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Series on Switched Digital Video – Part 1: Choosing Your Switched Digital Channels

UPDATE #2: Please note, I did not intentionally pull this post. I corrected it, and apparently WordPress automatically made the post private at that point. Corrected post (strike-outs and all) below.


Nielsen ratings measure the most popular television programming. Preparing for switched digital video (SDV) requires exactly the opposite. No cable operator is going to move content to a switched system that is never going to be switched off. The best channels for SDV are the ones at the tail end of the popularity curve.

This has two a major implications. First, c Cable operators need a very accurate system for measuring which channels will give them the most bandwidth return when moved to a switched network. I was on a call last week where Motorola’s Bruce Bradley described the monitoring technology that Motorola uses with operators. It’s wild. The software actually shows a running feed of which channels consumers tune to in any given service group. (I’ll post a screen shot when I have one.) Operators run the software to determine which channels to switch initially, but also continue running the software so they can make changes dynamically based on subscriber viewing habits.

Second, the current kerfuffle going on about whether consumers with retail CableCARD devices will be able to access SDV channels seems to deflate a bit in light of what will actually be available in switched form. I don’t want to minimize the issue at all, and I certainly hope the NCTA and the CEA can come to an agreement soon that will get two-way cable services to retail devices. However, the most popular TV programming will never move to a switched network. Even if you don’t have a set-top from your cable company, you’ll never lose Lost (or American Idol or NFL football) with switched digital video.

UPDATE: Turns out, even though a channel is switched on all the time, there’s still the matter of having an entire network operating on a switched system which makes all channels only accessible to devices with two-way cable access. So much for my theory! Hopefully the NCTA and CEA will come to an agreement soon.


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