Comcast’s Cloud DVR Will Soon Expand Into Philly

A more feature-rich version of Comcast’s X1 platform that supports a cloud-based DVR and in-home streaming of the operator’s full linear live TV lineup on PCs, tablets and other mobile devices will soon launch in systems serving Philadelphia and New Jersey, with Chicago believed to be  among the other major Comcast markets on deck.

Comcast, which debuted those new cloud-fed capabilities in Boston in early February,  has not announced a launch date for them in the MSO’s hometown area, but word of it began to show up this week on a popular message board that keeps close tabs on X1-related activities. A person representing Comcast noted there that the X1 cloud services offering has already been turned up, though it appears to be a soft launch at this point.

Comcast declined to comment on its specific launch plans, but two sources said cloud services for the X1 platform should be available in the Philadelphia area by early April, followed shortly by an introduction in Chicago.

UPDATE: Speaking at a Light Reading cable tech event in Denver on Thursday, Comcast VP of IP video engineering Alan  Broome reportedly said the the cloud DVR service went live in Philadelphia on March 25, with the launch in Chicago to follow as early as next week. He also said Comcast plans to test multicast IP TV in the third quarter, referring to a technique that is more bandwidth-friendly than unicast when it comes to the delivery of IP-based live, linear TV streams.

Comcast’s new “X1 DVR with Cloud Technology” allows customers to access recorded shows and movies stored on the MSO’s network-based servers and play them back in the home on IP-connected devices. The new feature also lets customers “check-out” a unique copy of shows and movies recorded to the cloud DVR and play them back on tablets and smartphones (up to a maximum of ten recordings per device). Copies must be checked back in before they can be played back on other authorized devices.

If the rollout is successful, Comcast is expected to lean more heavily on its cloud-based DVR product as a complement to its use of set-tops and gateways with local DVR storage.

In Boston, Comcast’s first iteration of the cloud DVR provides 500 gigabytes of video storage and allows customers to record up to four shows at once while watching a fifth. A source said Comcast is looking to expand that to 2 terabytes of cloud DVR storage for its Chicago rollout. Comcast has not confirmed any plans to expand storage on its cloud DVR product.

Although Comcast isn’t revealing its market-by-market rollout plan for its new X1 cloud service components, it does expect to expand availability throughout the year.

Speaking at the Next TV Summit in New York last Wednesday (March 19) about those new features, Matt Strauss, Comcast Cable’s senior vice president and general manager, video services, said the operator is prioritizing rollouts in the MSO’s largest markets first, and expects to offer them to a “good portion of our footprint” in 2014.