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DVRs Roam the House

Operators To Offer 'Whole Home� Recording Features This Year

Multichannel News
04-04-09, by Todd Spangler

It was a coming-out party for cable�s multiroom DVRs last week, with the industry finally poised to deliver set-tops with the feature sometime this year.

Several operators are set to roll out multiroom DVRs this year, including Time Warner Cable � which is working with both Motorola and Cisco Systems � as well as Cox Communications and Bright House Networks, which plan to roll out the feature with Cisco.

With Motorola, Time Warner Cable is developing �Follow Me TV,� a multiroom digital video recorder based on the Tru2way specfication for interactive cable services. The companies� multiroom DVR would be the first Tru2way-based system with home-network extensions to be commercially deployed.

�Consumers expect more flexibility and control with today�s premium TV services, and we are excited to be offering the whole-home DVR with Motorola,� Time Warner Cable senior engineering fellow Louis Williamson said in a statement.

Motorola developed the whole-home DVR solution to work with its DCX3400-M and Motorola DCX3200-M Tru2way-enabled set-tops, which use the Multimedia over Coaxial Alliance (MoCA) home-networking standard.

Cisco used the show to officially debut its Explorer 86000HDC multiroom DVRs, and said Time Warner Cable, Cox and Bright House Networks plan to offer the set-tops in select systems later this year.

The Explorer 8600HDC DVR set-top series allows recorded shows or user-generated video content to be shared across multiple set-tops in the home. The boxes feature dual tuners with hard-disk-drive storage ranging from 160 to 500 Gigabytes. The series also supports Tru2way, 1-GHz tuning, an MPEG-4 (H.264) codec and optional MoCA support.

�Our next-generation set-top box platform � represents the foundation for innovative new multimedia services as delivered by service providers in the home,� said Cisco Service Group senior vice president and general manager Tony Bates.

In addition to Tru2way and MoCA, Cisco�s new set-top portfolio also supports DLNA and DTCP-IP media-sharing standards.

Meanwhile, Macrovision Solutions is incorporating multiroom DVR features into the next iteration of its Passport Echo 3.5 and i-Guide A28 guides. Both of those interactive program guides, set to be available in the fourth quarter, run on Motorola�s DCX set-tops, which include MoCA networking features.

The Passport and i-Guide multiroom DVR features will let users start and stop a show in one room and resume play in another (from a compatible set-top) and view a list of recordings from multiple locations within the home. The IPGs will be able to play up to three high-definition format shows on the network while recording two HD shows, and will allow the same recorded program to be viewed simultaneously on different set-tops.

And in a related development, Broadcom last week announced that its home-networking reference design platform for set-top boxes and other devices that integrates MoCA connectivity has received certification from the alliance.

The Broadcom MoCA-enabled system-on-a-chip solution allows for �whole-home� media distribution, including multiroom DVR features. The other supplier of MoCA chips is Entropic Communications, one of the founding members of the alliance.

�As one of the most prominent chip vendors in the cable industry and home-networking market, Broadcom�s certification is a milestone for the MoCA standard,� said Charlie Cerino, president of MoCA and Comcast�s vice president of new media development. �Their ability to integrate MoCA functionality into a single-chip design will accelerate deployment and make great strides toward achieving worldwide adoption of the standard.�

Broadcom�s integrated MoCA system-on-a-chip reference-design platform is now sampling to early-access customers. Pricing was not announced.

With whole-home DVR and media sharing, cable operators are looking to counter the telcos; both Verizon FiOS TV and AT&T U-verse tout the feature in their marketing and point out that cable providers haven�t offered it.

Moreover, multiroom DVR is another �sticky� feature that should help inhibit churn. And it�s an enhanced service people will pay for.

According to Verizon, about 25% of FiOS TV subscribers are taking the Home Media DVR, which provides multiroom DVR features and access to PC-based photos and music on the TV. The multiroom DVR is $19.99 per month, $4 more than the regular HD DVR.