SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2010: Top Operators Delivering ITV To 20-30 Million Screens

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Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Cox Communications currently have the ability to deliver interactive TV applications -- including advertising -- to between 20 million and 30 million screens, according to Mike Hayashi, TWC's executive vice president of architecture, development and engineering.

"This is beyond a 100 set-top trial," he said. "In terms of the scale itself, obviously we'd like to get to 1 billion screens -- but this is launched. The scale is there."

Hayashi was speaking at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo's Technology Leaders Roundtable, moderated by Multichannel News columnist Leslie Ellis, during the show's opening general session Wednesday.

The industry has adopted CableLabs' Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format as the common platform for serving interactive advertising across multiple MSOs. Canoe Ventures, jointly owned by the six biggest U.S. operators, is now trying to drum up interest in interactive request for information (RFI) ads to be sold on cable networks from Rainbow Media, Comcast Networks, Discovery Channel and NBC Universal.

Canoe's cable operator members collectively are expecting to have EBIF rolled out to 25 million homes by the end of 2010.

At another point in the discussion, Ellis asked Hayashi why Time Warner Cable wasn't deploying DOCSIS 3.0 as aggressively as its MSO peers. TWC plans to have 20% of its footprint deployed with DOCSIS 3.0 by year end.

Time Warner Cable has rolled out DOCSIS 3.0 in certain markets, including New York City, for competitive reasons, Hayashi said. But he indicated that the MSO is holding off on a wider push partly because even higher-capacity gear, such as a cable modem with the ability to bond up to 16 channels downstream, will be needed to deliver IP-based video.

"Why would I deploy CPE [customer premises equipment] in the home that I know I'm going to rip out in a year or two?" he said.

Cox is figuring on needing eight QAM channels to deliver IP video services, senior vice president of technology Jay Rolls said. But he concurred that a 16-channel modem will likely be required in the home. "If this is a device that's bringing in your video and your data, eight is probably limiting," he said.

Meanwhile, even with Internet usage continuing to climb, Rolls said he didn't think widespread plant upgrades will be imminent. "We don't think we'll have to jury-rig the plant in the next five years," he said.

Added John Chapman, Cisco Systems fellow and CTO of the company's Access and Transport Technology Group: "There's still a lot of bandwidth left in the plant."