TV Everywhere Meets the DVR

Comcast Extends Out-of-Home Capabilities To Its Cloud DVR
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Adding a feature that will help it keep pace with options offered by companies such as Dish Network and TiVo, Comcast has enabled a feature on its Cloud DVR service that lets customers stream recorded programming on mobile devices whether they are in the home or on the go.

This new out-of-home capability represents a significant enhancement to Comcast’s Cloud DVR product for the X1 video platform, which had previously limited viewing of DVR recordings to within the reach of the customer’s home network. Under the current setup, out-of-home access to DVR recordings is limited to one device at a time.

Dish and TiVo, meanwhile, allow customers to view DVR recordings while they are on the go, but rather than providing access to those recordings from the cloud, users must stream them from copies stored in the home-side set-top.

CLOUD SPREADING

Comcast unleashed the new out-of-home option last week as it extended the reach of its Cloud DVR and the X1’s new in-home multiscreen live-TV streaming feature to the San Francisco Bay Area and Houston. Comcast, which introduced the Cloud DVR in Boston about seven months ago, also offers the X1’s new cloud-based video capabilities in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

A Comcast official said the new out-of-home capability, now offered in all of Comcast’s Cloud DVR-enabled markets, marked a technical enhancement to the product rather than a clearing up of any lingering rights issues. Customers can access Cloud DVR recordings on the go via WiFi or 3G/4G cellular connections.

Comcast’s Cloud DVR currently provides customers with 500 Gigabytes of storage and the ability to record four shows while watching another. Cablevision Systems, meanwhile, is demonstrating how network-based DVRs have virtually no limits to the number of tuners they can support — in April, it pushed out a software upgrade for its Multi-Room DVR service that lets Cablevision customers record up to 15 shows simultaneously.

The X1’s in-home, IP-based live-TV streaming service lets users watch Comcast’s full linear TV lineup and its VOD service on Web browsers as well as iOS- and Android-powered tablets and smartphones. The MSO has the rights to offer a subset of its live-TV lineup out of the home. The new cloud-based offering for X1 also lets customers “check out” DVR recordings by side-loading them to those devices for later playback.

Comcast has deployed X1 across its current footprint and expects to offer the Cloud DVR and in-home video streaming features to most of its X1 customers by the end of the year.

Comcast, which is using its next-generation X1 service to stem video losses, hasn’t revealed how many of its 22.4 million video customers are on the platform, but has said it is installing upward of 20,000 boxes a day. Speaking on a panel at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver last month, Labeeb Ismail, Comcast Cable’s vice president of customer-premises equipment software, estimated the MSO had deployed “upward of 4 million” devices powered by the Reference Design Kit (RDK), the pre-integrated software stack used in Comcast’s X1 boxes.

Comcast is currently offering X1 on boxes with local HD-DVRs called the XG1. The operator is also developing a hybrid QAM/IP “headless” gateway, the XG5, that could be paired with all-IP HD client devices called the Xi3 and, once implemented, could rely solely on the MSO’s Cloud DVR infrastructure and allow the MSO to reduce its reliance on DVRs with localized storage. Comcast is also working on the Xi4, a video client that will be a smaller version of the Xi3.

WHAT’S COMING NEXT

Comcast and others are eyeing the use of smaller, lesspower- hungry IP video devices. In May, Comcast was among the founding members of the Linaro Digital Home Group, an initiative that aims to accelerate the use of ARMbased silicon in digital-home applications. The low-power ARM architecture has taken hold in mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, and now appears to be poised for use in small form-factor video devices, including clients that run the RDK, which is being managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global.

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