Comcast Going Multiscreen With Personal Media

Jumping on a personal media storage and playback trend that has begun to take root among select major U.S. cable operators, Comcast has been moving forward with a new, cloud-based media-sharing system that lets customers store and share their digital photos and videos, and view them on IP-connected devices.

Comcast quietly launched a new iOS app called MyMedia last month that’s tailored for customers using its new, IP-capable X1 platform. When paired with a new cloud-based storage system, Comcast X1 subscribers will have the ability to upload personal videos and photos from their mobile devices and play them back on those gadgets, as well as on set-top boxes.

The free 30.4-Megabyte app for iPhones and iPads showed up on the Apple App store on May 20, though, according to a Comcast X1 user forum, some X1 subscribers began to notice the presence of the MyMedia app back in mid-April.

“The Comcast Labs MyMedia app is intended ONLY for customers that have the X1 platform and Comcast storage,” a brief description of the app explains, noting that the ability to upload, name and delete videos and create albums are among the features gracing the MyMedia app. The app, which isn’t offered on Android-powered devices yet, requires iOS version 6.1 or later.

Comcast has not announced a commercial launch date for the app or said if MyMedia will be a free or pay-based add-on. But a spokesman said it’s one of the new features slated for the X1 that were announced at The Cable Show in April, which included one that will allow triple-play customers to livestream personal video from their mobile devices to the TV via the Internet. At the time, Comcast said it expected that feature to become available by the “beginning of 2015.”

Comcast has not detailed the cloud-pointing aspect of that feature or the MyMedia app it’s testing. However, VIPER, Comcast’s home-grown IP video pipeline for VOD and live streaming, uses a just-intime- packaging (JITP) system that allows Comcast to store content in a common media format that can package up adaptive bit-rate streams in the right device format and resolution on the fly. Comcast has previously said that the approach offers a material improvement to storage economics, particularly when it comes to personal recordings.

Comcast’s new features arrive amid a broader trend among high-speed broadband users. A recent study by nScreenMedia found that 96% of U.S. broadband users store at least one of four main types of digital media: photos, music, movies and/ or home videos. Home videos and photos also represent two of the most popular media types that consumers own and store, according to the study.

Comcast isn’t the only MSO tailoring products that track this trend. Cox Communications, for example, launched a cloud-based personal media management service last year, called “myfl are.” Cox has not yet integrated myflare with set-tops, but does allow users to share and view personal media on PCs, and on iOS- and Android-enabled devices.

Cox offers an array of myflare plans, including a free 2-Gigabyte tier, and paid tiers that range from 25 GB for $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year, all the way to $149.99 per month and $1,499.99 per year for 2 Terabytes.