CableLabs aims to boost industry profile with Sunnyvale outpost

 Real Estate Reporter- Silicon Valley Business Journal

You may have never heard of CableLabs, but it’s safe to say that its inventions are probably living inside your home.

From its Colorado base, the nonprofit industry skunkworks — sometimes called the Bell Labs of the cable world — has developed many of the technologies that power the country’s $97 billion cable industry.

Now the organization has its sights set on Silicon Valley in an effort to draw more talent, investor and corporate interest into the cable ecosystem.

CableLabs, founded in 1988 and funded by cable operators, is building out a 17,000-square-foot space at 400 West California Ave. The office at Sunnyvale Business Park is located in the same building that Twitter leased this spring, and will consolidate a smaller office that was opened two years ago in San Francisco.

On tap: a combination R&D lab, outreach center and “co-innovation space” for potential tech partners that CEO Phil McKinney says will boost the industry’s presence here.

It’s not lost on McKinney, the former chief technology officer of Hewlett-Packard who took the CableLabs job last June, that the Valley is commonly associated with the disruption of the cable industry (just witness Los Gatos-based Netflix’s, or San Bruno-based YouTube’s role in the so-called pay-TV “cord cutting”).

The increased visibility, he said, is designed to show investors, tech companies and engineers that cable as a platform is not too shabby, thank you very much.

“We want to expose the unique capabilities of cable infrastructure (to the Valley), and educate all companies large and small that cable is a great platform to innovate on top of,” McKinney told me earlier this week. “It touches 90 percent of U.S. homes. If you want to offer that kind of service, not a bad platform and reach.”

In fact, suppliers such as Cisco Systems Inc., Intel Corp., Broadcom and others are major partners in the industry. Their presence here made opening the office something of a no-brainer, McKinney said.

“We looked at the Valley, plotted out all the companies large and small that have interaction with the cable industry, and that drove us to narrow down the search parameters for the space,” McKinney said. “There’s probably three dozen companies today that are already engaged with the cable industry based in the Valley.”

CableLabs’ importance to the cable world is hard to overstate, said Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst of Leichtman Research Group Inc.

“With consolidation in the industry, there are fewer players than in the past,” he said. “So having an organization focused on the current and future technology is important to the industry.”

Staking a claim in Silicon Valley is the right move, Leichtman said, who also said it’s time for the industry to take credit for fostering much of what makes high-speed Internet possible.

“The reality is, without cable, broadband wouldn’t be that far,” he said. “For as much attention as Netflix gets, it’s miniature to where the cable industry is.”

His research shows cable subscribership relatively flat — the 13 largest multi-channel video providers in the U.S. lost roughly 345,000 net video subscribers in the second quarter, LRG said. But those providers still boasted nearly 94.6 million subscribers.

CableLabs’ vision

The organization is working on new technologies that are speeding data transfer, network capacity and picture resolution.

To that end, a portion of the Sunnyvale outpost will serve as development labs, where CableLabs engineers can work with vendors building products.

“We literally have one of everything used in the cable industry worldwide, so a tech company can come, sit down, and say, I want to test it against a Comcast infrastructure or a Time Warner infrastructure,” McKinney said.

Another piece of the lab will serve as “flex space” for tech companies and startups interested in applying their product to a cable platform, McKinney said. Space for meetings and events will occupy another sizable chunk.

Overall, CableLabs has 175 employees, with 110 of them engineers. McKinney said the Sunnyvale office would have perhaps three dozen staff there, up from the five that were in San Francisco.

Its biggest project right now is “Docsis 3.1,” a new specification that will support speeds orders of magnitude higher than what’s currently standard. That will help drive adoption of thinks like 4K-resolution television, a much higher-quality resolution TV experience.

“Our biggest challenge is to convey a message of innovation around the cable platform,” McKinney said.

Comcast Names Area VP In Sacramento Valley

Posted on in In The News, Press Releases

BJ Daisey To Oversee Northern California Territory

By: MCN Staff Jul 19 2013 – 11:23am
BJ Daisey To Oversee Northern California Territory

Comcast said BJ Daisey has been named area vice president for Comcast California’s Sacramento Valley area, reporting to Marty Robinson, VP of operations for Comcast California. Daisey will oversee all aspects of Comcast’s operations in Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Chico, Oroville, Grass Valley, Marysville and Yuba City. He will be responsible for a team of 575 employees, and will oversee a key Northern California territory for Comcast.

Daisey, who will be based in the company’s Sacramento office, most recently served as the director of technical operations for Comcast’s West Division in Denver. In that role, he was responsible for leading the fulfillment and dispatch workforce for 6 million subscribers. He first joined Comcast in 1999 in Maryland as an install technician, and has previously held both supervisor and manager roles in Maryland and Fort Myers, Fla. Prior to joining the West Division, Daisey held the position of director of technical operations for Comcast’s operations in Savannah, Ga.

Charter Brings 185 HD Channels, Improved All-Digital Network

Posted on in In The News, Press Releases

Charter Brings 185 HD Channels, Improved All-Digital Network

to Customers in Long Beach, Glendale and Burbank

 

Digital equipment for all TVs required beginning in August

Irwindale, CA

– Charter customers in Long Beach, Glendale and Burbank will soon enjoy access to 185 high definition (HD) channels – more HD than any satellite television provider in these communities* – as part of an all-digital upgrade to Charter’s Southern California network.

In August, Charter will begin clearing all analog signals from its local network, making way to add 80 new HD channels in Glendale and Burbank along with 79 new HD offerings in Long Beach. Customers in all three communities will have access to a total of 185 HD channels once Charter completes its move to an all-digital network in October.

“By removing outdated analog signals, we gain back a tremendous amount of bandwidth in our network,” said John Owen, vice president of Charter’s Southwest Region. “In the space we previously needed for a single analog channel, we can now provide multiple standard definition digital channels or HD channels. It’s a great opportunity for us to maximize value for our customers.”

Disney Junior, Hallmark Movie Channel, DIY Network, FX Movie Channel, CBS Sports Network and FOX Soccer are just a few of the new HD channels that will soon be available in crystal-clear digital picture and sound.

Plus, with digital set-top boxes, Charter customers will gain Video On Demand (VOD) access for every television in their homes. With more than 10,000 VOD options, including more than 1,800 HD titles, Charter is setting a new standard for digital video entertainment.

Customers must take action to ensure they continue receiving Charter programming on all of their televisions. Those not currently equipped with Charter-issued digital set-top boxes or CableCARDs must acquire them for each of their TVs; and Charter is making it easy for

customers to obtain digital boxes at no cost. Customers may visit

www.charter.com/digitalnow or call 1-888-GET CHARTER (1-888-438-2427) for more information.

“More than 93 percent of Charter customers in California have adopted digital devices for at least one television in their home,” said Jean Simmons, vice president and general manager for Charter in California. “Now, we can give customers in Long Beach, Glendale and Burbank even more of what they want – a superior digital image, better audio and a diverse selection of HD programming.”

 

*Excludes On Demand and Pay Per View

 

###

 

About Charter
Charter (NASDAQ: CHTR) is a leading broadband communications company and the fourth-largest cable operator in the United States. Charter provides a full range of advanced broadband services, including advanced Charter TV® video entertainment programming, Charter Internet® access, and Charter Phone®. Charter Business® similarly provides scalable, tailored, and cost-effective broadband communications solutions to business organizations, such as business-to-business Internet access, data networking, business telephone, video and music entertainment services, and wireless backhaul. Charter’s advertising sales and production services are sold under the Charter Media® brand. More information about Charter can be found at

 

charter.com.
Media Contact:

 

Brian Anderson

817-945-1833

Brian.Anderson@charter.com

Cox Targets Cord-Cutters With Internet TV Test in Southern California (Exclusive)

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Operator offering beta version of lower-priced flareWatch service with 97 channels, cloud DVR service and Fan TV set-top

Digital Editor, New York@xpangler

Cox Communications is the first major U.S. pay TV operator to explicitly aim at cord-cutters, launching a test of a lower-priced TV and cloud DVR service in Orange County, Calif., delivered over its broadband pipes.

The operator’s flareWatch service is $34.99 per month, with access to 97 live channels and 30 hours of network DVR storage. The service is currently available to Cox broadband subscribers in the Orange County market.

The flareWatch service is part of “a small trial” in the area, according to Cox spokesman Todd Smith. “Results and customer feedback will determine if we proceed with future plans,” he said.

The Cox Internet TV service uses Fanhattan’s Fan TV set-top, which provides iPad-like navigation via a touch-sensitive remote control that has no buttons. Subscribers can connect up to three Fan TV boxes, which cost $99 each, to the service. While it’s unlikely that Cox or any other pay-TV provider will adopt the approach to deliver their primary TV services, Fan TV and similar boxes could find a home on the Internet streaming front.

FlareWatch does not provide access to over-the-top streaming-video services, such as Hulu or Netflix.

“Finally, a simpler, easier way to get the entertainment you love,” Cox says in a promo for the service.

Cord-cutting has been a growing concern among pay TV providers, which risk losing price-sensitive video subscribers who instead opt for free, over-the-air TV and cheaper streaming options like Netflix.

SEE ALSO: Top Wall Street Analyst: Pay TV “Cord-Cutting Is Real”

One of the key attributes of Cox’s flareWatch is that it delivers a healthy mix of popular programming but at a lower price than traditional cable TV packages.

Beta version of flareWatch provides local broadcast TV and cable nets such as ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Fox Sports West, TWC SportsNet, CNN, CNBC, Nickelodeon, A&E, Discovery, Bravo, USA, TLC, MTV, Fox News Channel, FX, Food Network and Syfy. About 60 of the channels are in HD, according to Cox.

Ordinarily, to get most of those channels, subscribers must purchase Cox Advanced TV service with 300-plus channels, regularly priced at $63.99 per month.

Cox does offer a $24.99-per-month TV Economy package, but that excludes regional sports nets and most of the cable channels in the flareWatch lineup. Nets available in TV Economy include CNN, Nickelodeon, Discovery, History, Fox News, Food Network and USA.

While it is experimenting with Internet-delivered television, Cox is more focused on rolling out the personalized Trio video guide across all its markets along with a related tablet app for in-home streaming video, set to launch later this summer, according to Smith.

Cox’s Flare brand also includes “MyFlare,” a cloud-based media storage service the operator launched in April for hosting personal photos, videos, music and documents. Future offerings in the Flare family are slated to include streaming music and games, according to the MSO.

Privately held Cox is the third-biggest U.S. cable operator, with an estimated 4.5 million video customers.

Cox is providing demos of flareWatch at its five retail Solutions Stores in Orange County, according to the operator’s website.

Time Warner Cable to bring 300 channels to Xbox 360

Posted on in In The News, Press Releases, Uncategorized

Later this summer, Time Warner Cable will launch its TV application on Xbox Live, bringing up to 300 live TV channels to the Xbox 360. The service will be available only to those who are current Time Warner Cable customers and who subscribe to Xbox Live Gold.

According to Microsoft, Time Warner Cable’s channel offerings will include AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central, and CNN. The app will also work with voice controls through the company’s Kinect sensor.

Microsoft has been making a strong push into entertainment with its Xbox 360, and hopes to continue that with the upcoming Xbox One. Last month, the company showed off several entertainment-focused features in the next-generation Xbox One, including one that overlays the Xbox interface over live television. Microsoft has promised that the Xbox One will allow users to instantly switch betweenwatching live TV and playing a game.

Details are a tad bit slim on the Time Warner Cable integration at the moment. However, the companies have promised more details before the Time Warner Cable TV app launches in the Xbox Live Marketplace later this summer.

Cable Show 2013: Broadband Pipe Can Fuel New Services

Posted on in In The News, Press Releases

Home Control, Energy Management and Health Services On Tap For Cable Ops

By: Mike Farrell Jun 11 2013 – 5:13pm
Washington, D.C. – The broadband pipe won’t just be the conduit for Internet content in the future, with cable operators working diligently to provide services like home control, energy management and home health services in the not too distant future, according to a panel session at the Cable Show Tuesday.
At a session entitled, Coming Down the Pipe: Emerging Businesses Powered by Broadband and moderated by Multichannel News technology editor Jeff Baumgartner, top tech executives from Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Mediacom Communications and Bright House Networks, outlined their strategies for using the robust cable infrastructure for new services. While home security dominated the early part of the conversation – a product that each MSO on the panel has launched – each executive said that even those existing offerings are evolving to include capabilities like thermostat control and other types of home automation.
Time Warner Cable vice president, corporate and new business development Shanti Grandhi added that the push has been to provide services under a connected home banner, providing home security bundled with other products that set it apart from the competition. According to the panelists, about 20% of the home security market is controlled by one company – ADT – but the rest is split between small mom and pop operations that provide services to neighborhoods. Cable operators have been addressing that larger segment by offering products in addition to simple alarms. For example, at Comcast, senior vice president and general manager of new business Mitch Bowling said the MSO includes an Eco Saver feature as part of its XFinity Home Control product that allows customers to set thermostats and turn on and off lights remotely.
Comcast as well as other companies have been repackaging their home services – decoupling home automation products from straight security services – as a way to better tailor the service to customers needs.
Bowling said each MSO has multiple products they can pull together to create offerings that “can literally change the way people live in their homes.” And he added, these products can help drive growth in other segments of the business,
Bowling said that about two-thirds of Comcast’s security customers have never had a home security product before. About 40% of its security customers in Q1 were not prior Comcast customers, and of those 40%, 64% went from zero Comcast products to four Comcast products.
Cox executive vice president and chief strategy officer Asheesh Saksena said home security also improves customers’ perception of their cable provider. He said that Cox’s home security customers regularly give an 8-9-or10 out of 10 recommendation rating to the cable company.
As far as new products, each MSO executive said home healthcare could be a huge opportunity, both by providing connections between patients and doctors and for general health monitoring. Bowling said that on product Comcast is testing is a passive monitoring product for the elderly, which would track their movements patterns during the day and notify a third party when those patterns deviate form the norm.
Time Warner Cable is testing a televideo product that would allow patients to video chat with their doctors, as well as a biometric monitoring service that would allow doctors to receive real-time patient data like heart rates remotely.
Education also is a growth opportunity – Mediacom Business senior vice president Dan Templin said that the MSO is testing a distance learning offering that would give students access to classes they would not be able to access through their local school systems.

Cable Show 2013: ‘CableWiFi’ Alliance Pushes Past 150,000 Hotspots

Posted on in In The News, Press Releases, Uncategorized

Combined Wi-Fi Network has Tripled In Size Since Last Year’s Cable Confab

By: Jeff Baumgartner Jun 9 2013 – 11:54pm

Washington — The MSO members of the “CableWi” roaming alliance announced Monday that they have deployed more than 150,000 hotspots combined, essentially tripling the size of the wireless broadband network since announcing the wireless broadband partnership at last year’s cable event.

Those MSOs – Cablevision Systems, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Bright House Networks – claim they now operate the largest Wi-Fi network in the U.S.

According to Multichannel News research and tracking, those MSOs have deployed north of 165,000 hotspots. Among individual U.S. MSOs, Cablevision, the first in the group to deploy public Wi-Fi on a broad basis, has deployed more than 80,000 hot spots.

Customers of those MSOs can tap in by logging in with their credentials when they encounter a Wi-Fi access point broadcasting the “CableWiFi” SSID. Once a device is authenticated, it will auto-connect to other CableWiFi hotspots automatically.

Together, the CableWiFi members have deployed access points in several U.S. cities, including New York City; Los Angeles; Chicago; Philadelphia; Atlanta; Baltimore; Boston; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; Orlando; Tampa; and Kansas City.

The first implementation of CableWiFi began in May 2012, when the five MSOs announced a combined metro WiFi networks comprised of over 50,000 hotspots.

“At Cablevision, we see firsthand how much usage and convenience WiFi delivers to our customers, which is why we have long been a proponent of this value-added benefit. When we partner with other cable operators in this expansion of Cable WiFi, it gives our Optimum Online customers even greater access to wireless Internet service,” said Gemma Toner, Cablevision’s SVP of broadband product management, in a statement.

“WiFi is a key component of our efforts to deliver Xfinity Internet customers the fastest and most reliable Internet connection, both inside and outside of the home,” added Tom Nagel, SVP of business development at Comcast Cable.

“We recognize that an Internet connection wherever you are is a hugely important feature so we’ll continue to bring more WiFi to the places where our customers live, work and play. It’s like taking your home Internet service with you,” said Mike Roudi, SVP of corporate development for Time Warner Cable.

“Through these WiFi networks, our customers will benefit from having access to WiFi that is complementary to their cellular plans and experience,” said Kelly Williams, VP of product strategy and management at Cox.

“Our customers will enjoy expanded access to WiFi connectivity while on-the-go through this rapidly growing network of Cable WiFi access points located throughout the U.S.,” said Leo Cloutier, SVP, corporate strategy and business development at Bright House Networks.

 

Cable Show 2013: Clyburn — Cable Does Incredible Job of Connecting Nation

Posted on in In The News, Press Releases

Washington — After the Cable Show crowd got a wake-up call Tuesday from the fifes, drums and bugles of the U.S. Army Old Guard Army Fife and Drum Corps, acting chairwoman Mignon Clyburn took the stage for her first, and likely only, Cable Show in the big chair, and she came armed with praise for the industry, as well as a call to action.

“What a phenomenal conference…. You have done an incredible job of connecting this nation,” she told the audience in a brief Q&A with NCTA president Michael Powell. She pointed out that most of America has access to broadband, but that the country can’t be satisfied with reaching the majority. Almost a million Americans haven’t adopted broadband, she said, adding that cost and literacy were factors. “There are a whole host of people who don’t see what’s in it for them,” she said.

Clyburn said it was “phenomenal” that the cable industry was a big driver of the move of content to the anytime anywhere model.

While Clyburn has been identifying herself as acting chairwoman, Powell said that technically, there was no such thing. “There is nothing acting about you in my mind,” he said.

Convention cochair Abbe Raven introduced Clyburn with the observation that after nearly 80 years, “we can say there is a woman running the FCC.” Powell echoed the historic note, saying she had been an “exemplar” to men as well as women because of her achievement. He asked her what that achievement meant to her. Clyburn said she thought about her grandmother, who was not allowed a full education “due to the laws of the land” at the time, but always encouraged her.

Powell pointed to the president’s announcement of a goal of connecting 99% of students to high-speed broadband within five years and asked whether she thought Wi-Fi should be part of that equation. She said “absolutely,” and that the solution needed to include both licensed and unlicensed services. She said it was not going to be possible to hardwire the entire country and that the goal should be connecting in the most efficient way possible.

Asked what her agenda would be, Clyburn cited statutory requirements like measuring video competition and continued work on incentive auctions, which she said was sucking up a lot of oxygen at the agency, but in a good way since it would be a win-win for industry and consumers.

Appeals Court Affirms Decision to Deny Nexstar Injunction Against Time Warner Cable

Posted on in In The News, Press Releases

Agrees That Plain Language of Contract Allows for Importation of Distant Signals
By: John Eggerton May 31 2013 – 5:07pm

TV stations may want to re-read their retrans contracts to see whether they, too could be subject to distant signal importations. The U.S. Court of Appeals has denied motions for a stay and injunction against Time Warner Cable for retransmitting Nexstar distant signals, agreeing with a Texas district court that Nexstar is not likely to succeed on the merits of its breach of contract claim against Time Warner Cable.

Nexstar said that the language in its retrans consent agreement (RCA) did not apply to delivering signals outside a market, while TWC said it granted broad carriage rights.

The Texas district court, in denying to enjoin Nexstar, agreed with TWC that the contract provided those broad rights and the Fifth Circuit affirmed that decision this week.

“[T]he plain language of the RCA grants Time Warner broad authority to retransmit Nexstar signals on Time Warner stations (sic),” the appeals court said in the May 30 decision.

Parsing that plain language, the court said that “[Nexstar] hereby gives [Time Warner] the nonexclusive retransmission of the entire broadcast signal of each Station (the ‘Signal’) over each System pursuant to the terms of this Agreement,” meant TWC could retransmit the signals on any or all of its systems, not just the one serving the relevant market.

Time Warner Cable issued this statement: “On Thursday, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a decision in Nexstar’s lawsuit against TWC.  The Court of Appeals decision affirmed the district court judge in all respects in finding that Nexstar was not likely to prevail in its breach of contract and copyright case, since our retransmission consent agreement clearly gives us the right to carry Nexstar signals in distant markets.”

A Texas district judge last fall denied Nexstar’s request for a temporary restraining order against Time Warner Cable and signaled Nexstar is unlikely to win its suit charging the cable operator impermissibly imported Nexstar signals into distant markets to substitute for Hearst TV stations that had gone dark there due to a retrans fight with TWC.

Hearst and TWC settled their dispute not long after the suit and TRO request were filed, so the TRO was essentially moot, but Nexstar was charging copyright infringement and the decision suggests TWC is free to import those Nexstar signals again if it runs into a retrans impasse in those or other markets.

“The Court of Appeals decision affirmed the district court judge in all respects in finding that Nexstar was not likely to prevail in its breach of contract and copyright case, since our retransmission consent agreement clearly gives us the right to carry Nexstar signals in distant markets,” TWC said in a statement

Cox Assists in Oklahoma Tornado Recovery Efforts

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Cox Communications has stepped up efforts to help customers affected by the devastating tornado that hit the Oklahoma City area earlier this week, securing programming rights to extend its Cox TV Connect TV Everywhere app outside of the home and setting up centers where customers can access telecom services.

At least 24 people were killed and thousands were left homeless and without power in the devastating twister that struck the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on May 20.

Cox Communications parent Cox Enterprises has pledged about $1 million to relief efforts in the areas.

The Cox TV Connect app, which gives TV Essentials and Preferred High Speed Internet Access customers live streaming access to about 90 channels, will be available to certain mobile devices for the next 90 days, said spokesman Todd Smith in an e-mail message. The app is normally available only inside the home but the company is extending the capability to help connect Cox customers to the content they care about wherever they have sought refuge in the weeks and months ahead.

Video can be viewed live on supported Apple and Android devices and is authenticated with the customer’s Cox primary account holder user ID and password.

Supported Apple devices are iPhone, iPad, and iTouch. Supported Android Tablet Devices include: Kindle Fire 2nd generation, Kindle Fire HD 7”, Kindle Fire HD 8.9”, Google Nexus 7”, Samsung Galaxy Tablet 2 – 7”, Samsung Galaxy Tablet 2 – 10.1”, and Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1”. The full suite of TV Connect channels can be accessed here.

Cox is also offering free services at two telecommunications centers in Oklahoma: St. Andrew

800 NW 5th St, Moore, OK 73160; and the Moore Community Center, 301 N. Broadway, Moore, OK 73160

Both locations have Wi-Fi, local and long distance calling and HD TV service.

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