Cable Operators

DVRs Roam the House

4/04/2009 10:00 AM Eastern

It was a coming-out party for cable’s multiroom DVRs last week, with the industry finally poised to deliver set-tops with the feature sometime this year.

Several operators are set to roll out multiroom DVRs this year, including Time Warner Cable — which is working with both Motorola and Cisco Systems — as well as Cox Communications and Bright House Networks, which plan to roll out the feature with Cisco.

With Motorola, Time Warner Cable is developing “Follow Me TV,” a multiroom digital video recorder based on the Tru2way specfication for interactive cable services. The companies’ multiroom DVR would be the first Tru2way-based system with home-network extensions to be commercially deployed.

“Consumers expect more flexibility and control with today’s premium TV services, and we are excited to be offering the whole-home DVR with Motorola,” Time Warner Cable senior engineering fellow Louis Williamson said in a statement.

Motorola developed the whole-home DVR solution to work with its DCX3400-M and Motorola DCX3200-M Tru2way-enabled set-tops, which use the Multimedia over Coaxial Alliance (MoCA) home-networking standard.

Cisco used the show to officially debut its Explorer 86000HDC multiroom DVRs, and said Time Warner Cable, Cox and Bright House Networks plan to offer the set-tops in select systems later this year.

The Explorer 8600HDC DVR set-top series allows recorded shows or user-generated video content to be shared across multiple set-tops in the home. The boxes feature dual tuners with hard-disk-drive storage ranging from 160 to 500 Gigabytes. The series also supports Tru2way, 1-GHz tuning, an MPEG-4 (H.264) codec and optional MoCA support.

“Our next-generation set-top box platform … represents the foundation for innovative new multimedia services as delivered by service providers in the home,” said Cisco Service Group senior vice president and general manager Tony Bates.

In addition to Tru2way and MoCA, Cisco’s new set-top portfolio also supports DLNA and DTCP-IP media-sharing standards.

Meanwhile, Macrovision Solutions is incorporating multiroom DVR features into the next iteration of its Passport Echo 3.5 and i-Guide A28 guides. Both of those interactive program guides, set to be available in the fourth quarter, run on Motorola’s DCX set-tops, which include MoCA networking features.

The Passport and i-Guide multiroom DVR features will let users start and stop a show in one room and resume play in another (from a compatible set-top) and view a list of recordings from multiple locations within the home. The IPGs will be able to play up to three high-definition format shows on the network while recording two HD shows, and will allow the same recorded program to be viewed simultaneously on different set-tops.

And in a related development, Broadcom last week announced that its home-networking reference design platform for set-top boxes and other devices that integrates MoCA connectivity has received certification from the alliance.

The Broadcom MoCA-enabled system-on-a-chip solution allows for “whole-home” media distribution, including multiroom DVR features. The other supplier of MoCA chips is Entropic Communications, one of the founding members of the alliance.

“As one of the most prominent chip vendors in the cable industry and home-networking market, Broadcom’s certification is a milestone for the MoCA standard,” said Charlie Cerino, president of MoCA and Comcast’s vice president of new media development. “Their ability to integrate MoCA functionality into a single-chip design will accelerate deployment and make great strides toward achieving worldwide adoption of the standard.”

Broadcom’s integrated MoCA system-on-a-chip reference-design platform is now sampling to early-access customers. Pricing was not announced.

With whole-home DVR and media sharing, cable operators are looking to counter the telcos; both Verizon FiOS TV and AT&T U-verse tout the feature in their marketing and point out that cable providers haven’t offered it.

Moreover, multiroom DVR is another “sticky” feature that should help inhibit churn. And it’s an enhanced service people will pay for.

According to Verizon, about 25% of FiOS TV subscribers are taking the Home Media DVR, which provides multiroom DVR features and access to PC-based photos and music on the TV. The multiroom DVR is $19.99 per month, $4 more than the regular HD DVR.

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