Let’s review a pop quiz that Contributing Editor Jim Barthold ran in the Nov. 1, 2007 issue of CT Reports. Barthold had just been to the Fall VON show in Boston and came back with a choice quote from a panel on the triple play.

The panel of telco and cable execs had just addressed the question of "What’s the best part of the bundle?" Barthold drew attention to the following answer from one of them: "It’s definitely video. That’s what people want. It’s the on-demand library and the ability to get all the content that they want. It really is content, high definition."

The pop quiz was this question: Who said it?

The answer was Christopher Albano, director of product engineering at Comcast. (Execs from Verizon, RCN and Cox Communications were the other multiple choices.)

The general point is that as critical as high-speed data and telephony have become, video arguably remains the core product of a bundle, or at least a cable bundle. And as this section amply indicates, video remains a distinct topic for quite a few industry executives.

True enough, a small class of engineers (some of them represented here) is fluent in multiple technical languages. But while "silos" have become a bad word operationally in light of convergence in data and voice networks or in the back office or on the optical backbone, separate technical disciplines nonetheless remain. A video engineer is more likely to be familiar with MPEG extensions or OCAP software than with the details of DOCSIS 3.0. Another pop quiz Will video be the last holdout in a world of disintegrating silos? Or have technological advancements already blurred that line? One of the questions we asked several of our experts here bears relevance: "At what points do you see DOCSIS and video technologies converging?"

Consider this answer: "I think they are already converged."

Now time for another pop quiz. Who said that? You can turn to the back page index for thumbnail pictures of our six video gurus and take a guess.

Or take another look at the cover. It’s not the point of this special issue of Communications Technology to bestow any kind of award. (This industry already has awards aplenty.) But the obvious is sometimes worth stating: Time Warner Cable has been an engine for video innovation in the industry.

In these pages, Charter Communications Vice President Advanced Engineering Doug Ike strikes a commonly expressed note by thanking Paul Brooks and Time Warner for having initially vetted switched digital video (SDV). In late October 2007, Comcast Senior Vice President of Strategic Planning Mark Coblitz paid homage to another Time Warner innovation.

"Start Over is a great service," Coblitz said at an NCTA event in New York. "We’re going to do it, too." What was the ROI? Accounting for the return on whatever kind of investment was sunk into the Mystro group, the birthplace of Start Over and other time-shifting technologies, is a matter better left for insiders with the financial acumen and data to calculate that metric. It’s the same sort of question that has repeatedly been asked of Time Warner’s 1994 Orlando-based Full Service Network.

Whatever the cost of that legendary showcase, it’s worth noting that when it came to the point of trying to build a deployable (D)FSN, Jim Chiddix gave the job to Mike Hayashi, who in time became Time Warner Cable’s senior vice president of advanced engineering and subscriber technology, and whose face is the larger of the three that grace the cover of this year’s Communications Executive.

We are pleased this year as well to feature not only James Kelso, the current vice president for video engineering at Cox, but also a former Cox video leader who now serves as vice president of engineering at Concurrent, Michael Pasquinilli.

A career move like that of Kelso, who joined Cox from Seachange, brought Greg Grigaitis from Broadbus to Suddenlink, where he serves as vice president of advanced technology. Plenty of "next-gen" VOD work still lies ahead, but as the accompanying figure indicates, the on-demand platform is now facing some 90 percent of subscribers, with adoption of digital video recording (DVR) devices among subscribers still trending upward – and network-based time shifting likely to follow a similar deployment lifecycle. Having now moved from "advanced" to "strategic engineering," Bresnan Communications’ Pragash Pillai is known among other reasons for his work on one of the industry’s first digital simulcast deployments. In light of subsequent and ongoing development in digital program insertion (DPI), that Long Beach, CA, deployment indeed appears "first gen."

That’s just the nature of this game. The technologies don’t stand still, but those who try them first win points.

 – Jonathan Tombes Advanced Video Executive Profiles GREG GRIGAITIS, SUDDENLINK






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