Peter Grant has an article in today’s Wall Street Journal offering a short primer on OCAP. It’s very readable, so if you’re looking for an overview on the subject, check it out.
More importantly though, the WSJ story brought up a debate on OCAP with other industry friends. Some folks wonder whether OCAP will ever really come to be, or if it will get “hopscotched” in the way the cable industry has of moving on to the next thing before following through on its original plans.
I am not very good at predictions, but I do have an opinion on this one. It’s going to take a while to move TV to an IP platform, and given that potentially long process, the cable industry has to do something in the meantime to open up the network and allow more innovation in. There’s just no way cable operators will sit back and let Internet video companies eat their lunch. OCAP should actually help them compete.
The big criticism of OCAP has been that it’s taken so long to deploy, and that it will take even longer to reach critical mass given that most set-tops in the field are incompatible. However, there’s an important mitigating factor on the road ahead. While nobody wants to invest in getting a new plain-Jane set-top, people will invest when it means they can get new services. Just look at how many people have made the switch to digital cable.
Peter Grant also mentions the argument of whether the Internet will “win” over cable. I don’t think so. There’s going to have to be some happy marriage. Google has in fact already made overtures toward the cable industry. MSOs have a lot of leverage in the game: their pipes, their relationships with content producers, their entrenched position in consumer homes.