Comcast may be the 800-pound gorilla of pay TV providers, but that size doesn't help it move as nimbly as smaller rivals and upstarts when it comes to taking advantage of changes in the distribution of its content. The cable giant is now playing catch-up when it comes to delivering video online, planning a trial of IPTV at MIT starting this fall, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Delivering live TV over Internet protocol is the way competitors like Cablevision, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon send programming to tablet PCs in a subscriber's own home. AT&T's U-verse pay TV service also uses IPTV exclusively to deliver channels to its customers. One key advantage of using IPTV over Comcast's existing digital television technology includes the ability to more quickly update the look and feel of its programming guide and bake Internet services like Facebook or YouTube into it.
Using IPTV would also mean that the company could provide service to TVs or other devices without a traditional set-top box, including those that aren't in an area that Comcast serves. Following the MIT trial, the next testing phase will involve Comcast employees using the services at their own homes later this year. No timetable has been given as to when IPTV service would be available to customers, though Comcast says it would not entirely replace its traditional cable TV service anytime soon.
One reason for the slow rollout is that content providers haven't extended their licensing agreements to cover such new technologies, which led to a big brouhaha when Time Warner Cable introduced its streaming iPad app earlier this year. Several networks immediately pulled their programming from the app, citing rights issues.
In the meantime, Comcast customers will have to settle for waiting for another IP trial to finish up in Augusta, Georgia, where subscribers have been testing a programming guide overhaul that includes more personalized features and some Internet functions like commenting on shows through Twitter and limited online video streaming. The company says that UI update will be available to all customers next year.