Mark Cuban is pioneering Ultra HD VOD, and other than the name, I love it. The gist is that certain films will be available on-demand before they hit the movie theaters. Cuban is testing the service now and offering it via HDNET (including HDNet Films) to DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Charter, and Verizon. (What, no Comcast love?)
Knowing how much extra bandwidth is required by HD, I thought I’d check around to see what the technical ramifications of something like Ultra HD VOD might be. There are two main issues. One, yes, is bandwidth. The other is storage.
If we get to a point where television is on an equal footing with movie theaters for viewing new releases, there’s going to be a lot of large video zooming around the cable and telecom networks. Operators have to be able to scale VOD systems, which means high-performance servers with high stream capacity. They also have to have scalable storage systems that take advantage of the fact that not everything has to be streamed all the time. For flicks that aren’t in constant demand, it makes more sense to store on hard drives. Essentially you’re talking about two different types of storage that can be scaled independently of each other as needed.
I’m not expecting Ultra HD VOD at my house any time soon, but operators are still faced with the possibility of such a service a few years down the line. And even before that, plain old HD VOD is going to demand new resources. It’s all about scalability.