As vice president, video engineering, for Cox Communications, James Kelso oversees the architecture, selection, integration, testing and engineering design of current and future video network elements and associated technologies. He works closely with vendors to facilitate Cox-specific needs for core video and interactive services, and establishes strategies for system-level design of networks, infrastructures, and technology roadmaps. He originally joined Cox in 1987.
Where would you say Cox – and the cable industry in general – stands in terms of an MPEG-4 life cycle?
The reality is that we don’t need MPEG-4 just yet. MPEG-2 will do for the next couple of years. That said, we need to be thinking about MPEG-4 now and getting it into the field through our normal pattern of set-top receiver purchases so that it will be there when we do need it. For Cox, you will see it in use for specific applications some time in late 2008 or early 2009.
How would you characterize the state of play between the advertising and the on-demand engineering communities?
We will be trialing dynamic insertion in on demand early next year. From an engineering standpoint, it is a space that is currently underserved, but I suspect that will change significantly in the next few months. When you look at how VOD content is changing, and what a natural platform it is for household level delivery of programming and advertising, it’s a no-brainer that VOD should gain full advertising capability. Look, at the end of the day, a VOD system can do pretty much everything a broadcast station can do – it just doesn’t have news anchors and a megawatt transmitter. We need to stop thinking about VOD as a movie platform and starting thinking about it as a collection of personal TV stations. There is a lot of value there.
How does high definition impact the on-demand infrastructure and business from your perspective?
Well, someone is going to be selling a lot of QAMs and a lot of streams. HD’s "inflection point" is here, and VOD is a key outlet for us. Heck, if the writers’ strike goes very long, it might become the best source of HD.
At Cable-Tec Expo you – and Cox President Pat Esser – were bullish on delivering both high quality and quantity of HD. What are the key technical enablers for cable to deliver a winning combination?
We are quite fortunate at Cox to have a large number of tools at our disposal to deliver quality and capacity. It’s really not just one thing. Switched digital is certainly useful, but MPEG-4 will be as well. Also, it’s not all about HD. In large part, the work is being done to preserve analog signals. Some customers don’t want a set-top, and many customers get a lot of value from the additional outlets in the bedroom, kid’s room, rec room, etc. Analog is the lowest quality, least dense technology we have for moving video, but it’s awfully useful. Frankly, preservation of analog is a competitive bonus for cable that we don’t make enough of, though I can see how it might be hard to write a commercial touting it.
How is the Cox interactive TV platform progressing?
Very nicely. We are running in four markets and will be company-wide in the next 18 months or so. We see good usage, and the platform is extremely stable.
Cox has used the abbreviation "EOD" instead of VOD. Does that "everything" (E) still shape the vision?
Well, our "E" is actually for "entertainment," but "everything" is absolutely the vision.