In the past, the computer industry has offered solutions to bring together various kinds of content on one device (Think of Apple TV and Media Center PCs). It would definitely be handy to have a central way to access content, whether streaming video, stored video, photos, audio, or whatever.
Earlier this week, Cablevision announced the PC to TV Media Relay service. This LightReading.com article spells out the details.
Cablevision Systems Corp. said it will begin testing a new service in June that delivers all sorts of media sourced from a customer’s PC — including iTunes content, digital photos, and even over-the-top video shipped in from the Web — to digital set-top boxes.
Cablevision’s “PC to TV Media Relay” service will enable cable TV customers to replicate the information and images appearing on their PC screens onto their TV screens without any extra special home networking equipment, other than the cable modems and the non-IP digital cable set-tops they’re already using.
After downloading a special PC software client, you stream content from your computer up to the cable headend, and then that content is fed to a dedicated digital channel you tune to on your set-top box. You could connect your laptop to your TV now, but this service would eliminate the need for a VGA cable.
This article on Entertainment Weekly‘s site offers some criticism:
…Cablevision’s plan has the disadvantage of, well, requiring that you have cable — it only works if you have both Cablevision cable and Cablevision Internet. Quite simply, Cablevision is in the business of making sure you don’t drop your cable TV subscription when you discover you can watch just about anything online, while other HTPC outfits are in the business of just getting content on your TV.
…does Cablevision’s plan seem like best of both worlds (cable and Web content on your big TV screen), or does it just sound like having to pay one bill too many? Who’s already unplugged the cable from their TV and taking an Internet-only approach?
Yes, I know I sound like a broken record when I say this, but every time I read someone claim that you can replace cable programming through the Internet, I have to point out that you can’t. I most recently addressed this issue in a post, but the simple fact is that most full-length cable programming is not available online for free. There is a lot to watch, but not cable programming (for the most part).
My second point is that this new service is another example of cable shifting its resources to manage bandwidth. I have written in the past that cable is having its own “digital transition,” which is separate from over-the-air broadcast television’s DTV transition of last year. One important step is moving from analog to digital, which takes up less space. Another way is through sending content on-demand, such as with VOD or this new PC to TV Media Relay service. Yet another example is Cablevision’s announcement this week of an April deployment for remote storage-DVRs, a service in which content is stored on servers at the headend and then streamed to the home as requested.
This trend will continue, with cable’s infrastructure being used in new ways that will allow even more stuff to be sent over the pipes. Kyle McSlarrow made this point just last week:
Today, a typical cable system has a total capacity of 5 Gbps, meaning our typical customer already has well over 1 Gbps of data available to his or her household. Today, we use that capacity to deliver hundreds of channels of analog and digital video (including high-definition television) and phone service as well, of course, as Internet access. As new applications and services emerge and consumer demand changes, the cable industry is well placed to redeploy bandwidth to meet those changing needs.
Expect more developments along these lines.