Doug Ike joined Charter Communications as vice president of advanced engineering in 2006 from Adelphia Communications, where he had been vice president of advanced video engineering and development.
On the encoding front, where do you think the cable industry stands in terms of the MPEG-4 technology life cycle?
I wish that MGEG-4 had been available two or three years earlier since we made the jump to HD using legacy MPEG-2. For the industry to really embrace MPEG-4, we need to have client set-top boxes in a fairly reasonable footprint or have the ability to tie it to a new service; for example, a new tier of video on demand with a new set-top.
What areas of switched digital video do you expect to see developed further?
First, we should thank Paul Brooks and Time Warner for their work in vetting this technology over the last several years. I think we’ll start to see more efficiencies as the industry begins choosing the best parts of the two protocols; the one that favors Scientific Atlanta systems like Time Warner Cable and ones that Comcast has been working on.
Are the worlds of advertising and technology converging? What about in VOD?
At Charter and in my previous position at Adelphia, we have seen these areas come together very synergistically. New technologies like switched digital will have a major impact on ad insertion, as digital simulcast does already. As for on-demand, Charter was a pioneer for dynamic ad insertion. We learned a lot from that effort.
What trends do you see impacting the area of set-top boxes – both the low-cost, all-digital boxes and larger media centers?
Boxes that are now being designed to support OCAP are currently coming in at very competitive prices. That’s one trend. The difficulty is that we want all the features in the lowest cost box. The industry is still having debates about that.
Clearly, it’s difficult for a cable operator to monetize a media center. They’re expensive devices. For a while, it will be high-end technophiles who adopt and implement that technology. I believe we should let that market sort itself out before jumping in too quickly.
At what points do you see DOCSIS and video technologies converging?
Interestingly, at Charter, we’ve been deploying the Digeo set-top, which actually uses DOCSIS for most of its communication. If the question is whether we see video being delivered over DOCSIS, that’s still in the future. The cost structures aren’t in place yet.
What areas of digital rights management and conditional access do you see having the most impact on the industry’s video business over the next several years?
I believe in approaching DRM and conditional access with extreme caution. Motorola and Scientific Atlanta have been very good about getting video secure to a set-top box. How do we bridge our traditional conditional access with digital rights management? I don’t see a clear and easy solution yet. But if cable continues its quest to be the aggregator of high-value content, we must make it secure.
Do you see the proliferation of consumer electronics devices impacting cable’s video encoding infrastructure?
From a personal perspective, my issues focus on how to transcode (from MPEG-4) to deliver to a legacy base of (MPEG-2) set-tops, rather than how to transcode to get into multiple screens – cell phone, PC/laptop, TV – although that will soon surface. The other area where transcoding is important is in FCC dual-must carry. There will be much discussion on who does a format conversion from their HD digital broadcast signal to an analog signal that ends up on the consumer’s TV. If we have to provide that service, it could be fairly capital intensive.