Cablevision to Test PC-to-TV Service

Cablevision Systems this summer will test a “multiscreen” service that would let customers broadcast content from their computers — including Web video, such as TV shows from Hulu and YouTube clips — to their TV sets.

The operator’s PCto- TV Media Relay service will use a software application running on a PC that sends screen images and audio up the cable-modem connection to the headend. Th e PC’s audio and video are then delivered to a customer’s set-top box in real time, viewable only by that customer.

“With our PC-to-TV Media Relay service, we are putting an end to the need for families to huddle around their laptops or PCs to watch content together,” Cablevision chief operating officer Tom Rutledge said in a statement. “This new service will make it easy for our television customers to take broadband services, including Internet video, as well as family photos or anything else displayed on a computer screen and move it to the television with the click of the mouse.”

Cablevision plans to begin a technical trial of the PC-to-TV Media Relay by June. The company wouldn’t say when — or if — the service might become available to all subscribers, or whether it would charge extra for it. Nor would the MSO reveal how large the trial will be, how long it would last or its technology partners. Subscribers would need to take both cable TV and Optimum Online broadband services.

Some content owners may object to the PC-to-TV Media Relay service's ability to let subscribers access any nternet-based content on TV.

For example, Hulu — a joint venture of NBC Universal, News Corp. and The Walt Disney Co. — has tried to block startup Boxee’s Internet software from displaying Hulu content on TVs, and Hulu’s terms of service specify that users may not “stream or retransmit the content via any hardware or software application.” Cablevision’s position is expected to be that the PC-to-TV Media Relay service simply shifts content that’s accessible on a PC to the TV screen and would be covered under fair-use provisions of the copyright code.

The Bethpage, N.Y.-based operator has not been shy about butting heads with content owners.

Most notably, Cablevision's proposed network- based digital video recorder system, the RS-DVR, was challenged in court by movie studios, programmers and other content owners as infringing their copyrights. In July 2009 Cablevision prevailed in that case, which reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Cablevision lawyers argued that the RSDVR would simply let customers engage in "lawful" copying for personal use, which is the same thing conventional DVRs allow.

 Th e MSO has not yet introduced an RSDVR service, but plans to roll out a full network DVR by year-end (see page 3).

The PC-to-TV Media Relay service would eliminate the need to install an additional settop or run additional wiring to deliver broadband content to the TV. Other “over-the-top” services such as Vudu, TiVo, Boxee, Roku and Apple TV typically require an additional device to connect to the TV as well as a network connection.

Other providers, such as Verizon’s FiOS TV and AT&T’s U-verse TV, provide access to some Internet-based content and PC media on TV. But Cablevision’s service would provide full access to any Web site or service, although it wouldn’t let users control the PC using the set-top remote.

Cablevision’s PC-to-TV test also may be intended as a regulatory maneuver. The Federal Communications Commission last fall opened an inquiry into how set-top boxes could be enhanced to allow access to Internet video and encourage broadband adoption.

Cablevision said the PC-to-TV Media Relay would let subscribers access content and applications on their computers, including: personal media such as photos, home videos and music; Internet content, including streaming video sites and audio such as Internet radio; certain productivity applications, including email, documents and spreadsheets; and other applications, such as widgets.

Initially the trial service will be Windowsonly, but Cablevision said a Mac version also is in development. The company said the technology that enables TV-to-PC Media Relay may also be extended to other consumer devices in the home, including handheld devices connected to in-home wireless networks.