Comcast's 'Start Over' Hits a Snag


Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s not always easy.

Consider Time Warner Cable’s award-winning Start Over, a quasi-network-DVR service that replays shows within a specified window to which the distributor has negotiated rights. (And, importantly, preserves ad views by disabling fast-forward.)

It’s a cool feature with a high barrier to entry. Satellite operators, which don’t have headend-based VOD architectures, can’t do it. Cox has dabbled with the concept, offering a few shows with a similar VOD service in a few systems. 

Comcast thinks it’s a great idea, too, and has started developing its own version. The MSO was targeting the end of 2008 to turn it on (see ‘Start Over’ to Start On Comcast’s Systems). But this stuff is hard.

I had heard that Comcast was running into difficulties on the VOD ingest front with respect to its Start Over deployment. It’s no mean feat to pull in dozens of programming streams simultaneously, and then provide instant access to them to subscribers with pause and rewind capabilities.

But the technical challenges apparently extend to the client side, as well.

GuideWorks, the IPG development venture between Comcast and Macrovision, is building in support for Start Over features into the next major release of i-Guide for Motorola set-tops.

This version, A28, will enter beta testing in early next year before it’s ready for commercial deployment in the second half of 2009 (see Comcast’s Next Guide To Be Ready In Second Half of ‘09). The next i-Guide also will support switched digital video, another new technology that’s been relatively complex to deploy in multivendor environments, according to Macrovision execs.

Anything worth doing is worth doing well. There’s no doubt Comcast will get there. But the Start Over project reinforces the notion that "operationalizing" new features becomes a huge task when you’re talking about layering them on millions of set-tops boxes in many different systems.