Comcast’s Answer to Chromecast: ‘Send to TV’

Available to Public in Beta Form on X1
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The buzz surrounding Google’s $35 Chromecast streaming media adapter has seemingly stolen any that might have been put aside for a similar feature Comcast recently built into its IP-capable X1 platform — one that lets users fling Web-sourced content to the TV screen.

Comcast’s approach is called “Send to TV,” and it’s available in public beta form to customers on the X1 service, now deployed to about 53% of the MSO’s footprint. Comcast Labs, the developer of Send to TV, is using the tagline, “See the Web larger than life.”

Like Chromecast, Send to TV enables X1 customers to send Web videos and pages to the TV via a PC, smartphone or tablet. It requires a “bookmarklet” — a small computer app stored in the Web browser as the URL of a bookmark or as a hyperlink. Selecting the bookmarklet launches the Send to TV app. The Send to TV bookmarklet supports most of the latest stable versions of Safari, Firefox and Chrome.

But there’s a significant difference between Comcast’s app and Chromecast — Send to TV only works with content that’s not digital rights management (DRM) protected. For instance, that means Send to TV can’t run Netflix, which has been optimized for Chromecast.

Comcast confirmed this also means a customer can’t fling on-demand content in the MSO’s TV Everywhere library from a tablet to the TV. However, there’s plenty of video from other sources, such as NHL.com and nonprotected YouTube fare, that will work just fine.

Those DRM barriers are apparently more business-related than tied to technical or engineering hurdles. Some of Netflix’s rights deals expressly forbid it from delivering portions of its library to MSO-leased devices, making the content available only on retail-purchased devices such as Chromecast. That’s also why Netflix is not offered on TiVo boxes leased by cable operators, such as Suddenlink Communications and Mediacom Communications.

That’s not how Comcast intends for Send to TV to be used, anyway. Most content on the Xfinity Play app is already available on set-tops, an MSO official noted, including the Pace-made XG1 HD-DVR that currently drives X1.

Among MSOs with authenticated streaming video apps, Time Warner Cable is “looking at it closely as we do other consumer devices in this space,” a spokesman said.

Cox Communications hasn’t announced any specific plans for Chromecast, but a spokesman said a chief goal of its soon-to-launch “personal video experience” will allow “discovery and viewing of relevant content across multiple devices like never before. Cox video customers will seamlessly move content from their tablets to the living room TV and experience the same, high-quality transmission they expect.”

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