DLNA Debuts 'Vidipath' Brand, Certification Program

The Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) has introduced a consumer-facing brand that will be used to identify set-tops, gaming consoles, streaming devices and other retail CE products that adhere to a new set of technical guidelines that enable the support of subscription TV content from multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs).

In addition to supporting the full suite of pay-TV services of a participating MVPD via a protected IP-based home network, VidiPath will also provide them with a way to bridge their user interface and navigation systems to VidiPath-certified devices that are sold at retail. DLNA released the CVP-2 guidelines in March, succeeding CVP-1, a set of guidelines that allowed only for limited DVR content sharing between an MSO-supplied box and DLNA-certified equipment.

On Thursday, DLNA also launched the VidiPath Certification program, which will be used to certify products that are based on the CVP-2/VidiPath guidelines. DLNA said it will demonstrate VidiPath-based products at the IBC, which off Friday, Sept. 12 in Amsterdam.

Scott Lofgren, president of DLNA and chairman of the DLNA board, said the organization has already held several VidiPath plug-fests and implemented the test programs. Five independent certification vendors have set up testing labs in five locations around the globe. Certification fees vary, including $15,000 for a “Class 1 Base Device” that allows the company to submit an unlimited number of derivatives of an original certified product for testing for a full year. VidiPath software testing costs $1,000.

Lofgren said at least 15 companies are working on VidiPath-compatible products now and anticipates that some will make it through the certification process in time for the 2014 holiday buying season. Additionally, four service providers are looking to support VidiPath/CVP-2 in their services and media servers/gateway products.

Devices that pass the test will be capable of supporting the full pay-TV experience of participating MVPDs. “It’s all about more eyeballs on more content and more devices,” Lofgren said, noting that he sees rollouts ramping up first in the U.S. this year before pushing ahead with service providers based in  Europe and Asia.

DLNA’s membership group includes CableLabs, MVPDs such as Comcast, CableLabs, Time Warner Cable, Verizon Communications, and Cox Communications, as well as suppliers and chipmakers, including Arris, Sony, LG, Intel and Broadcom.

Earlier this year, Comcast declined to say when it would support the new DLNA guidelines, but did acknowledge that it planned to integrate them into set-tops and gateways that run its X1 platform and use the Reference Design Kit, a preintegrated software stack for IP-capable video devices.  

“As products complete the VidiPath Certification process and get introduced into the market, we will be able to provide our services to customers on a growing choice of compatible devices that they can choose based on their unique requirements and preferences,” said Ken Klaer, senior vice president, Comcast Cable, in a statement.

"We are excited that the VidiPath Certification program has now begun. It will facilitate the interoperability between cable operator supplied STBs and VidiPath Certified CE devices, added, Tom Lookabaugh, chief R&D officer, CableLabs.

Looking ahead, DLNA has already outlined capabilities that are on the VidiPath roadmap, including integration with second screens that would allow the user to control content and navigate menus via tablets and smartphones. DLNA is also working on a way for VidiPath to support cloud-sourced content.

The VidiPath/CVP-2 guidelines are pushing ahead as the AllVid Tech Company Alliance continues to urge the FCC to pursue a successor to the CableCARD that could be applied to all MVPDs, and not just cable operators. Led by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the cable industry has argued that the FCC should allow the marketplace to develop on its own without additional government mandates.