Cablevision and Hulu: Breakthrough simplicity for online video on pay-TV STBs

Murali Nemani

Ever since the first attempts to bridge online content and pay-TV, we’ve always felt that combining the two into a single user experience should be basic math, not a quadratic equation of multiple remote controls, third-party devices and audio and video inputs. The key to creating value for all three constituencies – pay-TV operators, online video providers and consumers – is the creation of a seamless environment that makes viewing online video on the television as easy as 1+1=2. Or in this case, 1+1 = 3.

Today’s announcement of the integration of Hulu into the Cablevision Optimum TV experience shows how both online services and pay-TV are continuing to sharpen the user experience to provide the most inviting environment available. Hulu and Cablevision are taking advantage of new developments in the virtualization of STB functionality to accelerate and simplify consumers’ access to vast libraries of online content in a big-screen environment.

We’ve talked in the past about how the cloud can expedite online content for pay-TV customers: enabling immediate delivery to large installed bases of set-top boxes; streaming cloud-rendered UIs as uniform, no-compromise user experiences to every STB; and delivering online services with the unparalleled quality of service of pay-TV managed networks.

What sets the Cablevision-Hulu relationship apart is how they’re using cloud virtualization to break new ground in content delivery, content security and content navigation, most notably:

  • Ensuring that content delivered directly from Hulu servers can be supported by Cablevision’s deployed base of HD set-top boxes, maximizing content availability and reach;
  • Bridging between Hulu’s digital rights management format and Cablevision’s conditional access system, providing content security that is equal or superior to that of their existing DRM; and
  • Inclusion of Hulu as a channel within the Optimum TV interactive program guide, allowing viewers an absolutely seamless transition between linear and online content.

What will happen when viewers tune to Optimum Channel 605, the Hulu channel? Here are two lessons from the cloud-based deployment of YouTube by Liberty Global’s UPC Hungary system: First, that the rapid time-to-market enabled by the cloud can accelerate market adoption of online video on the TV; and second, that integrating online and pay-TV user experiences can drive increased viewer engagement within the pay-TV service bundle. Within four months of launch, viewers were streaming more than a million minutes per day of YouTube content (it’s now exceeded two million minutes per day), exceeding UPC Hungary’s expectations. Moreover, average session times consistently have exceeded 45 minutes.

In the months ahead, the eyes and ears of the industry will be eager to see if Cablevision and Hulu can exceed those numbers. For the moment, it’s anybody’s guess, but we think the math is simple addition, with cloud-based content delivery and improved user experiences equaling market success.