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Comcast’s AnyPlay brings live TV to the iPad

After about a year of promises, Comcast (s CMCSA) is finally getting around to making live TV available on the iPad. (s AAPL) But unlike other operators, it’s not just making those streams available directly through an app: Comcast customers who wish to take advantage of the live offering will need an extra piece of equipment to make it work.

Introducing Comcast’s AnyPlay: a set-top box that sits next to your Wi-Fi router and ensures the linear streams being sent over the network are secure. Live streams are then delivered over the home Wi-Fi network to compatible devices. Right now, that means the iPad, through Comcast’s Xfinity TV app. But the cable operator is promising it will add support for the Motorola Xoom (s mmi) tablets.

Like other offerings from cable providers like Cablevision (s CVC) and Time Warner Cable, (s TWC) the live streams are only available in the home, when a user is connected to his own Wi-Fi network. That will limit subscribers’ ability to stream to the mobile device anywhere — but for families with kids who want to watch programming other than what’s on the living room TV, it could be a potential value-add.

Now here’s the real bummer for most Comcast customers: While the AnyPlay device is free, it’s only being rolled out to a limited number of users in certain select markets. The device will be made available just to Xfinity HD Triple Play customers in Denver and Nashville at launch, with plans to expand in the coming months.

Still, adding live TV to tablets is a big step forward for Comcast, and builds on its TV Everywhere initiative, which gives subscribers access to more than 8,000 hours of on-demand movies and TV shows from supporting networks on its website and on the Xfinity TV app.

2 Responses to “Comcast’s AnyPlay brings live TV to the iPad”

  1. noah gray

    The cable companies want to create a secure way to broadcast and sell their content. It reminds me of how Sony and the other labels tried to react to Napster. Not very well. You have to get an ugly box that creates an intranet TV stream? Hopefully Apple can do what they did with iTunes and being all these companies together with a better end-to-end solution than they can come up with.

  2. This box is actually re-encoding the cable co’s standard digital cable channels into a tablet-friendly format. The tablet-friendly stream isn’t available outside the customer’s house because it’s created within each customer’s home. It’s a very different encoding and distribution approach than creating the tablet streams at a large headend or data center.

    In other words, this is a “headless” cable box (complete with internal CableCard) bundled with a realtime H.264-in-MP4 encoder chip, and a simple HTTP server to make it all work over the local LAN.

    More info on the actual box from the vendor: