Mike Hayashi is Time Warner Cable’s senior vice president of advanced engineering and subscriber technology. He has been with the company for 15 years, playing a pivotal role in converting this MSO’s set-top boxes to digital. Hayashi is responsible for all engineering development activities within Time Warner Cable.
On the encoding front, where do you think the cable industry – and Time Warner Cable – stands in terms of the MPEG-4 technology life cycle?
I don’t think Time Warner Cable will be far different from the rest of the marketplace. No matter what we do, the current legacy environment of analog and MPEG-2 won’t be going away overnight. MPEG-2 in particular is the digital compression standard we are using today with plug and play, CE and the digital transition. They are all based on the MPEG-2 specifications. So I don’t think we will be using MPEG-4 any time soon as a broadcast alternative.
However, MPEG-4 is a tool that gives us more bandwidth, and that is a very precious commodity, so it is important for us to have these tools in our pocket. We are looking at using MPEG-4 in conjunction with video on demand and switched digital video as we look into the future. In both of these technologies, we have the ability to have the set-tops request a certain type of streams. So customers can say they want to watch a movie, and the set-top can tell us that it is a box that is capable of decoding H.264, so please send me that stream. We would have the server send that stream to the box. It is similar with the switching technology. So I think as the number of MPEG-4 capable set-tops increases the amount of bandwidth efficiencies will increase with it.
Over the next two years, what areas of SDV do you expect to see refined further?
Right now, we are developing and deploying a piece of technology we refer to as the global sessions resource manager. Currently we need to dedicate specific amounts of spectrum to specific uses, which we refer to as being "nailed up," and that lacks flexibility. With the GSRM, we are able to manage the entire VOD and SDV spectrum as one resource. As a result, we can manage peak demand across the spectrum and create more inherent efficiencies in our bandwidth management. This is being built into the platform with SDV, and along with the use of MPEG-4 in the future, we see much greater flexibility in bandwidth management.
We are continuing to launch switched digital video across our footprint. This becomes instrumental as we launch more HD channels, as well as new products and services that rely on our VOD infrastructure.
What are the next steps for time-shifted video?
As a result of the pioneering efforts from our Mystro group, Time Warner Cable already has Start Over rolling out in a number of divisions, as well as Quick Clips. Start Over has received a tremendous reception from our customers and is our top-rated ETV feature. Customer satisfaction is more than 93 percent for the product. The Start Over feature is enabled on more than 100 channels, and that translates into more than 22,000 shows enabled per month. Quick Clips is allowing customers to view, on their TV sets, video content from network Web sites. We expect to begin trialing Look Back by the end of the year, and next we will also be looking at adding Catch Up and Coming Soon to our ETV offering.
At what points do you see DOCSIS and video technologies converging?
I think they are already converged. We are purchasing set-tops with modems built in. I think the better question is, from an application standpoint, how will they come together? With IP connectivity, we can bridge the PC and TV environments. Caller ID on TV is a great example of the types of applications this convergence is making possible.