Comcast Cloud DVR Adds Out-Of-Home Capability

Comcast said it has enabled out-of-home access to its Cloud DVR service, a significant enhancement to a product for its X1 video platform that had previously limited viewing of recordings to in the customer’s home  since the operator first introduced the Cloud DVR in Boston roughly seven months ago.

Comcast implemented the out-of-home Cloud DVR feature as it introduced the service in the Bay Area, the eighth market to get it.

Comcast has also launched its Cloud DVR and an in-home live TV streaming service that allows users to watch the MSO’s full linear TV lineup and its VOD service on Web browsers as well as iOS- and Android-powered tablets and smartphones in Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Chicago; Houston; Philadelphia; and Washington D.C.

The new cloud-based offerings for X1 also lets customers “check out” DVR recordings by sideloading them to those devices for later playback. Comcast’s Cloud DVR is currently provides customers with 500 Gigabytes of storage and the ability to record four shows while watching another. Cablevision Systems, meanwhile, is already demonstrating how a network-based DVR can offer an almost unlimited number of tuners -- a software upgrade implemented in April pushed the number of shows a Cablevision customer could record at one time to 15.

A Comcast official said the new out-of-home capability, now offered in all of Comcast’s Cloud DVR-enabled markets, marked a technical enhancement to the product rather than a clearing up of any lingering rights issues. Customers can access Cloud DVR recordings on the go via WiFi or 3G/4G cellular connections.

“These new features -- live in-home streaming and X1 DVR with cloud technology -- give our customers more flexibility for watching their favorite shows and movies in and out of their home,” said Matt Strauss, Comcast Cable’s senior vice president and general manager, video services, in a statement. “Now, any screen in the house can become a personal TV, and recorded programs can be accessed anytime, anywhere.”

Comcast has deployed X1 across its current footprint and expects to offer the Cloud DVR and in-home video streaming features to most of its X1 customers by the end of the year.

Comcast, which is using its next-gen X1 service to stem video losses, hasn’t revealed how many of its 22.4 million video customers are on the platform, but has said it is installing upwards of 20,000 boxes a day. Speaking on a panel at last week’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver, Labeeb Ismail, Comcast Cable’s VP of CPE software, estimated that the MSO had deployed “upwards of 4 million” devices powered by the Reference Design Kit (RDK), the preintegrated software stack used in Comcast’s X1 boxes.

Comcast is currently offering X1 on boxes with local HD-DVRs called the XG1. The operator is also developing a hybrid QAM/IP "headless" gateway, the XG5, that could be paired with all-IP HD client devices called the Xi3 and, once implemented, could rely solely on the MSO's Cloud DVR infrastructure. During an interview at The Cable Show in April, Strauss noted that the MSO was also working on the Xi4, a video client that will be a smaller version of the Xi3.

Comcast and others are eyeing the use of smaller, less power-hungry IP video devices. In May, Comcast was among the founding members of the Linaro Digital Home Group, an initiative that aims to accelerate the use of ARM-based silicon in digital home applications.The low-power ARM architecture has taken hold in mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones, and now appears to be poised for use in small form-factor video devices, including clients that run the RDK, which is being managed by Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Liberty Global.