US MSO Cablevision is developing a suite of applications which will deliver linear and on-demand (VoD) content to IP-connectable, video-enabled devices such as the iPad and smartphones. Although a launch date has not been specified - nor, for that matter, a list of supported smartphone operating systems (OS) - the MSO has announced that content consumption will be restricted to the subscriber's home. Deployment is likely to follow the commercial launch of Cablevision's network DVR (nDVR), and PC to TV streaming service.
Although Cablevision has not disclosed a complete list of devices and OSs, what is known about the implementation provides a useful introduction to the many flavours of multiscreen services.
In-home multiscreen services are typically assumed to rely on local hardware; a set-top or gateway acts as the distribution hub between devices that are networked within the home. A multiscreen service not restricted to the home, by contrast, is generally thought to require distribution from the headend, through the access network, and directly to the subscriber device.
Cablevision's model, to date, resides between the two methods. For its nDVR and PC to TV service, in-home consumption relies on content delivery over the access network. It is not clear whether the MSO's new service will rely on home or access network distribution; however, the possibility of the access network's involvement prompts a re-examination of multiscreen opportunities.
At first blush, opportunities in the multiscreen segment seem determined by where content will be consumed. In-home services require CPE solutions, and as such, appear to play well into the hands of the set-top and middleware industries. True 'tv everywhere' services involve the headend, and create opportunity in server-based asset and service management systems.
The imminent Cablevision deployment is a reminder that the headend can also be used for in-home services, provided that subscriber authentication prevents content portability. Likewise, true 'tv everywhere' services can easily rely on technologies, such as Sling, which are entirely consumer-premises based.
The 'where' of a multiscreen service is a poor indicator of opportunity. More important determinants will be operators' preferences regarding deployment speed, the cost of extending services across their footprints, and the extent to which investment in a multiscreen solution facilitates delivery to new devices.