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Charter to double down on live streaming channels, ponders RDK

Fri, 06/13/2014 - 12:38pm
Mike Robuck

After launching its Charter TV App with 130 live channels for in-home viewing in April, Charter Communications will soon more than double its roster of live channel choices.

In tandem with the increased number of live streaming channel offerings, Charter will take its “.net” web portal in-house and re-launch it near the end of this month or in early July.

“We have roughly 150 national live channels and a small smattering of the local channels that we’re just starting to put on the plant,” said Charter’s Bob Blackburn, senior director, engineering advanced digital video, during a roundtable session of the SCTE Rocky Mountain Chapter’s annual symposium and Cable-Tec Games in Denver on Wednesday. “We’re very close to doubling the channels we have on our system.

“We have one market launched (with local channels.) Our strategy is to one by one hit our top DMA markets and roll out the major off air PBS channels in those markets, the must carries, the retrans channels that we have and build on the live linear nationals as well. We’ll also be throwing into the mix all of the regional sports networks.”

On the Apple side, the app works on iPhone, iPad or iPad touch devices that are running on iOS 5.1 or higher. It also works on Kindle Fire, except for the first generation model, and the new Kindle Fire HDX. Android tablet and phones need to be running Android 4.0 or above to use the app.

“The whole game is more and more proliferation of different devices,” Blackburn said. “We’re not on PC/Mac yet, so that’s one thing we’re working on right now. We’re also working on VOD content and that will be on the PC/Mac, mobile (devices) and we’ll see about the big screen. We have Roku, although we haven’t ventured into the big screen space. The big screen space is something we’re tentatively looking at.”

When it came to live streaming channels, Charter was a little behind the curve compared to Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Speaking on the same roundtable panel as Blackburn, Time Warner Cable senior fellow Louis Williamson said its partnership with Roku allowed its subscribers to view content on their TV screens without Time Warner Cable customer premise equipment, which he said was a project called “Boxless Homes.”

World Box update

Blackburn also provided a brief update on Charter’s next generation, IP-enabled “World Box” that features a new downloadable security platform and support for its new cloud-based guide, the latter of which is provisioned by ActiveVideo Networks. The World Box is key to Charter’s strategy of going all digital without the use of digital terminal adapters (DTAs) and without the more expensive CableCards after the Federal Communications Commission granted Charter a temporary waiver.

While Charter is working on dual paths for the development of its World Box, Blackburn said it would “most likely” be based on the cable industry’s Reference Design Kit (RDK) stack technology. Charter hasn’t announced if it has officially become a licensee of the RDK.

The World Box will also have Web browser technology and DOCSIS bonded capability up to 16 channels.

“We’ve done some proof of concept with that device and it can work in the world of IP streaming all the way to multicast broadcast,” Blackburn said.

Blackburn said Charter would rather push the functionality into the network instead of into a costly gateway in the home.

“We would rather invest in the network and less in the home wiring and CPE,” he said. “We own the network and the infrastructure pieces of that.”

 

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