In a demo at the Consumer Electronics Show, a Comcast (s CMCSA) spokesperson showed off how the company’s next-generation set-top box will stream live and recorded TV to multiple devices on a subscriber’s Wi-Fi network.
So what makes it work? The set-top box, which the company calls Parker internally, takes advantage of the new DLNA Premium Video platform that allows for whole-home networking of multiple devices. In theory, that means any DLNA-certified device — whether it be a PC, tablet, connected TV or other gadget — will have access to all the same programming you can watch on the TV through the set-top box.
At CES, for instance, Comcast representatives demoed a Samsung tablet and Windows desktop playing back live TV, as well as pre-recorded shows from the Parker box’s DVR. This means that subscribers may no longer need a DVR for every connected TV in the home, as they’ll be able to access the new, cloud-based Xcalibur user interface wirelessly instead.
It doesn’t exactly kill off the set-top completely — you still need that one Parker box in the home to enable streaming throughout. But it does massively reduce the complexity of connecting multiple TVs throughout the home. That’s good news for Comcast, as it could decrease the number of truck rolls for installation of new services every time a subscriber wants to add a TV to another room in the home.
It also opens up the ability to support a much wider range of new devices without additional investment. For consumers aching to use their tablets, mobile phones and other gadgets to access the same content that they get on their TVs, the new capabilities unlocked by the Parker box will add a tremendous amount of value to their cable subscriptions.
Of course, Comcast isn’t the only operator looking to limit or minimize the number of set-tops and DVRs that need to be installed in user’s homes. Verizon is looking to roll out a multimedia gateway that will enable subscribers to wirelessly access live TV throughout the home from multiple devices. And Samsung and DirecTV have partnered to enable “set-top boxless” access to the satellite provider’s program guide and video.
The Parker set-top box is currently in limited deployment in Augusta, Ga., and Comcast plans to widen availability later in 2012. Once it does, consumers could find themselves with new ways to access their content.