Comcast’s Web Slinger

Comcast has turned to
set-top manufacturer Pace for a
four-tuner HD digital video recorder
powering its test of a service
blending TV programming
with Internet content.

The trial service, dubbed
Xfinity Spectrum, lets users
access e-mail and YouTube video
clips, and provides new search
and discovery features, according
to documents filed with the Federal
Communications Commission.

“Comcast’s Xfinity Spectrum
brings you the best of TV and the
Internet,” according to the operator’s
user guide for the service.
“You can watch TV programs,
Internet content such as social
networking from Facebook and
Twitter (which we call ‘Social TV’)
and Internet-based entertainment
such as YouTube videos —
all on your TV.”

The Pace RNG 210N boxes,
which reportedly use Intel media
processors, are currently being
tested in a few dozen homes in
Comcast’s 100% digital system in
Augusta, Ga., and possibly other
markets. The Pace DVR is capable
of recording 60 hours of HD programming,
or up to 300 hours of
standard-definition programming,
according to documents
posted Dec. 20 on the FCC’s Office of Engineering and Technology
equipment-authorization site.

The set-tops in the test are
code-named Parker, a reference
to Spider-Man’s alter ego Peter
Parker — who’s a “web-slinger.”

The Pace RNG210N HD DVR
includes an Ethernet jack for
home networking; component
video, S-video and HDMI outputs;
a CableCard slot; an IEEE
1394 FireWire port; and a USB 2.0
port reserved for future use. With
four tuners, users can record up
to three channels at once while
watching a fourth.

The redesigned interactive
program guide lets users search
for program titles, actors, sports
teams and genres. The “browse”
menu includes a “Your Shows”
section with a list of DVR recordings,
favorites and bookmarks.

“Imagine not just watching a
movie or TV show, but utilizing
Xfinity Spectrum as a reference
for the soundtrack,
cast and crew details,
channel lineups and
other information
you’d usually have to
search the Internet
for,” the user guide

To use the Facebook
and Twi tter
features, Xfinity
Spectrum users must first link
their accounts online. Users are
limited to sharing the current
program they’re watching and
whether or not they like it. Other
interactive TV apps in the Spectrum
service provide traffic and
weather info, Pandora’s Internetradio
service and games.

Sources said Comcast’s experimental
trial involves mostly employees.
Currently the MSO has
no plans to launch the Xcalibur
service or Parker set-tops commercially.