On-Demand TV

Video on-demand is finally becoming a reality. First, it was TiVo which time-shifted TV. Now, telcos and cable companies are engaged in a race to provided high-speed pipes to homes. WSJ writes:

Internet technology, which has rapidly changed how many phone calls are made, is beginning to fundamentally change TV.

As big cable companies morph into providers not only of television but also of telephone and high-speed Internet services, they are setting up national fiber-optic networks capable of transmitting all three signals using Internet technology.

The new networks are expected to allow cable companies to offer features combining phone, data and television, such as flashing the phone number of a telephone caller on a TV screen when the phone rings.

The move is another sign that cable companies are shifting away from traditional scheduled programming to shows that are available whenever viewers want to watch them. The fiber-optic networks will make it possible for digital-cable subscribers to click their remotes to view tens of thousands of hours of content stored on cable company servers — the same way Internet users click on a mouse to get Web pages and other online content stored on distant servers.

By leasing raw fiber, rather than leasing wavelength on fiber as some other cable companies are doing, Comcast is giving itself maximum flexibility to design its network from the ground up. The network will use at type of Internet technology called “gigabit Ethernet” to transport television signals. “You can use your personal computer as your television set. You can use it as a telephone. You can use it as your video telephone,” says Dave Fellows, Comcast’s chief technology officer. (Comcast doesn’t at present offer videophone service.) “We’re trying to go all services, all devices, one network.”

While most operators will continue to send traditional programming this way, Comcast is planning to use its new nationwide fiber network to distribute thousands of hours of “on-demand” programming, which digital-cable subscribers can watch just as they do a video or DVD.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.