A Reader's Guide to the CTAM/SCTE Mashup

Going into any trade show, there’s what you want to find out, and what you know you’ll hear about.

This week’s double-feature - CTAM Summit, overlapped by the SCTE Cable Tec-Expo - contains tons of both.

What you know you’ll hear about: 3DTV. The volume remains cranked up on this latest consumer electronics thrust to emulate the home run that was HDTV.

If you feel like you’ve heard it all, stop in on “How 3D Sharpens Stories and Brands,” at CTAM Summit, Tuesday at 10:30. It’s a different take on the topic, told by people who are making 3DTV happen on the production side: ESPN, Discovery Communications, and Flight 33 Productions.

Other things you know you’ll hear about: DOCSIS 3.0, which remains a tech darling at the SCTE Expo. The big focus this season: What it takes to do upstream channel bonding, to make room for all that video-conferencing we’re going to be doing from our TVs and home PCs.

A quick sampling of other jumbo-sized jargon that will season the engineers’ annual confab: “Representational State Transfer,” “opaque origin servers,” and one I had to look up, “indempotent.” All have to do with content delivery networks, or CDNs - the ways operators are building hierarchical VOD storage for titles sent over national, regional and local optical networks.

(”Indempotent” is a math term, loosely meaning that the outcome doesn’t change, no matter how much you change the inputs. I’m no mathematician, but the term nonetheless reminds me of Einstein’s definition of insanity - doing the same thing over and over while expecting different results.)

Here’s what I want to find out at this week’s marketing-then-engineering fest: What will it take for Consumer Jane to bring home her brand new Internet-connected whatever (HDTV, tablet, laptop), turn it on, and have at the ready a way to download the navigational app from her local cable operator. Netflix is fine, but, more from the home team, please.

Here’s what else: Is it just me, or do all these “connected device” and “over-the-top” entrants lack a way to just leave the video on in the background? Say Consumer Jane likes to park the big screen on Food Network when she’s cooking. Do her shows keep running, unattended, like linear? Or does she have to click for the next title every time?

If the latter: Hello IP simulcast, or, replicating the linear lineup yet again, this time to move over the broadband plant. Takes a lot of bandwidth (six to eight 6 MHz channels, say the back-of-the-envelope calculations), but, it usually works to be the guy who has what the other guys don’t.

One more thing I seek: An alternate way of describing the everything-ness that is IP video. Please. I’m begging. It is the most awkward spoken acronym ever.

All of this, plus cloud computing, commercial/business services, and an IP video cornucopia, will be the jargon darlings of this week’s trade show mashup in New Orleans. See you there!