December 19, 2012
Cable’s Cloud Play in 2012
By Joyce Wang
It’s been a “cloudy” year for the cable industry—at least in terms of teaming with companies like Boxee, ActiveVideo Networks, SnappyTV and Synacor to offer cloud-based services and applications. Many of the cloud-based applications have been introduced to improve the user experience as legacy digital set-top boxes lack memory and processing power for cable operators to provide contemporary user interfaces, interactive program guides (IPGs) and other TV applications. Compared to cloud-based guides, finding information and navigating on legacy IPGs can frustrate consumers.
Cloud-based apps are used for TV Everywhere, expanding cable’s cloud services with cable networks’ online video services. They are also enabling MSOs to import popular web content to TV. Additionally, thanks to cloud technology new IP-based interactive apps and widgets can be added to the TV screen. Then there are cloud-based apps for social media, home automation and multimedia phone services. With everything IP, security and utility management can be monitored on TV through a cloud-based platform. Cable is also looking to integrate phone and TV platforms with caller ID, remote DVR, video phone and more using cloud servers.
MSOs Embrace the Cloud
Among the major MSOs, Comcast is rolling out the cloud-based Xfinity 1 next-generation user interface. The new platform incorporates IP technology using cloud servers on Comcast’s network that allow the MSO to integrate interactive, customized apps and social media features with traditional video services. As Comcast chief exec Brian Roberts said during an investor conference, 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.” In October, Cablevision started to roll out its cloud-based Optimum Program Guide to its NY Long Island subs. Time Warner Cable upgraded its on-screen TV guide for subs in Central New York and Charlotte, NC, in June, which includes cloud-based VOD search services, improved navigation and a new color scheme.
This week, Pac-12 Enterprises, the conference's new content and multiplatform media firm, tapped SnappyTV to enable Pac-12 Digital platforms with content sharing features via a cloud-based editing and publishing platform. The service makes it easy for Pac-12 Digital editors to cut and edit clips from live TV and web streams of its sports programming, including on-demand games and event highlights. SnappyTV's customers include major cable ops and nets. In April, NHL Network started to use its cloud-based ad distribution network to deliver promo spots to affiliates.
Recently, Boxee unveiled Boxee TV, its device that brings together broadcast TV, DVR and Internet apps (preloaded with Netflix, YouTube, VUDU and more). It boasts a "No Limits" DVR that allows users to upload recordings to the cloud, thus doing anyway with space concerns. The DVR service will roll out in large cities such as NYC, L.A. and D.C. first. Meanwhile, Interactive TV pioneer Gary Lauder is funding CA-based Net2TV, which relies on cloud TV technology from Lauder's ActiveVideo Networks. Net2TV's CEO is Thomas Morgan, the former CEO of BlackArrow who also worked previously at MTV and Nickelodeon. Former NBC and TiVo executive Jim Monroe is svp of programming.
Watch out Nintendo. Cable might be eyeing the gaming pie with some help from cloud companies. Major cable companies like Time Warner Cable and Comcast are reportedly planning to enter the cloud-gaming space, launching their service as early as next year. According to news reports, games by the cable companies would be more advanced than casual games and would use generic controllers instead of inputs from the usual suspects like Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony. Some of the MSOs are reportedly exploring the possibility of turning mobile devices into controllers.
Learn more about how to leverage the cloud, viewing companion apps and more at the CableFAX webinar on the cloud Jan 22. Cloud experts will discuss things like how navigation affects content owners and distributors, how to work with key vendors, as well as new revenue-generating and deal-making ideas.