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Adelphia test-drives PVR `sidecar’

Jun 25, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Adelphia Communications is quietly conducting one of the first trials of Keen Personal Media’s personal-video-recording hardware.
The trial, which was initiated last week near the multiple system operator’s headquarters in Coudersport, Pa., is expected to last 90 days. Initially, the scope of the test will be limited to employees, although it is expected to grow.
The MSO’s personal video recording plans are still in their infancy, according to Adelphia Vice President of Finance Jim Brown, who emphasized the exploratory nature of the initiative. “We see [PVR] as complementary to ,” Mr. Brown said. “We don’t have a timeline for deploying [PVR] commercially anywhere.”
In the ongoing test, Keen’s “sidecar” PVR attachment to Scientific-Atlanta’s Explorer 3000 series set-top box is being evaluated. The device, which complements the PVR software that Keen’s business is centered around, is designed as an option for MSOs who prefer not to deploy high-end set-tops (such as Scientific-Atlanta’s Explorer 8000) that are endowed with hard drives capable of recording multiple television programs simultaneously.
Adelphia’s interest in affixing the sidecar to the inexpensive 3000 series boxes stems from the high cost of replacing basic set-tops with more advanced PVR-capable models.
“I’m not sure we want to swap out 14 million boxes,” Mr. Brown said. “To go and take out a [Motorola] DCT2000 and put in a [Motorola] DCT5000 with a hard drive to do PVR isn’t so economical.”
But Keen CEO Russ Krapf, who declined to divulge the exact price of his company’s technologies, said the economic benefits of Keen’s products vary according to which equipment a given MSO has deployed before ordering Keen’s systems.
“Our box is less expensive than the 8000 itself,” Mr. Krapf said, “but if you add the cost of a [S-A Explorer] 3000 plus our sidecar, it’s more expensive.”
Keen, which was just incorporated last July, became a subsidiary of parent Western Digital in October. In addition to the recording capability of the company’s software, its technology includes an application called CoPilot that allows digital cable customers to search through a library of recorded programs by category or title or by requesting shows that are similar to those they watched in the past.
Recognizing the storage limitations of personal video recording technologies located in customers’ set-tops, Mr. Krapf said Keen is considering partnering with cable video server vendors nCube and Concurrent Computer to develop a PVR solution that combines server- and hard-drive-based recording mechanisms.
“There’s talk about running PVR from the headend,” Mr. Krapf said. “Most of the [server] systems are planned for 10 percent of the users needing a unique stream. Combining the two together makes sense-you could have hundreds of the movies stored at the headend and have some of the more popular ones downloaded onto the client’s box. Then you can take the load off the system.”