't think the current model will change in that respect. In other words, if you are paying for the premium channel, you'll get all the On Demand for that channel at no additional cost.

The On Demand I'm referring to is content that is currently free from non-premium channels. I can see them wanting more for a box that provides that access, and less for a box that doesn't. You pays your money and you takes your chances.

Makes sense, still, it's annoying to those of us who do not use Comcast equipment(TiVo, computer-based CableCARD solutions, etc) that we've had content removed without any associated reduction in cost. Now, those premium channels still cost $19.99 per month, plus the cost of the Comcast STB, say around $7, which is needed in order to view the content available on the multiplex channels. So, a rough total of $27 per month per premium, and that's just insane.
Ken H's Avatar Ken H
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Originally Posted by keenan View Post

Makes sense, still, it's annoying to those of us who do not use Comcast equipment(TiVo, computer-based CableCARD solutions, etc) that we've had content removed without any associated reduction in cost. Now, those premium channels still cost $19.99 per month, plus the cost of the Comcast STB, say around $7, which is needed in order to view the content available on the multiplex channels. So, a rough total of $27 per month per premium, and that's just insane.

Isn't one of the TiVo's due to be On Demand enabled? Maybe that's not much consolation, and I agree for the price a single linear premium channel is not a great deal, even with On Demand.

Hopefully this will change with IPTV, as they could offer all the linear HD channels for all the premium channels.
Keenan's Avatar Keenan
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Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

Isn't one of the TiVo's due to be On Demand enabled? Maybe that's not much consolation, and I agree for the price a single linear premium channel is not a great deal, even with On Demand.

Hopefully this will change with IPTV.

The Premiere might possibly be in line for VOD access, don't believe the older Series 3 models are though.

Hopefully IPTV does help with that issue.
PaulGo's Avatar PaulGo
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Comcast Tests Combo Internet-Cable Device

Comcast Corp. is testing a new service that knits together television and the Internet, as the U.S. cable giant goes after rivals that threaten to undermine its business.

Under the new system, which is being tested in Augusta, Ga., content flows through a set-top box that combines features of the Web with those of a digital-video recorder, according to people familiar with the matter.

Users can watch and search a smattering of Web video through their televisions and search across live, on-demand and recorded programming.

The service, known to participants as "Spectrum" and internally as "Xcalibur," doesn't let participants freely browse the Web, though they do have some basic connections to social networks to comment on television shows, the people familiar with the matter said.

While the test is small, it marks a significant step in the efforts of the largest TV distributor in the U.S. to adapt to the rise of Internet programming and the cohort of devicessuch as Roku boxes and Apple TVthat make it easier and more convenient to watch.

To date, Comcast's set-top boxes haven't received Web content.

"We are testing many technological approaches to understand how best to meet consumer interests, and this small trial is one of those experiments," a Comcast spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

The selection of Internet content available through the test is limited, but Comcast could expand it over time, according to people familiar with the matter. One of these people said a decision whether to launch the service hasn't been made, however, and the company hasn't determined how it would price it if it proceeds.

The move is partly defensive. Cord cuttingthe decision by customers to drop their cable servicehas become a reality for cable operators for a variety of reasons, including the weak economy as well as the ease and lower cost of products and services from new companies delivering premium video online and through Internet-connected televisions and hardware.

Those efforts, including forays from giants like Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Apple Inc., haven't displaced traditional TV so far. Cable companies are quick to point out that the new players may struggle to manage the costs of delivering massive amounts of content without the infrastructure cable operators have. But they are emerging as stronger competitors as they procure more content and strike partnerships with video brands like Netflix Inc.

Other traditional TV distributors are starting to move in this direction, too. Verizon Communications Inc.'s Fios TV service offers apps for YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. AT&T Inc.'s U-verse has TV apps for sports, yellow-pages and other functions, and is testing some for social media.

DirecTV has been pushing its subscribers toward Internet-connected digital-video recorders that can record television shows and provide other services such as accessing websites such as the photo-sharing service Flickr. It expects that 40% of its subscribers will be Internet-connected by the end of 2013.

In an interview last week, Time Warner Cable Chief Executive Glenn Britt said the company could begin delivering its video service over the Internet directly to Internet-connected TVs without cable boxes as soon as 2011.

"We are embracing all this changing technology, not resisting it," he said.

Sam Rosen, a senior analyst with ABI Research, said cable companies have no choice. "If you don't put Netflix on your box, it is still going to get in the home, but it is going to be less associated with your brand," he said.

The number of U.S. households that subscribe to cable and other paid TV services fell for the first time since the advent of cable over the past two quartersby about 335,000 households out of about 100 million, according to data provider SNL Kagan.

Comcast and other cable operators say those declines are predominantly among homes opting to watch TV over the air rather than online. Comcast is the largest paid television operator in the U.S., with 22.9 million U.S. video subscribers at the end of the third quarter, 21% more than of the second largest U.S. TV-service provider, DirecTV.

Comcast says it lost approximately 275,000 video customers in the third quarter of 2010. The company expects further declines in video customers for the remainder of the year.

The test comes as Comcast's stance toward Internet-video providers is being scrutinized by regulators, as it attempts to acquire control of NBC Universal from General Electric Co. The Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission have been pushing for conditions that would prevent Comcast from withholding NBC Universal's content from online competitors, according to people familiar with the matter. The deal could close by the end of the year, these people said.

Comcast has been working on the new video initiative for more than a year, with a team reporting to Sam Schwartz, a senior executive who previously ran Comcast Interactive Capital, the cable giant's investing arm, according to people familiar with the matter.

Comcast's experimental set-top boxes are code-named "Parker" for "Spider-Man" hero Peter Parker, according to the people familiar with the matter. In a technology shift, the boxes can receive content via the technology computers use to connect to the Internet, known as IP technology, although television channels and on-demand video are still delivered through traditional cable technology.

In addition to facilitating access to Web content, IP capabilities could help the company develop and roll out new interfaces and guides faster, according to people familiar with the matter.

Rolling out more IP technology could open up new advertising opportunities for the company, allowing Comcast to target ads at individual set-top boxes much in the same way online ads are delivered to individual Web browsers. A person familiar with the matter said advertising isn't part of the current test.

The new interface Comcast is testing is intended to be more fluid and graphical. A menu displays a strip of images representing recently watched channels and programs, which expand when selected. A redesigned "guide" displays a cleaner grid of programs by network and airtime so that it's possible to watch TV on part of the screen while browsing.

The new technology could carry risks. There have at times been snags in Comcast's test, including difficulty sending video-on-demand to the new set-top boxes, a person familiar with the matter said.

The new service comes as Comcast has been trying to expand its service to other devices. It recently unveiled Xfinity TV, which allows users to access some of the cable content they subscribe to on computers and which it plans to expand to iPad and tablets.
PaulGo's Avatar PaulGo
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Comcast's connected cable box making a run at the FCC?

Well, it's no secret that Comcast is starting to experiment with web-connected cable boxes, and now it looks like one of those set tops is moseying on through the FCC. The Pace-made "Parker" appears to have passed muster with regulators and you'll find both label examples and a user manual at the source link as evidence. There isn't much to learn about the tuner or, at least not much surprising. The usual bevy of coax, HDMI, composite and component ports are around back, as well as a CableCARD slot. What is of interest is the eSATA port and SD Card slot -- the later of which appears to be meant for servicing the box. Sadly, when it comes to connectivity, there is no WiFi on board, only Ethernet. Which means you'll run more wires to connect to your local network. Hit up the source if you're a fan of bureaucratic filings.
Ken H's Avatar Ken H
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Originally Posted by PaulGo View Post

Comcast Tests Combo Internet-Cable Device

Note this article is dated December 2010.
Ken H's Avatar Ken H
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Originally Posted by PaulGo View Post

Comcast's connected cable box making a run at the FCC?

Well, it's no secret that Comcast is starting to experiment with web-connected cable boxes, and now it looks like one of those set tops is moseying on through the FCC. The Pace-made "Parker" appears to have passed muster with regulators and you'll find both label examples and a user manual at the source link as evidence. There isn't much to learn about the tuner or, at least not much surprising. The usual bevy of coax, HDMI, composite and component ports are around back, as well as a CableCARD slot. What is of interest is the eSATA port and SD Card slot -- the later of which appears to be meant for servicing the box. Sadly, when it comes to connectivity, there is no WiFi on board, only Ethernet. Which means you'll run more wires to connect to your local network. Hit up the source if you're a fan of bureaucratic filings.

The Ethernet port may be the connectivity for the entire residence, if the device contains a modem that is functional. For example in a typical home it could be connected to a wireless router.
Keenan's Avatar Keenan
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That would be awfully nice if that were the case.
PaulGo's Avatar PaulGo
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Originally Posted by Ken H View Post

Note this article is dated December 2010.

I didn't catch that but the article does make a nice introduction to the Engadget article.
RussB's Avatar RussB
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AT&T, Comcast, EPB roll out new features
Chattanooga is Comcast test market, allows some locals to sample features before they are available to public

By Chloé Morrison Published Tuesday, January 17th 2012

. . .

ComcastChattanooga test market

Chattanooga is one of a few test markets around the country, Jim Weigert, Comcast vice president and general manager, said.

The team of testers, which currently includes about 150 customers, is called the X-team.

That team also includes some employees, and between 700 and 1,000 additional testers will soon be added to the group, he said.

The X-team gives feedback on new services and apps about everything from the look and feel to the function.

The reason we are adding another 1,000 is that we are putting them in a concentrated area, not only to see if the product works well, but [to see if it functions] well from a network standpoint, he said.

One of the new features testers have been providing feedback on is the new television guide, which Comcast users see when they navigate television and movie options.

It has a new look and feel that we hope to have across this whole market later this year, Weigert said.

Another new feature X-team members have been testing is a Facebook app that allows consumers to access Facebook on the television.

The app doesn't allow users to comment, only view the page.

We felt typing on a remote would be frustrating, Weigert said.

Some testers provided feedback that they didn't like not being able to post, but, in this case, it isn't solely up to Comcast.

That's a partnership with Facebook, so we don't have full control over this, he said.

Comcast aims to use technology to help the community with issues such as health, business and education, Weigert also said.

Comcast has a partnership with the American Heart Association, and they are working together on a heart channel to educate people about health issues.

Comcast is also working with the Hamilton County YMCA to create an On Demand channel that will provide a sampling of the exercise classes offered at the local YMCAs.

Also in the works is a channel that will provide help for parents and local school children.

Comcast is working with four pilot high schoolsHoward, Normal Park, Red Bank and Soddy Daisyon programs in which students film content.

It started out as mainly sports but is expanding into academics.

There are plans to film ACT prep classes and make them available On Demand.

I'm a big believer in public education, Weigert said.

. . .

NOTE: For the complete story, click the following link:
RussB's Avatar RussB
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The following posts are from Comcast's Ted Hodgins, Sr. Director, Video Product Development - Navigation, in Media & Entertainment, "New Guide for Scientific Atlanta Cable Boxes" blog:

Ted thank you, I am assuming that guide 2.0 will be somtime in June of 2012 baring any unforeseen additional delays? However you did mention only newer boxes? Dose that imply that if we have an older box we are stuck with the guide we have now? I have two HD SA boxes explorer 4250HDC will they be able to be upgraded to guide 2.0 or 3.0? Thanks again am looking forward to the guide being more complete than what it is.


Jim | January 13, 2012 5:37 PM

Hello again Jin Nava.

On Screen Guide 2.0 is already available to many customers in several selected areas of Florida, Georgia and Mississippi on the RNG 200N cable box as we introduce AnyRoom DVR to our Scientific Atlanta/Cisco customers. Customers would have to pro-actively subscribe to that new service and get the new guide experience along with it.

The RNG boxes have more memory and can support the more advanced functionality and graphics. You will see On Screen Guide 2.0 coming out to many more SA/Cisco markets this year. We have taken advantage of the additional horsepower, memory and processing speed in our newest RNG devices. Those will be the boxes that get more features, more graphics and a much more robust on-screen guide.

All of the Cisco branded RNG series boxes will eventually get On Screen Guide 2.0 The non-RNG boxes are not capable of supporting On Screen Guide 2.0.

If the new guide is something that is important to you and something that you really want, we can certainly arrange to swap out your cable boxes when the time comes.

Thanks again for your comments and thanks for being a Comcast customer.

Ted Hodgins replied to comment from Jim | January 18, 2012 5:03 PM

PaulGo's Avatar PaulGo
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Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC
January 19, 2012 | Jeff Baumgartner |

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is apparently inching closer to deploying a souped-up, IP-connected video gateway after the latest version of the Pace plc -made device recently passed through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for testing.

Engadget on Wednesday caught wind of the FCC filings that included an updated user's manual, which has since been taken down. The box, code-named "Parker" and a component of Comcast's next-generation Xcalibur video platform, sports a Docsis 3.0 cable modem; a CableCARD slot, USB, HDMI and Ethernet ports; an eSATA link for an "optional" external hard drive; and an SD Card port that's being set aside for "future use." The FCC took a look at an earlier version of the device in late 2010.

Comcast's expected to use the hybrid RF/IP gateway to help it launch a new cloud-based navigation platform and a platform that will integrate Web-sourced, third-party applications. How many apps the MSO will support at launch is unknown, but apps from Pandora Media Inc. and Facebook , plus news and weather widgets, were among those gracing the device used for Comcast's small Xcalibur field trial in Augusta, Ga. In addition to apps, the D3 modem in the box is expected to play an important role in Comcast's IP video migration. (See Docsis 3.0 Tackles Linear IP Video.)

The FCC stamp gets the device over an important barrier. A Comcast spokeswoman declined to say when and where it will launch the box first, but Comcast Converged Products President Sam Schwartz said last fall that the MSO intends to deploy it broadly in 2012. (See Comcast to Swing Xcalibur Wide in 2012.)

In the meantime, Comcast has started to reclaim all of its analog spectrum in some markets to free up capacity for more HD channels and new services such as Xcalibur. Comcast has about a quarter of the job done, with Denver among the latest markets to start the process of shutting down all analog TV services. (See Comcast Starts to Kiss Analog TV Goodbye.)

To get a sense of what Xcalibur and the Parker box have in store, here's a clip of the demo Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts did at last year's Cable Show in last June.
RussB's Avatar RussB
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The following posts are from Comcast's Ted Hodgins, Sr. Director, Video Product Development - Navigation, in Media & Entertainment, "New Guide for Scientific Atlanta Cable Boxes" blog:

On-Screen Guide 2.0 is being deployed to Comcast customers in SA/Cisco markets with AnyRoom DVR functionality. See the underlined sections for more information.


Hi Ted,
While scrolling through your responses to other posters, I noticed that it seems like you are saying that the upcoming Caller ID on TV/etc. features are only going to be available on your non Cisco RNG boxes. Is this true, or am I misunderstanding? I live in the South Shore area of MA and I have a Cisco RNG 150N HD box. If I did misunderstand, and the update will come through on my box, do you possibly have any dates on when this may happen? Also, would the OnScreen Guide 2.0 work on my box, and if not, would Comcast offices in my area have it in stock (and would you have any dates on that either?)? Thanks in advance for any information you may have,

Aaron | January 22, 2012 11:13 AM


Hello Aaron and thanks for your questions. Sorry for any confusion I may have caused.

Caller ID to the TV and many other features are scheduled to be available to most all of our Cisco and Scientific Atlanta branded cable boxes. The few exceptions are a small number of older set tops that don't have the internal memory to support those newer features, specifically the SA 2000 and 8000 models. For some time we have been actively removing those older memory starved cable boxes from our customer's homes and replacing them with newer models in anticipation of these scheduled new features.

Cisco RNG devices are scheduled to get all of the features I have listed, either via an upgrade to the current guide (scheduled to start over the summer) or with On-Screen Guide 2.0 or On-Screen Guide 3.0. On-Screen Guide 2.0
has already started to roll out to customers and it is available now in most all of our Cisco areas of Florida, Georgia and Mississippi with Anyroom DVR. Additional areas will be coming on-line with On-Screen Guide 2.0 over the next 30 days.

Eventually we will also deliver this guide to our Cisco RNG devices. On-Screen Guide 3.0 is currently available to customers in Augusta, GA. We also have additional markets for On-Screen Guide 3.0 scheduled for this year.

Some RNG devices may go right to On-Screen Guide 2.0 while others may start with the features being added to the current guide. This will depend on the timing and readiness for each area. I don't have any dates yet for On-Screen Guide 2.0 or 3.0 for your area of Massachusetts.

Ted Hodgins replied to comment from Aaron | January 24, 2012 10:54 AM

RussB's Avatar RussB
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Comcast reveals social TV strategy that rewards subscribers in patent application

January 27, 2012 11:13am ET | By Steve Donohue

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) is developing technology that would allow it to notify subscribers when their friends begin watching a particular TV show or movie, and reward customers with discounts on their cable bills when a program they recommend is viewed by another subscriber, according to a U.S. patent application obtained by FierceCable.

The nation's largest cable provider may also use its interactive program guides to display the most popular "trending" shows in each city that it operates, similar to the way Twitter identifies trending stories. Subscribers would be able to set DVR recordings or create video-on-demand playlists based on content recommended by friends or shows discovered through trending panels, according to the patent application entitled "content recommendation system."

Comcast and other cable and satellite providers have been studying ways to incorporate social TV recommendations into their program guides. The strategy could help subscribers to more easily navigate hundreds of TV channels and VOD content choices, and impact ratings for cable and broadcast networks.

Comcast CEO Brian Roberts demonstrated at The Cable Show convention last June in Chicago how the company could integrate content recommended by Facebook users into its next generation Xfinity TV program guide. The MSO is using its Augusta, Ga., system to test its new digital cable platform, including social TV recommendation technology.

Comcast wouldn't say when it plans to begin incorporating social TV recommendations into its program guide. "It's still too early to discuss any specifics regarding how we might use this particular technology," spokeswoman Jenni Moyer said Friday. "While we regularly file patents, the actual implementation can vary across products," she added.

While it's not clear how Comcast plans to use social TV technology, or when it will begin rolling it out, the patent reveals several unique features that could be added to its program guide, including:

* Viewers could receive notifications when their friends change channels. "Recommendations and posts from friends can serve to influence a user's content habits ... messages may also be posted whenever a friend indicates that they are accessing content," Comcast writes in the patent application.
* Comcast subscribers may be able to transmit program recommendations to subscribers of other content providers. Comcast cited Netflix and Hulu as two examples in the patent.
* Subscribers that recommend shows, or achieve milestones such as watching five episodes of Seinfeld could receive rewards ranging from coupons or discounts to graphical badges similar to those used by social TV check-in services Miso or GetGlue.
* Subscribers could receive awards for "quirky or unexpected behavior," according to the patent. "For example, an Easter Egg' award can be defined to grant a badge if a user watches five kitten videos in the same evening," it states in the patent.

Cable technology providers are also ramping up their focus on social TV recommendations. Set-top vendor Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI) demonstrated at its SCTE Cable-Tec Expo exhibit in November how a cable subscriber that recommended TV shows through social networks could earn coins that could be redeemed for merchandise from an operator.

The inventors listed on the patent application currently work for Comcast's Silicon Valley Innovation Center, and include the founders of TunerFish, a social TV startup that Comcast picked up through its 2008 acquisition of Plaxo. Inventors listed on the patent are John McRea, Nida Zada, Ryan King, Jason Li, Christopher Connolly, Peter Lester and Christopher Kennedy.
PaulGo's Avatar PaulGo
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Just a bit of information about a Standard definition DTA's ability to pick up and display a HD channel in standard definition. Comcast - Montgomery County, MD I believe accidentally added channel 808 (Newschannel 8) which is HD to the DTA lineup. On my Thomson brand DTA it picks up the picture and sound! I also have a Motorola SD DTA that only picks up the sound but no picture. In addition I have a DCT700 (SD)which has no sound and no picture on that channel. I looked at the channel mapping for channel 808 on the DTAs and it was mapped to 611mhz which is the HD frequency for that channel. The SD version of the channel is 28 which is 681mhz.
what does it mean - probably very little except Thomson built in the ability to decode HD signals.
Ken H's Avatar Ken H
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From Multichannel News

Inside a Comcast 'AnyPlay' Installation

By Leslie Ellis

Last Monday, a new gadget arrived here in the over-the-top video lab: Comcast’s “AnyPlay” streamer, which makes it possible for tripleplay customers to stream live and linear TV to an iPad.What lab, you say? It all started last summer. The point of it is to see, firsthand, how and why everyday consumers visit the “connected” side of connected TVs, and whether the stuff people regularly watch is even available on those other screens and services.

That meant hooking up tons of gear. Panasonic’s “Viera” connected TV, Boxee (live TV dongle on order), Samsung’s connected Blu-Ray player, Apple TV, TiVo, Xbox 360 Kinect, Google TV, and standalone streamers made by Sony, NeoTV and Roku.

If you or someone you know is considering any over-the-top streamer as an alternative to a multichannel-video subscription, do this first: Make a list of what all you watch. Why? Chances are good that everything you watch won’t be available.

That’s where AnyPlay is different - and I’ll say it - better. It’s an extension of the TV programming you already pay for, and because you can only view it when you’re physically tied to the cable modem and router that’s playing it out (which keeps content owners happy), chances are high that on AnyPlay, what you watch is what you watch, just on a different screen.

So far, AnyPlay is on trial in Nashville, Tenn., and, happily, Denver. The install involved the Motorola “Televation” box, developed jointly with Comcast Labs.

It’s a standalone box. No video outputs. Coax in, Ethernet out to the modem/wireless router and voila: television on the iPad. (Droids and other devices to come.)

In tech terms, the box marries the front end of a CableCard-based settop with transcoding (MPEG transport to IP) and digital rights management (DRM).

Signal flow goes like this: Video comes into the box over traditional QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation) delivery. It gets decoded and decrypted, then shaped into IP, then wrapped in DRM (Motorola’s “Secure Media”), then streamed over Ethernet to the modem/ router, and from its Wi-Fi spigot to the Xfinity app on the iPad.

The installation involved hooking up the box, making sure the most recent version of the Xfinity app was on the iPad, then enabling the app. (”We found an AnyPlay box! Would you like to enable AnyPlay now for playback on this device?” Oh yes.)

After that, a “play now” button shows up next to the “watch on TV” and “record” buttons on the iPad.

From an Xfinity app perspective, AnyPlay is one in a string of feature additions. It started with DVR settings and snazzier navigation. Now, streaming to tablets within the home. It’s an all-inone app that moves new services to market quickly.

How does AnyPlay compare to the other lab streamers? Put it this way: the lab stuff is in a back room. All those screens, all those services and no TV at the desk - until now! (I expect my quality of work to degrade precipitously.)

PaulGo's Avatar PaulGo
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Comcast is actively pushing for the encryption of all channels:

FCC rule change could kill off Boxee and require set-top boxes for basic cable
February 8, 2012 | Jennifer Van Grove

A provision of the Cable Television Protection and Competition Act that requires cable companies to provide unencrypted basic-tier cable could soon become obsolete, putting the life of young set-top box-maker Boxee in jeopardy.

A rule change, supported by the cable companies, is currently being considered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that would enable the encryption of basic tier cable. A decision could be made in just a few weeks time.

The change would force consumers who currently connect their television sets directly to cable lines for free or low-cost basic-tier cable to use a set-top box (typically provided by cable companies for a monthly fee) for the same access.

In the late eighties and early nineties, increasing numbers of cable systems started to encrypt their signals, and the rule was adopted to allow people to at least access some programming without renting a converter box, said John Bergmayer, senior staff attorney at open Internet advocate group Public Knowledge.

Depending on how the proposed change is enacted, low-income consumers could be hit with fees for services that were previously available to them free of charge. Public Knowledge, which initially came out in support of the proposed change because the FCC has already been issuing waivers on a system-by-system basis since 2009, has petitioned the FCC to allow for a transition period and require cable companies to provide low-capability set-top boxes free of charge to prevent bill shock.

But the group eventually stumbled upon a harmful side-effect of the new legislation that could wipe out innovation in the TV sector, and is now asking the FCC to seek further information.

We think it's worthwhile to make sure that the FCC doesn't do a rule change that has negative consequences that they didn't foresee, Bergmayer told VentureBeat. The FCC, he said, has previously come out in support of innovation and competition around entertainment devices, but the rule-making should jeopardize the well-being of the startups bringing these very same devices to market.

Boxee, one such startup, makes a set-top box for watching Internet content on television sets. The company recently released a Live TV stick that acts as a high-powered HD antenna and provides streamers with access to local stations. The offering is the most compelling release yet for would-be cord cutters and thus a threat to the cable companies. But should the FCC eliminate unencrypted access to basic tier capable, Boxee's Live TV stick would be useless for 40 percent of owners, and its business would be at risk.

As such, the startup, which only recently found out about the proposed change, presented concerns and research to the FCC on February 1. Boxee told that the FCC that permitting encryption would force millions of consumers to rent set-top boxes, harm startups in the space, and stifle competition in the marketplace. It also proposed the adoption of IP-based standards as an alternative solution.

Now, Boxee is asking its supporters to send notes to the FCC, and Public Knowledge is lending its support to the comparably little New York-based company as it goes to head-to-head with cable companies.

Unfortunately, the gossip on the street, Bergmayer said, is that the FCC could issue a ruling in a few weeks. The organization hopes that the FCC will keep the docket open long enough to make a more informed
RussB's Avatar RussB
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Comcast to market 'X1' next generation digital TV service to homes

February 15, 2012 10:22am ET | By Steve Donohue

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) will launch a cloud-based digital video product called X1 in several markets reaching several hundred thousand subscribers this year, CEO Brian Roberts said Wednesday. The digital cable service, which Comcast has been testing on a system in Georgia, will offer a new user interface that includes social TV recommendations and access to Facebook, Pandora Internet radio and news and weather apps.

"It will radically improve the experience over time, but more importantly it is creating the unlocking mechanism for future innovation that will then reside on some of the best servers in the cloud," Roberts said on Comcast's fourth-quarter earnings call, noting that the cloud-based architecture would allow Comcast to offer new services "without ever having to come back to your house" with a cable technician. "Getting things into the cloud over the cable box will have broad implications over time," he added.

Comcast search and discovery senior director of product management Brian Curtis said in December that X1 will offer a "My TV" section on its program guide that will deliver personalized TV recommendations to customers. X1 will also integrate social TV recommendations from Facebook and other social networks.

Comcast has been testing X1 with about 1,000 homes in Augusta, Georgia, using set-tops from Pace (LSE: PIC). The cable MSO has called the tests of the cloud-based service Project Xcalibur, and had previously referred to the rollout as its "next generation Xfinity TV" service.

While Comcast hasn't said how much it will charge subscribers each month for X1, Comcast Cable Communications CEO Neil Smit referred to X1 as a "high end" video service on Wednesday's earnings call.
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Comcast IDs Cloud TV Product as 'X1'

February 15, 2012 | Jeff Baumgartner
Light Reading Cable

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s next-gen, cloud-based video platform has a new name and a loose subscriber target for 2012.

What was previously known as Xcalibur will be branded as "X1" as the MSO starts to roll it out to a number of "key" markets, with the expectation that it will be in front of "hundreds of thousands" of customers this year, Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts predicted Wednesday on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call. (See Comcast to Swing Xcalibur Wide in 2012.)

That'll be a drop in the bucket compared to Comcast's total video subscriber base of 22.34 million, but it's a start. "2012 is about getting [X1] commercialized in a number of key markets," Roberts said.

Augusta, Ga., is the site of a small Xcalibur technical trial based on a video gateway developed in tandem with U.K.-based vendor Pace plc . The idea is to put the user interface and application platform on the network, a move that should help Comcast develop and deploy new apps and navigation tools more rapidly than it can in older boxes that require lengthy regressing testing whenever even the simplest software change is made. (See Comcast Courts the Cloud, Comcast Confirms Xcalibur Partners, Comcast's Web-Slinging Set-Top Visits the FCC and Comcast Demos New Web-Based TV Service.)

The next-gen platform will also help Comcast deliver video services to connected TVs, tablets and other displays that don't use a traditional set-top box. Multiple industry sources also indicate that Xcalibur, coupled with the MSO's broad deployment of Docsis 3.0, is forming the foundation of Comcast's migration to an all-IP video platform. Comcast is also in the process of reclaiming all its analog spectrum, a strategy that will clear up valuable capacity it can apply to Xcalbur/X1 and more HD channels. (See Comcast Starts to Kiss Analog TV Goodbye and Comcast 'Completes' Docsis 3.0 Rollout.)

"X1 is a beginning of a new way of communicating with the television device, which is coming from the cloud, not solely from the box," Roberts explained, referencing Comcast's recent work to pipe services to connected TVs from Samsung Corp. and the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox 360. (See CES 2011: Samsung Puts MSOs in the Picture and Comcast, Verizon Connect With the Xbox 360.)

An update on Comcast's new video platform comes after the MSO significantly improved video subscriber losses in the fourth quarter of 2012, shedding just 17,000 versus the 135,000 it lost in the year-ago period. (See Comcast Narrows Gap on Video Sub Losses .)

Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. Inc. analyst Craig Moffett predicted recently that Comcast's new video platform could help the MSO close the gap completely and perhaps begin to gain subs as early as 2013. (See Can Comcast Stop Losing Video Subscribers?)

Roberts isn't willing to stick his neck out that far yet. "We may not get back to full growth on video for a while, because we don't see housing growth at the moment, but someday that's going to happen," he said.

Other big projects
X1 is just one big project on Comcast's docket for 2012. Comcast is in the process of expanding its home security/monitoring service to most of its markets, and expects to deploy Wi-Fi to additional cities in 2012. (See Comcast Unlocks Home Security Service.)

Comcast Cable President and CEO Neil Smit said the MSO has deployed about 4,000 Wi-Fi access points in Philadelphia and parts of New Jersey and Delaware. He declined to say which cities were on deck, but his comments come as the cable industry starts to ramp up a unified Wi-Fi roaming architecture that will expand on the work Comcast, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) have done in the Northeastern U.S. (See Cable Sizes Up National Wi-Fi Play .)

Smit noted that Comcast's Wi-Fi strategy will center on Internet access rather than on adding a wireless voice component.
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The following posts are from Comcast's Ted Hodgins, Sr. Director, Video Product Development - Navigation, in Media & Entertainment, "New Guide for Scientific Atlanta Cable Boxes" blog:

In a future guide, the DVR may record a show at a different time if there is a conflict. Note: It is not clear what guide this will be in.


Thanks for the reply about how it records new shows. Just a suggestion - if it misses a specific episode due to a conflict or whatever, why not just save the title and/or episode number of that show and when it sees that same title/episode number again, record it?

Ian replied to comment from Ted Hodgins | February 11, 2012 5:54 PM


Hello Ian and thanks for your question.

There are a couple of things in the works to support your suggested example and improve the customer experience.

We are working on improving the guide listings data and the DVR software to support automatic re-routing of DVR recordings in alternate non-conflicting time slots. This would alleviate some recording conflicts and provide a much better outcome.

Ted Hodgins replied to comment from Ian | February 15, 2012 4:37 PM

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The following article could affect Comcast since about 20% of its market footprint uses Cisco/SA set-top boxes. Also, Videoscape sounds similar to Comcast's Xfinity Spectrum DVR (X1).

Cisco 'loves STBs,' but is the business for sale anyway?

By Jim O'Neill
FierceCable - February 21, 2012

Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) is trying to put a lid on a rumor that it's shopping its Scientific-Atlanta set-top box business, a story the NY Post broke on Sunday.

In a company blog posted yesterday afternoon, Director of Corporate Communications John Earnhardt wrote: "Every few months there seems to be a rumor or speculative comment about our commitment to our set top box business. Let me be as clear as I can: we love set-top boxes. But, you don't have to believe me," he added, pointing to a quote from CEO John Chambers during the company's second quarter earnings call.

"In terms of set-top boxes, we are very much committed to this marketplace," said Chambers. "Our SP customers asked us to partner with them as they move from traditional set top boxes to IP set top boxes to the cloud, our Videoscape solution. Receptivity so far has been very, very good in terms of our strategy."

The Post story cited an unnamed source for the information, a point Earnhardt focused on, saying, "I hope that this clarifies any erroneous, un-sourced comments that might be out there in the marketplace."

But Light Reading Cable, in a story today, said it, too, had heard from an "industry source familiar with Cisco's plans" that the company was, in fact, "shopping it selectively," saying that it was unclear what piece of the STB business might be for sale.

The Post's Sunday article said Cisco had put the business up for sale six years after buying it for $7 billion. Cisco declined to comment on the report to the Post, and again to Light Reading Cable.

Cisco, the Post said, is looking to exit what it sees as a business in decline, STBs have shrinking margins and are on the wane as other products like smart TVs and connected devices become more common. And, it said, the company likely would focus on its Videoscape product that it rolled out at CES in January 2011. Videoscape was built using technology Cisco acquired from Scientific-Atlanta as well as three other firms it acquired in 2011: Inlet Technologies, ExtendMedia and BNI Video.

Videoscape is Cisco's vision of TV for the future, bringing together digital TV and online content with social media and communications applications to create an immersive home and mobile video entertainment experience. Although Videoscape includes a set-top box and will help pay-TV operators stay relevant in a consumer space that is rapidly evolving to demand more over-the-top content, it is equally about merging the video flow into a single, high-quality stream--with Cisco at the helm.

Chambers earlier this month said the company has seen strong demand for Videoscape as more of its customers looked to offer over-the-top solutions. The company reported a 23 percent bump to its video business in its just-reported second fiscal quarter.

Cisco last July, as a part of CEO John Chambers drive to trim $1 billion in expenses by trimming its workforce and shedding under-performing businesses, sold a key Scientific-Atlanta STB manufacturing facility located in Juarez, Mexico to Foxconn Technology Group. The sale closed late last year.

NOTE: There are additional links at the web site for more information.
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Comcast Launches New Streaming Video Service: Xfinity StreampixTM

Posted February 21, 2012
Fierce Cable

Disney-ABC Television Group, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution and Cookie Jar Entertainment Sign-On as Initial Content Providers

Available This Week, Streampix Enables Customers to Instantly Stream Numerous Complete Past Seasons of Hit TV Shows, Top-Quality Movies and Popular Children's Franchises

Streampix Complements Xfinity's 75,000 TV Shows and Movies Already Available to Customers on Multiple Platforms

PHILADELPHIA, PA - February 21, 2012

Comcast today announced the launch of Xfinity StreampixTM, a new subscription video service that enables Xfinity video customers to instantly view favorite movies and TV shows in and out of the home, including numerous past seasons of current hit shows and full series, to multiple screens and devices including TVs (as a subscription On Demand folder), online platforms and mobile devices. This new service complements the 75,000 TV shows and movies currently available on Xfinity On Demand, and through the Xfinity TV app. To launch Streampix, Comcast has entered into licensing agreements with leading movie studios and programming providers including Disney-ABC Television Group*, NBCUniversal, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution and Cookie Jar Entertainment and built a line-up of top-rated content, which is available starting this week.

"Xfinity TV is a one-stop source for the most video entertainment on any screen and it just keeps getting better," said Marcien Jenckes, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Video Services, Comcast. "Our goal is to consistently deliver greater value to our customers and to bring the best anytime, anywhere entertainment on multiple platforms. Streampix is another step moving TV Everywhere forward by giving customers access to an even greater library of popular choices to watch."

This week, Streampix is launching with top-notch programming and will significantly increase the breadth of entertainment choices for Xfinity customers in the coming months to include complete seasons of TV series, popular children's franchises and hit movies available to instantly stream across multiple platforms including:

Past Full Seasons of TV Series
30 Rock (NBC)
Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Heroes (NBC)
Lost (ABC)
Married...with Children (Sony)
The Office (NBC)
Ugly Betty (ABC)
The Secret Life of the American Teenager (ABC Family)

Analyze That (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Brokeback Mountain (Universal)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Sony)
Ocean's Eleven (Warner Bros.Pictures)
Stuart Little (Sony)
When Harry Met Sally (Warner Bros. Pictures)
The Big Lebowski (Universal)

Kids Programming
Inspector Gadget (Cookie Jar Entertainment)
Paddington Bear (Cookie Jar Entertainment)
Strawberry Shortcake (Cookie Jar Entertainment)
The Suite Life of Zack & Cody (Disney Channel)
Wizards of Waverly Place (Disney Channel)

In the coming year, the Streampix service will be available on additional devices such as Xbox 360 and AndroidTM-powered devices. Streampix will be included as part of many Xfinity triple-play packages, Blast!+ and Blast! Extra video/high-speed Internet packages, as well as separately for $4.99 a month with other video packages, and enables the company to have greater flexibility with packaging and bundling options. With Streampix, the Xfinity TV service is a comprehensive video solution that lets users watch TV episodes of current seasons and complete past seasons of broadcast and cable hits. Xfinity TV also offers a suite of tools to personalize and manage viewing across screens for no additional charge through and the Xfinity TV app. Xfinity TV will continue to make more entertainment choices and personalization tools available across screens and through additional devices in the future.

About Comcast Cable
Comcast Corporation (Nasdaq: CMCSA) ( is one of the nation's leading providers of entertainment, information and communications products and services. Comcast is principally involved in the operation of cable systems through Comcast Cable and in the development, production and distribution of entertainment, news, sports and other content for global audiences through NBCUniversal. Comcast Cable is one of the nation's largest video, high-speed Internet and phone providers to residential and business customers. Comcast is the majority owner and manager of NBCUniversal, which owns and operates entertainment and news cable networks, the NBC and Telemundo broadcast networks, local television station groups, television production operations, a major motion picture company and theme parks.

*Licensing agreement with Disney-ABC Television does not include theatrical movie releases.
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Why Cisco Wants Out of Set-Tops (Or Not)

Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) badly wants to sell its set-top box business, multiple sources tell Light Reading, but CEO John Chambers is adamant that Cisco has no such plans.

Let's start with the case why Cisco would want out: shrinking margins.

"The set-top box business sucks right now for anybody," says an industry source who's close to the market, noting that Cisco has hired an investment banking firm to find some prospective buyers for that part of the business. Another source says Cisco has been pitching the idea "selectively." (See Cisco: 'We Love Set-Top Boxes' and Cisco Puts STB Unit Up for Sale.)

Margins are worsening thanks to heavy-handed price cutting by Samsung Corp. as part of its strategy at Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Cisco's biggest set-top customer, Bright House Networks and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC).

A source says Samsung's kept the pressure on by dropping its price on fully-featured HD-DVRs and less-capable client boxes by more than 20 percent in the last 12 months. "They [Samsung] have made a long-term commitment to this market, and they are doing it through pricing," the source says.

Additionally, Samsung's set-top group is part of its consumer electronics division. Some MSOs like that structure, because the vendor can help them develop concurrently on set-tops and on Samsung connected TVs -- an evolving strategy that box competitors like Cisco, Motorola Mobility Inc. (NYSE: MMI) and Pace Micro Technology would have trouble matching.
And Samsung's approach with major MSOs means Cisco's STB pricing, even on existing contracts, isn't necessarily fixed. Some of its larger customers have stipulated in supply contracts that the vendor keep pricing within a whiff of the lowest rates for like products or risk losing the deal. "Cisco's realized that they can't compete on a pricing standpoint," says a source who is familiar with the policy.

Cisco's rebuttal
Chambers, though, insists Cisco doesn't even question keeping set-tops. He says they are a central piece in Cisco's long-term video strategy and because service providers consider it important for Cisco to stay in the business.

In a roundtable session with press on Wednesday, covering a wide scope of topics, Chambers had to chuckle about getting asked "every three months" about whether Cisco will sell the set-top business.

"After growing 23 percent last quarter? Can you imagine what our service providers would do to us if we said we're moving out of the set-top business?" Chambers said. "For us to move out of a market where we're a leader and the market's evolving as we hoped -- that would just make no sense."

Cisco's belief is that video will ultimately live in the cloud -- where Cisco's Videoscape framework would connect it to a variety of devices and networks. That transition will take at least five years, during which time set-tops will change accordingly, starting with a shift to being IP-based, Chambers said.

Cisco typically doesn't comment on rumors, but Chambers seemed eager to squelch this one. "I'm surprised you aren't beating me up on why we even let that rumor get out, given how important it is to all our customers, from the AT&Ts to the Verizons, to Cox to Time Warner Cable, to the Deutsche Telekoms, to the BTs -- I mean, this is mainline for them."

Who would buy it?
The New York Post's original story about Cisco's interest in selling its set-top business identified private equity firms among the likely suitors. Other observers tell Light Reading Cable that Cisco might get some interest from Asian manufacturers that are looking to break into domestic cable. Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. once had eyes for Motorola, but U.S. government scrutiny on the Chinese giant might make a play for Cisco's set-top unit a tough sell.
But what's left for Cisco to sell? It still has lots of set-top box customers, and sales to service providers did rise 23 percent, as Chambers noted. So, it still might appeal to a set-top player that wants to expand its U.S. presence, such as Pace plc .

However, it's not the same standalone business it used to be after Cisco sold off its set-top manufacturing facility, and it no longer spins its own set-top silicon, a previous strategy that helped Cisco differentiate while also helping MSOs keep Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM) in check.

Cisco still has a set-top box design and engineering group, but even that's smaller now that some engineers who joined Cisco via the Scientific-Atlanta acquisition have since left.

It's also unclear if Cisco would pitch its conditional access system as part of the package. Cisco might try to keep that piece and continue to sell CableCARD security modules, which have better margins than the set-top boxes they are slotted into.

That would also help Cisco say with a straight face that it's indeed committed to the set-top box market, while also ensuring that its Videoscape platform can be integrated with set-top boxes from any supplier.
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TiVo powers Comcast OTT video play, will supply gateway devices to cable ops

Fierce Cable
By Steve Donohue
February 24, 2012

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) installers in the San Francisco Bay area will soon begin deploying TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO) DVRs that will allow subscribers to access over-the-top video content from Netflix (Nasdaq: NFLX), Hulu and other online providers, in addition to the MSO's Xfinity On Demand lineup.

TiVo and Comcast announced in May that Comcast subscribers would be able to buy TiVo Premiere DVRs in retail outlets, and have Comcast techs install the boxes. TiVo CEO Tom Rogers said on the company's fourth-quarter earnings call that Comcast will support the TiVo DVRs in "many other major markets" following the rollout in San Francisco.

Comcast's TiVo partnership could appeal to subscribers who want easy access to Netflix and other online video providers, but also want all of the products available in its triple play. It could also help the MSO reduce capital spending by delivering its digital cable programming to a CE device. Comcast also has an agreement with Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) which will allow Xfinity TV subscribers who purchase an Xbox 360 to access programming from their cable subscriptions through the gaming console.

TiVo, which has distribution deals with Charter Communications (Nasdaq: CHTR), Suddenlink Communications, RCN, Grande Communications and several international cable MSOs, said that it will supply operators with gateway devices and thin-client IP set-tops. "It's a way for multiple set-tops in a household to be served. It works with a core unit, a gateway unit, that allows for multiple streams to multiple television sets as part of a whole-home solution. It is something that we will deliver to a number of operators that will be looking for it in the middle of the year," Rogers said.

TiVo also announced a licensing agreement earlier this week with cable set-top manufacturer Pace (LSE: PIC). The companies said that Pace licensed TiVo's hardware porting kit, and will work with Pace to deploy TiVo's software and user interface on Pace set-tops and gateways. It's worth noting that Pace is the set-top manufacturer that has supplied an IP set-top to Comcast for tests of its new X1 advanced video service in Augusta, Ga.
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Comcast adds night vision cameras, smart thermostat, other sensors to home security service

By Steve Donohue
February 28, 2012

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) said it added several new features to its home monitoring service, including indoor and outdoor night vision cameras, thermostat controls, carbon monoxide alarms and flood sensors that would warn a subscriber if his washing machine or furnace springs a leak.

The MSO has also changed the name of its home monitoring service from Xfinity Home Security to Xfinity Home, which Comcast SVP and general manager of new businesses Mitch Bowling said in a blog post reflects its broader offering. Bowling said Comcast signed an agreement with smart home solutions provider EcoFactor to supply customers with thermostats that can adjust heating and air conditioning based on real-time weather data and heating and cooling patterns that it "learns" from subscribers.

Comcast hasn't yet released pricing for the new Xfinity Home products, including the costs of the night vision cameras.

The MSO's home monitoring service could increase its average revenue per subscriber and help it compete with a similar offering from rival Verizon (NYSE: VZ).
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Their online DVR Manager works so sluggish and buggy that I'll give them a good few months to iron out the kinks first before giving them this home security business. Do you guys have better luck w/ their online DVR Manager?
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Comcast/TiVo deal an indicator of big changes in TV's tech infrastructure

By Mari Silbey | February 24, 2012, 12:19 PM PST

Comcast will soon be offering video on demand (VoD) services to TV subscribers who tune in with a TiVo. While TiVo owners have had access to Comcast's linear TV services for years, the cable company's Xfinity VoD library has remained stubbornly out of reach. That's all about to change, however, with a new integration effort that puts Xfinity On Demand right alongside Netflix, Amazon and Hulu on the TiVo menu screen.

The Comcast news is good for TiVo users, but it's even more interesting as an indicator of where TV is headed. Comcast will deliver its on-demand movies and TV shows to TiVo by using an IP back channel to initiate VoD sessions. Typically, cable providers use something called quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) channels for TV services, but there's an industry shift underway. Comcast's use of IP with TiVo - even just for communications with a VoD server - represents a milestone in that larger transition.

As Internet-connected devices have taken off, the cable industry has had to come to grips with the fact that people want access to TV everywhere, whether there's a TV tuner available or not. Shifting to IP delivery makes it a lot easier to support broader access, and so cable operators have been investigating a migration to IP for years. Unfortunately, there is a lot of legacy infrastructure in place that makes it difficult to pull off a wholesale switch. Instead, operators have started to offer limited IP applications while making more gradual changes to the underlying delivery networks.

Other examples of Comcast's IP moves include the company's iPad app, and the upcoming deployment of Xfinity TV on the Xbox 360. Comcast isn't alone either. The largest cable providers all stream TV to mobile devices over IP now, and some companies are experimenting with combining QAM and IP delivery using their own hybrid set-tops or gateways. Meanwhile, AT&T has delivered TV over IP since it first launched the U-verse television service, and while Verizon uses QAM for broadcast channels, it relies on IP for FiOS video on demand.

It will take TV service providers a long time to move everything over to IP, but there is more and more evidence that the role of IP in TV delivery is growing. There's a revolution in the works.
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Comcast Cable CEO Smit offers sneak peek at X1 service

By Steve Donohue
February 29, 2012

Comcast Cable Communication (Nasdaq: CMCSA) CEO Neil Smit offered attendees at a Deutsche Bank investor conference in New York a sneak peak of the company's X1 digital video service Wednesday morning, including images from a program guide that will offer subscribers personalized TV recommendations.

"It's all about discovering content," Smit said, noting that X1 will rely on a recommendation engine that suggests TV shows and movies to viewers. For example, subscribers who select a movie from the Xfinity On Demand library will receive prompts such as "more like this," he explained.

Comcast has been testing X1 in Augusta, Ga., and plans to launch it in several markets this year. Based on Smit's remarks, the MSO also may be testing X1 in employee homes near its headquarters in Philadelphia.

"I find that that's the way I'm watching TV these days," Smit said, referring to titles recommended by the X1 interactive program guide.

X1 bears some resemblances to the Interactive Media Guide Verizon (NYSE: VZ) uses for its FiOS TV service, as both rely on poster art to display VOD titles and offer subscribers apps that track local weather and traffic. But one key difference is that X1 will allow subscribers to watch live TV programming through a box in the upper right hand corner of the screen. FiOS TV subscribers can't watch live TV while navigating its VOD interface.

Comcast has said that it will incorporate social TV recommendations into X1, allowing subscribers to share program suggestions with friends on Facebook and Twitter. The MSO has also patented technology that could allow it to reward subscribers who recommend content to friends.

For more:
- view slides from Smit's presentation (PDF)

- listen to the webcast (registration required)
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Smit: Factors Leading to Subscriber Improvements Sustainable
But Cable CEO Won't Set Date For Video Growth

Mike Farrell -- Multichannel News, 2/29/2012 2:56:46 PM

Comcast Cable CEO Neil Smit said the company's strong fourth quarter subscriber performance was a combination of sustainable efforts across all lines of the business, but stopped short of predicting when the cable giant will cross into positive video customer growth.

Comcast lost just 17,000 video customers in the fourth quarter (compared to a loss of 135,000 in the prior year), significantly less than analysts' expectations. For the full year, Comcast lost 460,000 video customers for the full year, 40% fewer than in 2010.

Smit, speaking at the Deutsche Bank Media & Telecom conference in Palm Beach, Fla., Wednesday, said the improved performance was the result of several factors, including a sharp decline in the level of telco overbuilds in the period from 2.5 million in 2010 to 1.1 million in 2011. But the main catalysts weren't one-time gains, but sustainable measures such as launching new products (16 in 2011, more than the previous two years combined), improved customer service (Comcast reduced truck rolls by 2 million and calls to its service agents by 8 million in the year), and improved marketing.

"Of those net gain improvements, most of it was driven by retention and less churn," Smit said. "All these changes are sustainable; they're not just one-time promotions and discounts."

But Smit stopped short when asked by what date Comcast could report actual video subscriber growth, adding that he would rather focus on the overall business. And though Comcast has made great strides in improving subscriber metrics, the company, like all of its publicly traded peers, is still losing customers.

"While we improved 85% over last year, and 40% on the year," Smit said. "If we did another 40% improvement next year, we'd still be losing subs. And don't get me wrong, I hate losing subs."

Smit pointed to RGU growth - Comcast added 1.4 million RGUs in 2011 - and pointed to new product launches like its IPad app (4 million downloads and counting) and its X1 interactive program guide. Smit offered a taste of X1 at the conference, noting that the guide will help users find appealing content through a recommendation engine that suggests programming.

Smit also touted Comcast's recently launched Streampix service as a complement to Netflix, adding that Comcast created the online video service to give customers "no reason to go anywhere else."
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Comcast Ready to Mine for VoD Gold
February 29, 2012 | Jeff Baumgartner

NEW YORK -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is pumping out 400 million video-on-demand (VoD) streams per month, and the bulk of them are TV shows, so it's high time for the MSO to start making some money on the platform.

The goal now is to "monetize that content ... as well or better than how we monetize linear," Comcast Senior VP of Video Services Marcien Jenckes said Wednesday at an event on advanced advertising put on by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable.

Cable's been trying to do this for a while, but only recently has the technology reached a stage where an MSO can switch ads dynamically within VoD streams and help pay the freight for all that "free" on-demand fare. Jenckes estimates that 70 percent of the MSO's VoD consumption falls into that category, with television shows being the most popular "by far."

Jenckes insists that this part of the cable advertising business is now ready to scale. Comcast has rolled out dynamic VoD ad insertion in most markets. The only holdouts are Western Pennsylvania and Denver, but they'll be added in a couple of months when they are hooked into Comcast's content delivery network, Jenckes said.

Comcast's platform currently allows for ads to be inserted at the start and end of VoD programs; the MSO is in the process of adding mid-roll capabilities.

Comcast's commitment in this area isn't a huge surprise. It's becoming a priority for the entire cable industry. Canoe Ventures LLC , the cross-MSO joint venture, recently announced it is laying off most of its people, closing its New York office, and shutting down its interactive ad product in favor of a dynamic VoD advertising strategy.
Although Canoe is getting out of interactive advertising, it's not game-over for the cable industry at large. Much is underway at the local level. Comcast Spotlight , the MSO's local advertising arm, has conducted more than 1,700 interactive campaigns that have delivered more than 4.5 billion impressions, Jenckes said.

And this work isn't limited to VoD content delivered to the set-top. Comcast is also inserting ads into the TV Everywhere content it sends over-the-top to devices such as the iPad and, soon, the Xbox 360 gaming console.

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