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Summary:

Cisco outlined an ambitious strategy for “reinventing TV” today at CES, with a new line of products that fall under the Videoscape brand. The only problem? The service provider partners that would buy the new products are happy with TV just the way it is, thanks.

cisco videoscape

Cisco announced an ambitious strategy for making high-quality video — whether it be from online or traditional TV and cable providers — pervasive across a wide range of devices, from broadband-connected set-top boxes to tablets and other mobile devices at CES Wednesday. What brings this strategy together is a new family of devices carrying the Videoscape brand that carry a common software architecture, which Cisco promises will deliver a consistent quality of experience across devices.

The vision, as Cisco CEO John Chambers told an audience at CES, is to “allow people to get access to any video on any device with proper authorization,” and to make it simple to do so. At the heart of the problem, from Cisco’s point of view, is establishing a software architecture that enables that type of convergence. But even if the technology exists now to make this happen, will cable companies invest in that vision?

To convince them, Chambers showed off a handful of Videoscape-powered devices through which consumers would be able to access various types of consumer interactions: A Videoscape set-top box blended web and live TV, a Videoscape Android client let Chambers watch video on a phone, another mobile client enabled interactive viewing and merchandise purchasing on the iPad. Altogether, the new offerings represent what could be the future of multiplatform video delivery.

One couldn’t help but notice Cisco’s appeal of commerce to its service provider partners, the promise of new and exotic revenue streams currently not available through their existing video architectures. There was the ability to serve targeted ads — to upsell, Chambers called it — against web content not high definition enough to show in full screen, the way service providers could tie in interactive one-click sales on the TV and other devices.

All of the Cisco Videoscape products shown off are aimed at service providers looking to enable next-generation video experiences in the home and on the go. Those products, which range from living room hardware such as the Videoscape media gateway or the Videoscape set-top box to Videoscape software clients that would run on mobile and tablet devices, would be sold to cable and IPTV providers to enable the final end user experience.

The first customer that Cisco named at CES is Australian telco Telstra, which Chambers said was providing consistent video experiences across the set-top and tablets. But the equipment vendor didn’t have any news about other service providers offering similar capabilities using the Videoscape architecture.

While Cisco’s vision for Videoscape is a noble one, it could be some time before we see actual application of the network equipment maker’s products in action. The new Videoscape products clearly won’t be made available to consumers unless service providers want them to be — and therein lies the rub.

Chambers said in his speech that Cisco has the opportunity to help redefine the consumer video experience. That might be the case, but it will need service provider buy-in to make its vision become a reality. But with tens of billions of dollars in traditional TV and cable advertising still changing hands and hundreds of millions of subscribers paying monthly for their existing cable and satellite bundles, many see the current TV business as one that’s not broken and doesn’t need to be revolutionized. As a result, even if the technology exists to place online content next to more traditional TV offerings, service providers have little incentive to make that technology available to end users.

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  1. Cisco is a great company and will succeed with this new venture. Just wait and see in the next year. mainstreethost

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    1. True, it is great company, and the new venture will boost sales. However, it is very less likely that it will replace the home TV.

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  2. I think the genius behind this idea goes way beyond the scope of what most people are seeing. Most people look at this as a “product” rather than a business strategy. Because of this, people are thinking “Ok, a box that brings web content to my TV? Well Google TV did that already. Old news.”

    But what’s the problem with Google TV right now? They’re battling with the content providers because they’ve undermined their business trying to offer all content for free. Providers are intentionally blocking Google TV because it kills their business. I hate to say this because I’m as frugal as anyone reading this, but the American Consumer has started to assume that they can get whatever they want for free and the reality is that’s just not possible. The shows we love wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the big company dollars that paid for them.

    But the providers see the writing on the wall. They know they can’t fend on-demand internet content off forever. So for Cisco to come along and offer on-demand, anywhere, anything video, but work WITH the providers to make sure they support it – it’s a huge idea.

    A collaboration with content/service providers could be a real industry changing move.

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  3. “The first customer that Cisco named at CES is Australian telco Telstra”. This is because the AU govt. bought their infrastructure and is going to run it as dumb pipes, as it ought to be run here in the US. We should turn US ISPs into regulated utilities, and break their local monopolies.

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  4. arctorzalterego Thursday, January 6, 2011

    If you think the current TV and cable business is not broken, you haven’t been talking to service providers. They are bleeding customers at an alarming rate, while their costs keep rising to deliver the competing Internet video services that cord-cutters are moving to. They can read the writing on the wall. The easier it becomes to find what you want on Netflix for $15 a month, the fewer people will shell out $100 a month for plain old cable TV. Service providers have plenty of incentive to find something new and unique they can offer consumers.

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  5. Kinect does this out of the box for 150$. Why would anyone buy expensive Cisco gear?

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  6. Paul Schneider Thursday, January 6, 2011

    There’s a precedent for cable embracing the type of architecture that streams video from the cloud to any broadband connected device. CloudTV from ActiveVideo Networks is up and running in approximately 5 million homes, including systemwide deployment by Cablevision and deployment with Oceanic Time Warner Cable in Hawaii.

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  7. [...] more here, here here, and [...]

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  8. @kaiserd23, Thank you for sharing your perspective on the Videoscape launch. You are spot-on in seeing the logic behind Cisco involving the Service Provider. Subscribers typically don’t want more special boxes that can only get certain content — second, they want a single easy to use UI to find their content choices. Simplicity is the key . That said, pay-TV providers are positioned very well, given their role, to perform the integration that’s required.

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  9. [...] in the first half of the year, is designed to round out Cisco’s portfolio as part of its new Videoscape solution, which is aimed at helping service providers enable the integration of broadcast, Internet [...]

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  10. Thanks a lot everyone for your response.

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