If you've ever used video-on-demand from your pay-TV operator, you no doubt agree that trying to find and then navigate to what you'd like to watch feels like a Soviet-era experience. The problem is the set-top box's processing limitations have hamstrung pay-TV operators from delivering a more web-like VOD experience.
The company looking to change all that is ActiveVideo Networks, and yesterday it got a big boost as Comcast, the largest pay-TV operator in the U.S., licensed ActiveVideo's CloudTV H5 platform for a trial in its Chattanooga, TN market. If the trial goes well and Comcast rolls CloudTV H5 out nationally, the VOD experience is going to dramatically improve for millions of viewers, in turn making it more competitive with web-based OTT VOD providers.
ActiveVideo solves the set-top box issue by running an HTML5 browser remotely in the cloud, so that even the most complex web pages and animations can be streamed to any digital set-top box without taxing its capabilities. As ActiveVideo's CEO Jeff Miller put it to me yesterday, its client software is so light that it's been referred to as the "zero-client" client.
Viewers can use their existing remote control or a second-screen app on iOS or Android devices that is paired with the set-top in order to call up web pages. Despite its light client, the responsiveness and precision of CloudTV isn't sacrificed. I've seen demos numerous times and it's quite impressive.
As pay-TV operators scramble to upgrade the quality of their user experiences to compete with the standards of Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon and others, CloudTV gives them a cost-effective method for doing so without needing to swap out millions of existing set-top boxes. Even for Comcast, which unveiled its advanced X1 platform recently, CloudTV provides a compelling bridge to the future. Depending on how the trial unfolds, Comcast could propel CloudTV into millions of pay-TV homes, making the VOD experience and others far more enjoyable.