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Comcast Debuts VOD Search

Comcast has started rolling out a video-on-demand search function to subscribers in Motorola markets, with plans to bring the feature to its Cisco Systems footprint via a tru2way-based guide targeted for deployment in the first half of 2011.

The "Search TV & On Demand" menu will be appearing on the operator's i-Guide interactive program guide over the next several months in Motorola-system markets, Comcast senior director of video product development Ted Hodgins wrote in a Nov. 5 post on the MSO's corporate blog.

Comcast initially rolled out the VOD search feature in southeastern Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia, and parts of central Pennsylvania. It's now available in other Motorola systems including Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.

The feature will continue to roll out to Motorola-system markets through the fall and winter. Hodgins also noted that customers in Comcast's Cisco areas -- which include Baltimore, Houston, Minneapolis, Memphis, Tenn., and Alexandria/Arlington, Va. -- will see the VOD search features as a part of a new tru2way guide coming to those systems in the first half of 2011. Tru2way is the consumer brand for CableLabs' OpenCable Application Platform interactive TV specification.

"Search TV & On Demand" returns both linear TV listings and VOD titles. For example, search results for "East" would include HBO's Eastbound & Down, Clint Eastwood movies, the BBC's EastEnders, The Witches of Eastwick, music videos from Lil' Jon & The East Side Boyz and an ESPN special on the Big East, Hodgins wrote. There's also an option to search only within VOD.

"The results are sorted by relevance, just like a Google search would be," Hodgins wrote.

The comparison to Google is noteworthy, given that the Internet giant has embarked on its own strategy to provide an integrated search function for TV. Partners on the Google TV initiative include Dish Network, Sony, Best Buy and Logitech -- but so far major broadcast networks and Hulu are blocking the Google TV software from accessing video content.

Approximately 80% of Comcast's footprint is Motorola-based, and the rest is Cisco/SA. This summer Comcast began rolling out i-Guide to Cisco markets, though that "S25" release lacks more advanced features available to Motorola users such as Web-based DVR scheduling.

The i-Guide is developed by Comcast's GuideWorks subsidiary, which was previously a joint venture with Rovi before the vendor exited the partnership earlier this year.

Separately, Comcast contracted with NDS to "harden" the CableLabs open-source tru2way/OCAP reference implementation for commercial deployment on multiple vendors' set-tops.