Cable Show 2013: Comcast Rolls DVR Into the Cloud

Washington – Comcast is testing a Cloud DVR service in Boston and Philadelphia ahead of a commercial launch later this year that will eventually be offered to customers who subscribe to the company’s new IP-capable X1 service.

Elad Nafshi, Comcast Cable’s vice president of video product management, demonstrated the Cloud DVR service as well as an in-home live TV streaming service here at a booth demo Tuesday afternoon. The Cloud TV and IP video streaming component will both be offered on an updated version of Comcast’s cloud-based platform that was introduced at the show by Comcast CEO and chairman Brian Roberts.

Similar in some ways to the recording architecture of Cablevision Systems’ “remote-storage” DVR, Comcast’s Cloud DVR will create individual copies of each customer’s recording and make them available to set-tops, tablets, smartphones and other devices that run an updated version of the MSO's cloud-based interface, internally called X2, that Comcast will begin to roll out this fall.

In addition to iOS- and Android-powered devices, PCs and Macs, Comcast’s Cloud DVR will also run on the MSO’s XG1 and XG5 QAM/IP gateways and the Xi3, an all-IP client box that the MSO unveiled here at the show.

Comcast has not disclosed pricing, but noted that it expects to launch the Cloud DVR product commercially in select markets by the end of 2013. The Cloud DVR will eventually become the MSO’s de facto DVR service, Nafshi said in an interview following the demo.

The Cloud DVR product will also feature a sync-and-go/check-out capability that will allow users to take a copy of a recorded program with them once it’s transferred to a connected device.  Transferred recordings will not be accessible on other devices, so the process is likened to checking out a book. Any program ported to another device will be available for viewing for up to 30 days.  

Comcast also showed off a new in-home live TV streaming component that can be viewed on devices outfitted with the X2 software.

In addition to delivering Comcast’s entire live TV lineup, the in-home streams will also support closed-captioning and the emergency alert system, essentially replicating all the key technical and regulatory functions that are integrated with the MSO’s legacy QAM-based live TV platform.

Comcast said it also has the technical ability to insert targeted ads dynamically into those live TV streams, and extend this capability to Cloud DVR recordings (when they are played out by the customer) and in recorded programs that are transferred to a tablet or another device.

“We didn’t take any easy ways out,” Comcast chief technology officer Tony Werner said.