Cable Ops Ready for DLNA's Next Stage


BTR_Feature_Art_DLNA-_3-10-14 The emergence of multiscreen video and a boatload of new competitors have complicated the lives of cable operators in many ways. High on that list is the difficulty of ferrying signals to devices around homes in a way that maintains security and keeps the operators' identity front and center.

The only way to achieve this increasingly important goal is to work cooperatively with the programmer and the consumer electronics sectors. The goal of The Digital Living Networking Alliance (DLNA) is to foster that cooperation. The consortium is gaining some traction: TechNavio predicts that the DNLA-certified device market will grow by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of almost 15% from last year until 2018.

The consortium is expected this month to introduce the next iteration of its standard, Commercial Video Profile-2 (CVP-2). There are two main advances in CVP-2, according to DLNA. Perhaps the most important is the use of HTML5 - the emerging update of the Hypertext Markup Language - to create a consistent user interface on all of the devices tethered to the home network. The organization also has integrated Digital Transmission Content Protection over Internet Protocol (DTCP-IP) security.

The bottom line is that DLNA aims to solve a tricky problem for cable operators: Provide content to an ever-increasing number of devices without ceding "ownership" of subscribers by an inability to customize the various screens of the user interface.

Meeting this challenge is squarely in the wheelhouse of HTML5, which offers a means of creating content within the browser itself. This provides a far easier way for operators and other service providers to maintain their brand across the ever-growing landscape of devices. "Before, in older DLNA devices, sharing metadata was necessary," said Joerg Eggink, a spokeman for DLNA and the global product director for Connected Home for Access Systems. "With CVP-2, it is very easy to develop a UI in which the operator leverages a huge library of open source modules. It is very easy to combine online and offline services."

Neither DLNA - the original version nor CVP-2 - introduces new technology. Instead, it is a collection of useful existing standards that are wrapped together to tell the various links in the chain how to best use them. Thus, the value of DNLA is in organizing somewhat disparate - and sometimes antagonistic - sectors. "The value of DLNA is not just a guideline," Eggink said. "It is a spec and a certification program and testing tools to ensure interoperability."

One issue that DLNA may have to deal with going forward is the status of adaptive bitrate streaming (ABS). Eggink said the only ABS approach included in the spec is MPEG-DASH, which is an industry effort to unite behind a single approach to packaging data in IP packets for transmission to devices.

MPEG-DASH is a product of the Moving Picture Experts Group. The idea is that the guts of various ABS systems - such as Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) and Microsoft's Smooth Streaming - are based on MPEG compression and, at the end of the day, differ only in relatively minor ways. MPEG-DASH is an attempt to bridge those relatively minor differences.

The question is, however, whether an operator choosing not to use the new protocol - which is not universally being used - will have problems implementing CVP-2 and whether its widespread utilization is deeply connected to the fate of MPEG-DASH.

That potential obstacle notwithstanding, analysts appear confident that CVP-2 is a good idea. Eric Smith, an analyst for Strategy Analytics, said the approach "seems to have buy-in from vendors and operators" and that he is "cautiously optimistic."

In a followup email to a phone interview, Smith wrote that the ability to track and identify users is a powerful benefit of CVP-2. "[W]hat impressed me most about the CVP-2 technology is how operators will be able to track user viewing preferences and turn those into better discovery and recommendation engines for their services," he wrote. "CVP-2 requires user authentication for a device to view a stream from the STB or gateway; thus, the operator would have valuable information about not only what's being watched in the home, but precisely which family member is doing so."

Cable operators will be a prime beneficiary of DLNA CVP-2, said Rick Doherty, the research director for the Envisioneering Group. He noted that Comcast is using DLNA CVP-2 for HBO Go and other programming and that a good read on the initiative's success should be possible by the Cable Show. "It's a big deal because more consumers have DLNA product than they realize," he said. "It is in iPads and [IP-connected] televisions and cameras that are discoverable. This will provide more loyalty to cable operators."

Carl Weinschenk is the Senior Editor for Broadband Technology Report Contact him at

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