Market Insight

Cisco makes move into multiscreen

January 21, 2011

Merrick Kingston Merrick Kingston Associate Director, Research & Analysis, Digital Media & Video Technology

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Cisco has shed light on its multiscreen video strategy by announcing the Videoscape solution. Revealed at CES 2011, Videoscape is a multiscreen hardware-and-software platform comprised of four principal components: a back-office management system, a thin client for IP-enabled devices, gateways and set-tops, a device, content, and rights-aware network software layer, and a reference distribution-architecture which operators can implement using Cisco networking hardware.

In announcing Videoscape, Cisco does not enter a multiscreen solutions market free of competition. From across the pay-TV ecosystem, vendors such as Motorola, Ericsson, NDS and Irdeto all offer a suite of multiscreen products. Generally speaking, any multiscreen service requires a backend management platform - for managing content, billing and rights - as well as a client-side software application for video playback, and UI presentation. Existing solutions reflect firms' variegated backgrounds in content management, conditional access, DRM, CPE equipment and video processing; Videoscape appears to draw heavily on Cisco's history in IP networking and infrastructure.

The solution's emphasis on the physical transport network is a reminder that, rights issues aside, operators actually face two technical barriers to the adoption of multiscreen services. First, it is clear that a management system transparent to the IP-devices at launch, and in the future, is required. Second, operators must address the mechanical - yet unstoppable - growth of IP-traffic across their networks.

The deployment of multiscreen services is as much about supporting multiple devices as it is about possessing a distribution network capable of handling the rise of IP-video. Considering the long-term investment demanded by new back-office and distribution infrastructure, it is critical that the network supports video that is of consistent high quality, in order to allow these services to be meaningfully priced.

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