Panelists participating in Communications Technology’s tech breakfast this morning at the Cable Show in Los Angeles agreed that the time is now for operators to start deploying all content on all screens, and there appear to be fewer barriers to entry today than there were a year ago.

“There are ways to do it, and content needs to show up on every device consumers want,” commented Bob Zitter, EVP of technology and CTO at HBO, during the BigBand Networks-sponsored event titled “TV Unplugged: Content Delivery, Multi-Platforms and DOCSIS 3.0.” “Otherwise, we will be marginalized.”

Added Mike LaJoie, EVP and CTO at Time Warner Cable, “There really aren’t a lot of ‘demos’ on the floor this year. There is a lot of reality on the floor.”

Operators and programmers alike are starting to pick up the pace when it comes to new product-and-service rollouts, pushed in part by the likes of such devices as the Apple iPad, iTouch and iPhone; and Google’s Android handsets. Applications that used to take operators months to develop now are happening in weeks, days and hours. One requirement is that all new developments need to be DOCSIS 3.0-compliant. The other is to have the right authentication in place to meet customer demand for “TV everywhere.”

As far as business models go, Zitter cited HBO’s “HBO GO” initiative. “We want subscribers to have access to programming everywhere at no extra cost. This will be killer,” he said, adding a similar Cinemax service will be added soon.

According to Ran Oz, CTO, EVP and co-founder of BigBand Networks, to make HBO GO work, the programmer provides several different versions of its content to serve the kinds of devices customers are using to watch content. Then there is a “smart” control plane that makes sure the right stream is sent to the right place.

Panelists also discussed how the DRM dilemma will be handled moving forward.

Operators have spent countless years and countless dollars trying to prevent video privacy, but this might not be the right focus from now on. “Now we see DRM as a way to provide content to different devices that ‘play by the rules,” Zitter said, listing three ways of doing that: ad-supported content, transactional content (PPV) and subscription. “These all have different rules, and DRM will be the enabler.”

While traditional TV still remains the screen of choice when it comes to programming, said Dallas Clement, EVP and chief strategy and product officer at Cox Communications, the advent of VOD has made subscribers think about new ways (and places) to view their favorite shows. Cox’s new service, “MyPrimetime,” which is being rolled out in selected markets right now, appears to be boosting the number of hours people spend watching content, which had been pegged at 35 hours a week. It also has allowed for more targeted advertising, a whole new revenue stream for operators. 

-Debra Baker

The Daily

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