US operator to stream channels to CE devices

At least one US operator – or Multichannel Video Programming Distributor (MVPD) as the US regulator FCC calls them – is planning to stream channels to consumer electronics devices such as game consoles.

In a filing yesterday with the FCC, Ron Wheeler, SVP of content protection for Fox Group, stated that “in the course of renegotiating a contract with one of Fox’s multichannel video programming distribution (“MVPD”) partners, the MVPD has told Fox that it intends in the near future to make its subscription and on-demand video services available directly to widely-marketed consumer electronics devices, such as game consoles.”

Fox’s filing on Wednesday, May 11 clearly mirrors one with similar wording from Disney on May 5, but goes on to reveal the plans of an American operator to begin substituting software on game consoles and other “widely-marketed consumer electronics devices” for set-top boxes.

According to Stephen Froehlich, a senior analyst with IMS Research, “While there have been hints of this kind of thing for the last 18 months, this revelation, especially in relation to game consoles, is a significant step up in the commitment level from the operator(s) in question.”

Froehlich continues, “While it is impossible to yet say who the MVPD in question is, our analysis points to a cable operator in the US (including Verizon FiOS in that category). AT&T already has such an effort underway with Mediaroom on the Xbox 360 and lacks the bandwidth to do much more than it is currently doing. The satellite operators retain the need for a standalone hardware platform that contains satellite tuners, demodulators, a standalone decryption capability, and local storage. One very interesting possibility is that the MVPD in question may become a content distribution network and begin serving video to customers using other broadband providers.”

Froehlich concludes, “Confusingly, such a service should be compatible with AllVid in most of its proposed forms. As far as I can tell, the service described by Mr. Wheeler is hard to distinguish from the “API” version of the AllVid rule being proposed by many MVPDs. Therefore, it still doesn’t make sense to me that Fox and Disney are attempting to stop the FCC from proceeding with the AllVid rule in the face of such determination by the Commission to act.”

(Editor’s note – AllVid is a CableCard (the US version of common interface) replacement proposed by the FC). The AllVid hardware would act as a universal adapter for all types of pay TV content, delivered through a wide variety of means, including cable TV, satellite TV, VDSL, IPTV, and web TV.)