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Seth Schiesel's Q&A interview in today's N.Y. Times with Comcast president Brian Roberts touches on numerous cable-TV technology applications. (You need free username/password.) Roberts will head the largest U.S. cable firm if Comcast's merger with AT&T's cable section is approved.


Roberts said the cable video-on-demand (VOD) idea he was "most excited about" involves giving customers access to network programming the same day. CBS's "60 Minutes," for example, might be ordered, with the ads, later on Sundays. Roberts said all 25 million digital cable STBs in homes before 2003 will have access to VOD.


Remarkably, the taboo cable lettering, HDTV, isn't mentioned once, even in the context of digital cable. "Originally digital cable was 10 channels of HBO for the price of one, or several Showtimes for the price of one," Roberts said, indicating a growing preference for dozens of digital basic channels instead of multiple HBOs or Showtimes. The 10 channels in one refers to digital cable's frequent ~10:1 compression. Digital cable typically fits only two HDTV channels instead of ~10 into 6-MHz slots. Also, VOD for HDTV would gobble up bandwidth rapidly since ~19 Mbps slots would be needed for each VOD order. -- John
 

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Conservatively you can fit 11 SDTV streams into a 6mhz channel. There is no commercially viable HDTV VOD system sold yet. But I've heard you can get HDTV down to 7mb a sec with MPEG-4.


Patrick
 

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Just an add-on relating to that taboo lettering, HDTV, cable TV, and the N.Y. Times. A plump 24-page ad supplement with today's (Tuesday's) Times purports to bring us up to date on the television industry. It's about half ads from cable networks, with one DirecTV ad, plus 'articles' properly identified as ads. Not surprisingly, the ad/article, "The future of television, digital and interactive," doesn't mention HDTV. Couldn't find any reference to HDTV on any page.


Regarding the 10 or 11 channels/6-MHz slot, Patrick. Someone here associated with TWC in Florida mentioned they're using 12 channels/slot. I sometimes indicate ~10/6 Mhz. Came across an article indicating AT&T/TCI once got up to 15 channels/slot. But they apparently trimmed back compression after picture-quality complaints. My hope is that cable companies will eliminate the bandwidth bottleneck of most coaxial-cable amplifiers with fiber-to-the-home, reduce the compression used for all digital channels, and apply the virtually unlimited bandwidth to maximize HDTV as well as begin HDTV VOD. -- John
 

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John,


Again -- 12 channels per slot (256 QAM) is not compression -- it is modulation. And 1024 QAM is in the future. But we've had this chat before.
 

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Yes, Greg, and reading what I wrote above again, it doesn't say that 256 QAM compression is being used. It mentions 10,12, or 15 channels per slot, perhaps with all being carried via 256 QAM, depending on the cable systems involved. Mention of TCI trimming back compression from 15 to fewer channels/slot means to me they're simply squeezing (compressing) less channels into 6-MHz, all carried as QAM-- John
 

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I've already got a TiVo. :rolleyes: There's a half-dozen Law & Orders and Star Trek TNGs waiting for me when I find the time to watch them. :)
 

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I know the idea of a couple of broadcast shows available on VOD might not seem that appealing, but it really is just a foot in the door of what's possible using the technology of VOD.


What are the drawbacks of PVR's? You have limited room on the hard drive, you have to tell it in advance what you want to record, it still requires a subscription cost, and you have to shell out the bucks to buy it.


Imagine if your cable company recorded EVERY show available that week/month/year/whatever, and stored it on huge server banks in our hubs? You could watch any show you wanted, whenever you wanted, without ever telling it to record anything. You could rewind, fast forward and pause. And it would cost you one price for each tier of programming, just like cable now. Except instead of buying access to the broadcast streams of a specific group of networks, you would be buying access to each networks' library of programs, to be watched at your convenience, not theirs.


Some very brilliant people in the industry predict that "pushed" programming as we know it (except for news and live events) will be gone within ten years, and everything will be "on demand"-- you become your own programmer for your house.


This represents the beginning of that transformation. We may not get there, but it could be cool. But the copyright lawyers will definitely be the biggest obstacle.
 
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