The Expansion of Comcast’s Cloud DVR

Comcast has expanded its cloud DVR service into the Philadelphia, New Jersey and Delaware markets. This cloud based service is supported by Comcast’s feature laden platform known as X1. X1 coincides with the current Xfinity platform for streaming popular TV shows. Aside from the DVR expansion, subscribers will be able to stream Comcast television on mobile devices like tablets and laptops. The news actually leaked by way of an Internet message board that focuses on Comcast’s X1 service. This service is not to be confused with Time Warner’s Fan TV video platform. It is still unclear how combining X1 and Fan TV will happen in the future yet.

Comcast VP of IP video engineering Alan Broome said the cloud DVR service went live in Philadelphia on March 25, with the launch in Chicago to follow as early as [the] next week. Mr. Broome also revealed that Comcast would experiment with multicast IP television in the second half of 2014. This technology makes it much easier to use bandwidth to send television content compared to the traditional unicast technology. It also helps with programming that may have specific distribution contracts with different providers.

Yet the big news was the expansion of the cloud based X1 DVR service. Subscribers will be able to watch recorded programs any time they’d like as the content is housed on MSO servers. These servers empower customers to access content through their personal devices that are internet connected. Customers can utilize this “space” as it become available. Customers can even check out programming just as they would check out a library book. They can watch movies and shows that are recorded to their cloud DVR. Customers will be limited to ten programs per mobile device and they have to check each of the programs back in before accessing them on another device.

Comcast’s transition to the cloud style technology follows in the footsteps of other companies like TiVo that are slowly moving away from tangible DVR machines towards video stored and transmitted via the cloud. It makes more sense for both the business and the customer. Tangible boxes are fallible. They can break and they cost significant capital to produce, plus the DVR competition with other TV service providers has intensified. Clouds don’t break and rarely malfunction. Clouds also do not cost money to manufacture, though the servers cost money. As Comcast figures out how to cut cost while increasing revenue, technological advances are required for paying customers.

Perhaps the best part of this new technology is that customers will eventually be able to access video content wherever they happen to be as long as there is an available high speed internet connection. So, if you are sitting in a doctor’s office, waiting to be seen and you have your mobile device on hand, you can watch your favorite movies and shows that you’ve recorded. Now you can do that with shows you’ve bought or movies you’ve rented online. Comcast may be ahead of the competition utilizing the growing use of mobile across many demographics, this includes social media integration. The recent increase in ratings for NBC from the Sochi Olympics coverage, and “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” are motivators for progressive technology.

Comcast refers to this capability as “TV everywhere.” For the moment, TV Everywhere is currently limited to Wi-Fi use in the home in all markets except for the Boston test market. Boston customers utilize the X1 cloud services through Internet web browsers, iPhones and applications for iPads like Xfinity TV. Yet, savvy customers who have prepared ahead of time and moved their recorded content to their mobile devices will be empowered to watch their programs at any location, regardless of whether a Wi-Fi connection is available. Most people watch TV as well as pay attention to their social media feeds, thus the ability to re-watch your favorite show from anywhere can be very appealing.

Comcast has rolled out the technology little by little to ensure that it will be a success. The cloud DVR debuted in Boston back in February with 500 GBs of storage for shows and movies per customer, due to onslaught of many start-ups in the area. Customers can “record” four shows at the same time and even watch a fifth show while the other four are recording. It is rumored that when the technology is brought to the Chicago market, there might be much more cloud DVR storage space. These budding markets (Boston, Chicago) have a thriving sports following, thus the cloud DVR will help them stay up to date with their latest sports news. Comcast has reported that the use of this X1 service has proved that customers are more willing to buy related services than originally intended.

It was recently reported to Multi-channel News, that the overall available storage could be bumped to two terabytes for the Chicago launch. Comcast has yet to announce how far West the service will expand, but expect the TV market to change. Reliance on a merger of Time Warner to reach more people won’t be necessary with adaptation of the cloud DVR. Once it is determined to be a workable technology that customers enjoy, Comcast will expand cloud-based DVR service to even more major U.S. markets throughout the rest of 2014 and beyond. Safe to say the cord has evolved into a cloud, and won’t be cut anytime soon.

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