Cablevision Systems customers can now watch free Hulu content, iTunes movies and TV shows, and YouTube videos -- along with digital photos, music, documents and just about anything else accessible on a Windows PC -- on their big-screen TVs.
The New York-area operator's Optimum Link service, which launched April 1, is $4.95 per month for subscribers who take both Optimum Online and iO TV with the Family Cable tier or above. It's included for no extra charge for subscribers with the 101-Mbps Optimum Ultra service.
Optimum Link uses software loaded on a subscriber's PC to stream audio and video back through Cablevision's network, where it is then delivered to the customer's set-top box as a unicast video stream on channel 641. Customers are able to use the service only with PCs in their own homes connected via a Cablevision cable modem.
The service can display on a TV -- that is connected to a set-top -- any Web pages, videos, pictures, music and documents that are available on a PC. However, according to Cablevision, the service cannot stream Blu-ray Discs, which are content protected, or other restricted DVDs.
Hulu previously has blocked software designed to stream its free video content to TVs, including applications from Boxee and Hillcrest Labs. The company sells a premium subscription service, Hulu Plus, that provides access on broadband-connected TVs and other non-PC devices for $7.99 per month.
Hulu, a joint venture of Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and NBC Universal, did not respond to an inquiry about whether it would try to block the Cablevision service.
To use Optimum Link, Cablevision subscribers must download and install the software on a PC running either Windows 7, Windows Vista or Windows XP and the computer must be connected through a cable modem. The video and audio from the PC is then accessible to the subscriber through digital set-tops on channel 641. The service uses software from Hong Kong-based Split Media Labs.
Users must tune to channel 641 within 10 minutes to allow the PC to connect to the TV. The video and audio from the computer will play on the TV for 2 hours and 55 minutes, after which customers must confirm that they would like to continue streaming.
The Optimum Link software changes a user's PC display resolution settings to 800 by 600 while streaming, which is to "allow for the best-quality viewing experience and will also use the least amount of resources on your PC," according to Cablevision's reference section for the service.
To activate the service, Cablevision subscribers may visit www.optimum.net/optimumlink. Cablevision has said it plans to release a Mac version of the streaming software at some point.