Count C-COR and Oregon-based BendBroadband among the list of vendors and operators who have launched a network personal video recording service (nPVR) after last week’s announcement. The technology for shifting video content isn’t exactly cutting edge. Components of Time Warner Cable’s Mystro, which dates back to 2003, were recycled into the successful launch of its Start Over service late last year. After agreements were reached with some programmers, Start Over allows viewers to go back to the beginning of a program that is Start Over enabled, and the service has proven to be popular in the divisions were it has been launched. C-COR’s nPVR roots go back to 1999 when nCUBE, which was acquired by C-COR, installed a nPVR solution in the Burj Al Arab hotel, in Dubai in 1999. Joe Matarese, C-COR’s Senior Vice President, Advanced Technology and formerly of nCUBE, said the company’s DVR patents have been in place for some time. “The patents defining the technologies that we use for DVR were granted in 2000, so it’s something that has been around for a while,” Matarese said. “For a lot of reasons, network DVR has percolated in the background. The significance of BendBroadband is we’ve been looking for ways of turning network DVR into a profitable business for operators with whatever content they have available to time shift. We really worked on coming up with an efficient system that was going to be reasonably inexpensive and easy to operate so that that even a smaller operator could deploy it. “The local content is what a lot of these small operators have as their real differentiating feature, and they’re doing more to make it more easily available. Part of this is also just getting started based on the programming that you do have the rights to time shift and then starting to understand what the audience share is going to be and the simultaneous take rates are for these services.” BendBroadband didn’t return phone calls seeking comment on its nPVR service, but the content could include local programming such as sports events and highlights and local news. The time-shifted content is available in real time in full trick mode, and can be converted to a digital tier for on demand viewing at a later date. How it Works Since Bend already had C-COR’s VOD solution deployed, the on demand service needed the addition of C-COR’s Local On demand Packager (LODP). The LODP is a software application that runs on the same server as C-COR’s nABLE management system for VOD, or it can run on a separate server. Matarese said the LODP is a scheduler that interfaces with an operator’s master headend or NOC and manages the ingest and metadata entry of real-time content. “Obviously, when VOD content comes into a system it comes in with a MPEG file and all of the attendant metadata that has been packaged up in all of the appropriate CableLabs formats,” Matarese said. “But when you’re capturing a program off of a network you’ve somehow got to provide that same information that describes the program and the Local On Demand Packager provides that interface.” While the LODP has been used elsewhere by C-COR, the BendBroadband deployment marked the first time it was used for nPVR. BendBroadband’s nPVR deployment was “pretty straightforward,” according to Matarese. The operator needed to decide what channels it was going to encode into the nPVR system and make sure its narrowcast network was set up to handle the load. “The operator needs to make sure it has enough bandwidth provisioned on its narrowcast plant,” Matarese said. “Depending on how successful the service is, they could have high utilization with viewers watching the same program simultaneously and if people are in different points of the programming because of fast forwarding and rewinding the operator needs to make sure the bandwidth is in place. “One of the things we’ve already done, both with our video server software and with the nABLE software application, is make sure we can handle the scaling you might have when people are all viewing the same program, or different programs, simultaneously.” C-COR also helped BendBroadband by integrating with the TVGuide application that runs on the Motorola set-top boxes, as well as integrating with encoder and transcoding devices. There are a number of companies, such as Terayon, BigBand and RGB, making devices that take an MPEG transport multiplex as input and then extract and output individual MPEG streams. While the streams in the multiplex may be variable bit rate (VBR) encoded the output streams can be groomed to constant bit rate (CBR). While C-COR doesn’t say which companies it has integrated with, its nPVR system can integrate with devices such as these, receiving the CBR MPEG transport streams encapsulated in IP over Gigabit Ethernet. Another option operators have, according to Matarese, is to decode video feeds received at the headend in digitally compressed form, and then re-encode the streams as CBR MPEG transport streams. Again the encoder delivers these streams to the C-COR network DVR system encapsulated in IP over Gigabit Ethernet. He said there were some other variations, but these two have proven to be the best options from an operational standpoint. Another advantage to the nPVR solution is that operators can offer DVR functionalities without deploying set-top box DVRs. “There is a portion of the viewing population that wants those (DVR) devices and all of the functionality that comes with them,” Matarese said. “But for people who aren’t interested in paying the cost, or having those devices, you can deploy network PVR right to a low cost digital set-top box and you don’t have storage upgrades whenever you want more capacity because it’s all in the network at that point.” For more on time-shifted TV, check this upcoming Webcast, hosted by Communications Technology and sponsored by Motorola, by clicking here. —Mike Robuck

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