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Quick Hits: SCTE Notebook

1/26/2007 7:01 PM Eastern

Houston—From the scene at last week's Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers' annual Conference on Emerging Technologies, as reported by technology editor Todd Spangler.

Admission of the Week

Laying fiber-optic cable all the way to subscribers’ homes is the superior option for getting lots of capacity in a video, entertainment, data and communication system, said Cox Communications vice president of technology Jay Rolls, “if you remove economics from the equation.” More to the point, Rolls added: “As a cable guy that’s not the hand I was dealt.”

Starting (Over) Again

Time Warner Cable said it plans to triple the number of systems where it offers its Start Over program-replay service to around 18 by the end of the year, senior director of new-product deployments Keith Nichols said. That would represent two-thirds of the operator’s 27 divisions.

Nichols declined to name the markets. Time Warner divisions already offering the free Start Over service are: Rochester, N.Y.; Albany, N.Y.; Greensboro, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; San Antonio; and Hawaii.

Start Over allows viewers to “rewind” a program and watch it from the beginning; they can’t skip past the ads. Nichols said that in the initial markets, Time Warner is serving about 450,000 Start Over sessions per week, from 160,000 individual set-top boxes.

To Infinity And Beyond?

RGB Networks, a maker of video-processing equipment, announced a modulator that can deliver as many as 1,280 digital channels or services in a single-rack-unit device.

Its Universal Scalable Modulator is an edge quadrature amplitude modulator that can support up to 128 QAM channels, with 10 video channels in each one. RGB claimed density at least double those of competing edge QAMs.

The company said this should help cable operators expand narrowcast services, such as video-on-demand and switched digital video.

“You can’t do just one stream for everyone anymore,” executive vice president of business development Adam Tom said. “It’s going toward one stream for one person, eventually.”

MPEG-4 Play

EGT introduced an MPEG-4 encoder as part of a video-processing family of products called VIPr. The company is betting that operators will eagerly adopt MPEG-4, which is about twice as efficient as MPEG-2, as direct-broadcast satellite operator DirecTV and other competitors turn up the pressure to add more HD programming.

“MPEG-4 is going to be an absolute necessity when you’re talking about 100 or 150 HD channels,” EGT senior director of product management Chris Gordon said.

Joost Asking

Comcast Interactive Media is keeping a close eye on Joost, the Internet TV service backed by the guys who flipped Skype to eBay for $2.6 billion.

The service, first known by the code name The Venice Project, uses a peer-to-peer video delivery architecture that’s more efficient than traditional online video distribution models, according to Jason Gaedtke, chief architect at the Comcast unit. Joost is “the high-water mark” for Internet video, he said. “They’ve proved it can work [and] it’s certainly a competitive threat.”

But Gaedtke said: “Peer-to-peer and targeted ad models are things we’re very interested in. … We’ll steal a couple pages from their playbook.”


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