TiVo support for IPTV

Discussion in 'TiVo Coffee House - TiVo Discussion' started by WorldBandRadio, Oct 14, 2018.

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  1. randyb359

    randyb359 Active Member

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    I worked at hhgregg and sold this man a 47" tv. I asked if he wanted it delivered and the old one take away for $79.99. He told me that was ridiculous he would take it with him and get rid of the old one. About an hour later he called and told me he couldn't move the old TV and would pay the $79.99 to have the old one removed. That was a problem because we could only pick up a TV if we delivered something. So the manager had a set of banana plugs delivered and discounted the price off. Smallest delivery order we ever did.
     
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  2. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Nice! Thank you for posting. Other numbers I had seen posted for national cable nets were in the range of about 3.65 to 4.00 Mbps and I got the sense that 3.85 Mbps was a good mean. But, yes, your figures for NBCSN and AMC indicate an average of about 4.12 Mbps. (All your other recordings are from local affiliates of the big broadcast nets, which are in some cases still encoded by Comcast in MPEG-2 rather than MPEG-4 and left in 1080i, so I'm ignoring those.)

    The total bandwidth, or bitrate, of each 6 MHz-wide 256-QAM carrier is about 38 Mbps. One poster on DSL Reports claims that Comcast is putting 8-9 720p HD channels in each QAM carrier. If we divide 38 by 8.5, that gives us an average of 4.47 Mbps per HD channel. If we divide by 9, that gives us an average of 4.22 Mbps. That's getting quite close to the mean I calculate from your readings. Let's assume that Comcast is in fact stuffing 9 720p HD channels into each QAM.

    OK, now let's get into some further nitty-gritty. I counted the total number of SD and HD channels that Comcast reports are included here locally in their Digital Starter package. (I'm ignoring those Music Choice channels, though. I think I read this week that Comcast is about to ditch them in favor of a free music app on X1?) Including locals, I came up with 110 SD channels and 72 HD channels.

    Let's assume that I'm correct that Comcast plans to eliminate all QAM channels in the coming months except those that are part of Digital Starter (and Limited Basic, which is a small subset of Digital Starter), plus those channels that are part of a la carte premium services which, per my updated rate card, are still available as add-ons to Limited Basic. How many QAM carriers would they require to accommodate all those remaining QAM channels?

    The 110 SD channels in Digital Starter could probably fit into 7 QAMs, with 15-16 channels stuffed into each QAM. Some markets, such as LA, have a greater number of locals (more independent stations, particularly in foreign languages), so they might require 8 QAMs with up to 18 SD channels each.

    The 72 HD channels (including locals) in Digital Starter would neatly fit into 8 QAMs with 9 channels in each IF Comcast transcoded all HD locals into 720 MPEG-4 the same way that they've been doing national cable channels for years now. I believe that they have already begun doing that with at least some locals in some markets. We'll assume that they do that with all of them everywhere. Let's circle back to this category in a moment.

    For premiums -- HBO, Showtime, Starz, Starz Encore, Epix, Playboy -- I count a total of about 33 SD channels and 15 HD channels. I'm going to exclude Cinemax because my hunch (could be totally wrong, we'll see) is that Cinemax will cease to exist as an ongoing service once the new HBO Max streaming service launches next spring. I believe (per info from the WSJ and elsewhere) that all past and current Cinemax originals will be exclusively available as part of HBO Max. OK, so the 33 SD premiums could fit in 2 QAMs (16 in one, 17 in the other). If I was making the decision for Comcast, I would simply use one QAM for the HD premium channels and I would only include the main HD channel from each service, in 1080i. So that would be 6 HD channels sharing one QAM, getting an average bitrate of 6.33 Mbps in MPEG-4 each. Not bad. For subscribers still using QAM-only boxes/adapters, they should see the picture quality of the main channel on each premium (e.g. HBO) improve but all the additional channels on that service (e.g. HBO 2, HBO Latino, HBO Family, HBO Zone, etc.) would only be available in SD. So it would be a trade-off.

    OK, so the total number of QAM containers we're talking about needing to retain is 9 or 10 for SD channels and 9 for HD channels. So 18 or 19 QAMs total.

    Does anyone know how many total QAMs Comcast typically uses now for their entire TV system, across all HD and SD channels? (Bigg, I know that you know this because you're you.) I'd like to know so that we can get a sense of how much bandwidth they would be saving by eliminating upper-tier channels from QAM and only preserving those in Digital Starter, as discussed above.

    Now let's circle back to how many HD channels from the Digital Starter package that might actually be retained on QAM. Would all 72 of them remain? Maybe. Or maybe Comcast wants to only keep a few of the most-watched ones so that they can reclaim more bandwidth from the QAM system and repurpose it for additional IP bandwidth. What if only 2 QAM containers were kept for those HD channels? That could accommodate 18 HD channels. Which 18 channels might those be? Local affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, The CW, PBS, Telemundo, Univision or My Network TV (if there's no local Univision in HD), plus the following cable channels that are the most likely to at least occasionally draw large numbers of live viewers: ESPN, Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, local/regional sports channel 1, local/regional sports channel 2, NBCSN, FS1, ESPN 2, and USA. (USA gets the last spot because, well, it's owned by Comcast and it's their most popular basic cable entertainment channel.) In some markets, such as Nashville (where I live), there's not a local HD affiliate of either Telemundo or Univision. So that Telemundo spot could go to another national cable network such as TBS (which does feature some live sports). Comcast would, of course, look at their actual viewership data to come up with the actual line-up but I imagine it would look pretty similar to what I've listed here. (And hey, it's also possible that they could decide to retain not 2 but 3 QAM carriers for HD channels in Digital Starter. Or, as I say, retain 8 QAM carriers in order to keep all 72 HD channels on QAM!)

    Keep in mind that the vast majority of X1 boxes that Comcast has deployed so far are capable of tuning in both QAM *and* IPTV channels. Whatever channels, either HD or SD, that are left on QAM would, in fact, continue to be accessed via QAM for all devices capable of accessing them, including the vast majority of X1 boxes. By keeping those 18 HD channels on QAM, it would free Comcast from the need of offering any of them via multicast IPTV. (Yes, there will be a growing number of IPTV-only devices accessing their service and eventually there will be enough of them to necessitate multicast versions of the most popular channels, but that will take awhile -- at least a couple more years, I'd imagine -- to happen. And by that point, perhaps Comcast will be ready to completely ditch QAM TV except for the channels in Limited Basic.)

    So if Comcast only kept the SD channels discussed above, plus the 18 HD channels listed from Digital Starter, plus the main HD premiums on QAM, then we're talking about retaining a total of only 12 or 13 QAM carriers (9-10 for SD plus 3 for HD). Such a configuration would let Comcast convert 6 additional 6 MHz-wide blocks of spectrum over to general IP use than would be the case if they kept all 72 HD channels in the Digital Starter package available on QAM.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
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  3. kpeters59

    kpeters59 Well-Known Member

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    Holy Moly!

    I only wrote 17 words!

    -KP
     
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  4. ggieseke

    ggieseke Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, I forgot about the antenna channels because I record them on a basic Roamio set up for OTA. Comcast doesn't seem to recode the locals here in Houston. All the "cable" channels that I record on a Roamio Pro seem to run about 3.75 to 4 Mbps fairly consistently.
     
  5. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, so I've seen reports in that 3.75-4.0 Mbps range but then, as kpeters59 posted above, also figures in the low 4.0+ range.

    Comcast is likely statmuxing any given group of channels that reside on the same QAM carrier, so that each channel's bitrate will fluctuate from moment to moment depending on the complexity of the visual information presented by each channel at that moment. More complex visuals will get a higher momentary bitrate while less complex will get a lower one. But in every moment, the aggregate bitrate across all the channels on the QAM will add up to about 38 Mbps, which is the total bandwidth of the QAM.

    So given statmuxing, it's difficult to look at recordings of just one type of show, or just from a certain channel, and get a good overall average bitrate. Why? Because sports and other fast-moving content is more visually complex and will tend to get higher bitrates in a statmux while talking heads on a news channel, where very little information changes from frame to frame, will get lower bitrates.

    Anyhoo, bitrates in the 3.75-4.00 Mbps range are suggestive of 10 HD channels sharing the same 38 Mbps QAM carrier, since 38 divided by 10 equals 3.8 Mbps. Bitrates a little higher than 4.0 Mbps are suggestive of 9 HD channels in one QAM, since 38 divided by 9 equals 4.22 Mbps. Perhaps on some QAMs, Comcast is stuffing 10 HD channels and then on other QAMs, only 9.

    None of this really impacts what I wrote in my long post above (#242), other than if Comcast were to retain 2 QAM carriers for HD channels in Digital Starter, that might allow them to preserve 20, rather than just 18, HD channels.
     
  6. Bigg

    Bigg Cord Cutter

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    Those numbers are right. HD is typically 3.8-4.2mbps per channel. They are compressed nationally in Denver as a CBR encode so that they can be "slotted" locally for different regional markets. They are transmitted via IP fiber from Denver to each local headend, where they are put on QAM.

    Keep in mind that locals don't count, at least not yet in most markets. In most markets, they are transmitted in HD with subchannels intact. I guess they do have to scale them down for SD as well, but the HD versions are just stuffed two ATSC-8VSB channels per QAM. They strip out a few hundred kbps of something so that the two 19.3mbps channels fit into a single 38mbps QAM. Nowadays, that could include 4 or more locals plus subchannels, since many ATSC-8VSB channels are broadcasting 2 or more HD channels from a single transmitter.

    That's not how they encode. They encode CBR and slot locally in each market. It's a very bandwidth efficient way to operate, but also very lazy, as they don't get the advantages of a stat mux.

    Good question. The problem is, it depends. Different systems are different, and have slightly different lineups. It's not as bad as the days when a 625mhz system had far fewer channels than an 860mhz system, and I believe all of the 650mhz and lower systems have been upgraded to 860mhz (probably 1ghz with nothing actually using the upper 140mhz), but then someone will find a system that's still running at 650mhz. There is even an RF system in New Jersey that's literally not HFC, it's all coax from the headend. There's a couple of systems that still don't have gigabit internet, a few without phone, and rumor has it, an analog system in southwestern VA that they're too lazy to get fiber to, so it still uses a local C-band Rx station.

    They have about 260 SD channels and 120HD channels on a typical system, but I don't know how that's broken down between Starter and Preferred, and how many of the sports packages are IPTV-only. AFAIK, there are only 3 regular channels in Preferred as of right now that are IPTV-only.

    There may also be a few obscure channels in there, so figure if they have 110 non-local HDs today, and they drop to 60, they are dropping from 12 to 7 QAMs, saving a whole 5 QAMs. Drop from 260 SDs to 110 SDs, dropping from 17 to 7 QAMs, saving a whole 10 QAMs.

    My sense is that a move like that is more about phasing out QAM than it is about saving bandwidth, and that they are looking to totally eliminate the QAM architecture more than just freeing up bandwidth. They could easily have more QAM channels than they do today plus more internet capacity and 100mbps uploads if they rebuilt systems universally to 5-85 1002mhz with fiber deep, but I sense that they want out of QAM entirely, as the whole system and architecture must cost a fortune to maintain, drives up the cost of CPE, and consumes power, space, and cooling tonnage in the headends.

    This is why I don't think they're going to keep QAM for Digital Starter, but rather phase out groups of a dozen or two channels at a time from QAM until there are none left. There is also a larger benefit to going IP with fiber deep, since fiber deep means small nodes, and thus most channels won't be in use on most nodes most of the time, freeing up even more bandwidth for internet traffic.

    They need a better plan for data caps though, as they have put a huge barrier up to using more data. If they were both smart and evil, they would do something like offer a 2TB cap on the 400mbps plan, and a 4TB cap on the gigabit plan or something to incentivize people to upgrade their speeds and get on D3.1 modems.

    If they don't do IP multicast, my sense is 30-50 HDs spread across Preferred and Starter stay on QAM.

    I think their IPTV-only equipment would require the XB6, no? If that's the case, then those all share IP multicast, everyone else shares QAM. Redundant, sure, but it doesn't require 100 copies of the Superbowl to be streamed out, only one streamed and one via QAM.

    I still wonder if they are just going to wait for pay TV to crash out and the number of channels and subscribers to drop even more before fully converting to IPTV.
     
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  7. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    In Chicago -- which in various ways has proven to be the bleeding edge of where Comcast is going, whether with broadband (D3.1) or TV -- Comcast now has all of the local HDs in 720p MPEG-4. I believe they'll do that nationwide soon. And when they do, there'll be no need to think about local vs. non-local HD channels any differently from a network perspective.

    Ah, OK. Well, even doing CBR, I'm sure that they mix and match channels that need higher bitrates (sports) and those that can get by with lower bitrates (news) together on the same QAM so that they balance each other out, with average-bitrate channels (entertainment) filling out the middle. It achieves pretty much the same ends as stat muxing, but less optimally and elegantly.

    OK, so even if they went with the maximal approach that I outlined above -- keeping all the SDs from Digital Starter and the Premiums, plus all the HDs from Digital Starter and the most flagship HD channels from the Premiums -- it sounds like they'd go from a current total of 29 QAMs (your estimate, yes?) down to 18-19 QAMs. So that would allow them to reclaim from 34% to 38% of the bandwidth currently devoted to QAM and convert it over to IP. And since ALL of the most popular channels would remain on QAM, there would be no need to deploy any of them via multicast for IPTV-only devices for a good while -- I think it will take at least another couple of years for that class of device *getting served through a multicast-capable gateway (e.g. XB6)* to be numerous enough within a significant number of nodes to justify multicast deployment.

    But let's look at the minimal approach I outlined -- same set of SD channels remain on QAM but only 2 QAMs' worth (18-20 channels) of the most popular HD channels (locals, sports and news channels) would remain. In this scenario, the total number of QAMs devoted to TV decreases from 29 to only 12-13. That would let Comcast convert 55% to 59% of the current QAM TV bandwidth over to IP. And still, because nearly all of the HD channels that attract big spikes in simultaneous live viewers remain on QAM (available to the vast majority of current X1 users), there would be fairly little need for multicast deployment over the next couple of years, until the number of IPTV-only + XB6 homes increased significantly.

    Yes, I think Comcast does want to get rid of QAM TV completely eventually. But the cost of replacing a decent amount of CPE (and the backlash that might create among consumers) will demand that the phase-out be gradual.


    Yep. Here's another scenario that lies between the maximal and minimal scenarios I sketched out above:

    In early 2020, Comcast begins by implementing the maximal scenario I envision. So ALL the SD and HD channels on Digital Starter (plus Premiums) remain on QAM. But then about every 3 months, one QAM of HD channels (so 8-9 HD channels) from Digital Starter gets dropped. So they'd start off with all ~72 Digital Starter HD channels, then gradually eliminate them from least to most popular, so that after 2 years, they'd be down to 0 HD channels, not even locals. Only HD channels left on QAM would be the HD premiums.

    That seems pretty plausible to me. A few months before the start of the transition process, Comcast would send notices to all customers NOT on X1 and let them know that, unless they upgrade their equipment, their only choices for base packages will be Limited Basic and Digital Starter, with the option of also adding premiums. They'll also let them know that their selection of HD channels will gradually disappear over the next couple of years. Toward the end of the transition period, they'd stop charging the $10 HD Technology Fee since there wouldn't be enough HD channels left to justify it. Also, as the transition period progresses, they'll need to deploy multicast on a more widespread basis since more and more HD QAM channels will disappear.

    So by mid-2022, all that's left on QAM might be SD versions of the channels on Digital Starter plus Premiums. Comcast might then decide that they're ready to completely wipe out QAM TV, requiring those remaining TV subs with QAM-only adapters and boxes to swap them out for a combo of a locked-down multicast gateway plus small IPTV streamers. Or, OTOH, maybe they decide to wait it out another year or two by further winnowing down their QAM TV system to only include SD versions of the channels on Limited Basic. (I wonder what % of their TV customer base is on Limited Basic?) This would let that group of TV subs retain their basic digital adapters. Given the very small amount of network bandwidth that would be required to maintain such a minimal QAM TV system, perhaps they would run it indefinitely if such a move served as some sort of fig leaf with local franchise authorities and FCC regulators?
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2019
  8. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    As more and more folks figure out that they don't really need nearly as much speed as they're paying for to do that kind of stuff that their household does, I do think that we may see broadband pricing move to a system where you're paying more money for higher caps (and maybe higher speeds too), as you suggest. Starter at 100 Mbps with a 300 GB cap, Performance at 500 Mbps with a 700 GB cap, and Gigabit at 1000 Mbps with a 2 TB cap. Something like that. Honestly, very, very few homes make use of more than 100 Mbps download speeds.

    I don't think anything from Digital Preferred is staying on QAM, given that they've now grandfathered that package but they're still selling Digital Starter to standalone TV subscribers.

    It doesn't appear that way from the sign-up process. I tried it over and over with various combos of TV packages and broadband speeds, whether taking their X1 (Xi5) boxes or relying on just the Xfinity Stream app (i.e. using a Roku), and it always allowed me to indicate that I would be using my own modem and router rather than taking one from Comcast. So no, I don't think you need a multicast-capable gateway in order to have 100% IPTV service from Comcast.

    I don't think so. I believe that crash out is going to take a lot longer than you think and it looks to me like Comcast is very much on the verge of a systemwide push toward IPTV and then the start of their QAM TV phase-out. I think we're going to hear more about where this is going in October...
     
  9. lparsons21

    lparsons21 Active Member

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    Mediacom does that already. 60Mbps gets 500Gb, 100Mbps gets 1TB and 200Mbps gets 2TB. And I know they have 500 and 1Gb speeds with higher caps too.

    I’m on 200Mbps to get the 2TB cap. I haven’t hit 2TB yet but I watch enough 4K streams to go over 1TB and it is cheaper to do it this way than pay their overage fees.



    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro
     
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  10. slowbiscuit

    slowbiscuit FUBAR

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    And this is where the WAG comes in - sure they're rolling out IPTV, but who the hell knows when they're going to start dropping QAM channels.

    Comcast has repeatedly shown that logical conclusions have nothing to do with how they run their multiple fiefdoms.
     
  11. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    You're correct that we don't know when they're going to start dropping QAM channels. And I haven't said that I DO know. But as I stated before, what we DO know is that the course that Comcast has now set themselves on -- growing a user-base of TV subscribers without access to QAM channels and who must be 100% served via IPTV -- can only increase bandwidth demands on their network. This will incentivize Comcast to begin removing QAM TV channels at some point so that they can convert that bandwidth over for IP use.

    How long will that take? I don't know. Maybe they'll start removing QAM channels at the beginning of 2020. Maybe not until the start of 2021. Maybe even later. And the process will probably start in some areas sooner than others.
     
  12. Bigg

    Bigg Cord Cutter

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    I'm wondering if they stopped moving to MPEG-4, since with the repack and station sharing, the amount of bandwidth saved is miniscule due to the level of stat muxing that the stations are doing themselves to share channels now.

    Nope. Whether they balance QAMs out or have QAMs with 7 or 8 channels and QAMs with 10 channels, I'm not sure, but either way, CBR is far less efficient than a stat mux, it's just a easy/lazy way to do it, and it's a large part of why their video quality is so horrendous.

    There are a couple of really popular sports channels that sell Digital Preferred. I'd suspect that if anything, they keep most of Digital Starter on QAM, move a handful of those that are less watched to IPTV, and keep a handful of Digital Preferred channels on QAM.

    Your numbers sound impressive, but you're looking at reclaiming 10 or 15 QAMs out of 135 QAMs on an 860mhz system. When they go to fiber deep, they will either use FDX, which will go up to at least 1ghz, or if not, 5-85 1002, which has 152 downstream QAMs. Meanwhile, we're talking about fiber deep, meaning small nodes, so that bandwidth is shared by far fewer households than in the current system.

    I think they'll mostly just wait a few years for the TV ecosystem to implode further and then pull the plug on QAM, or else phase it through groups of channels that cut over like they did with analog and MPEG-2 as those technologies were phased out. I don't think they care about backlash, TV isn't their core business anymore, and I think the architecture/equipment is more important than reclaiming a small amount of bandwidth on their system.

    I think that's more plausible, with a few starts and stops and stalls in there too, since it's Comcast. They wouldn't keep the premiums though, since those aren't watched very much AFAICT, since it's mostly app and On Demand access. They would also kill off QAM-based On Demand though too, which I believe has already been done in a few markets based on posts in this forum. They did MPEG-4 in two blocks, analog was done much more gradually, so I don't know what that means for IP. If they get rid of HD on QAM, SD is going too, as they are not going to maintain the QAM infrastructure for a tiny minority of relatively unprofitable customers.

    That's key, since a lot of X1 users don't have XB6s.

    WAY before that has happened they will have reached a point where the bandwidth/spectrum requirements are minuscule and not really an issue, and it becomes an issue of maintaining the QAM architecture and equipment, housing that equipment, maintaining that equipment, powering that equipment, etc. I believe rPHY can handle QAM video, but my sense is that they want to move to a pure-IP system as they eventually move to rPHY/N+0 and maybe FDX if it ends up working.
     
  13. Bigg

    Bigg Cord Cutter

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    Yeah, it's inevitable, unless they just want to keep a 1TB cap and not improve the network at all, leaving monetization options on the table, since most people won't pay the $50/mo for unlimited data to use the speed that they already paid for. I think the caps would be higher than that, but would have high prices to match, as they want to monetize the heavier users. Cox used to do this and then went to a blanket 1TB cap. Why would anyone get gig when there is a 1TB cap? It's insane. Then they can use the bundled cap increases as a justification to increase the price for a "better value". Oy vey. It will be interesting to see how they respond to competition in areas that have it, another town in CO is building their own network.

    There are a couple of heavily watched sports channels in there.

    That's weird.

    So ironically, Comcast is holding that back. If they stopped doing bulk TV and aggressive TV bundles, they could easily drop the pay TV numbers down quite a bit. Unfortunately, because of NBCU, they have a disincentive to do what the market would otherwise suggest that they do in shedding TV customers. If they didn't own NBCU, they wouldn't offer discounts, and would only offer the full-freight, high-end Double- and Triple-Play bundles (other than Limited Basic as required by law) for the customers willing to pay for it, and wouldn't be dabbling in skinny bundles and this sort of crap. They could probably drop 3-5M TV customers on their own.

    Why October?
     
  14. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    I don't think so. Looks like the full switchover of HD locals to MPEG-4 just happened this month in Chicago:
    [Video] Chicago HD locals now 100% MPEG4 - Comcast XFINITY TV | DSLReports Forums

    And Chicago seems to be the canary in the Comcast coal mine when it comes to future systemwide changes.

    What would those Digital Preferred channels be? Only things that are semi-noteworthy that I can see in DP but not in DS are the channels operated by the big 4 pro sports leagues: MLB Network, NBA TV, NFL Network and NHL Network. But those channels aren't very popular -- don't they just carry out-of-market games and/or simulcast games carried on other channels? For instance, you can watch Thursday Night Football on Fox or on NFL Network (or on Prime Video).

    I don't see anything else that jumps out at me comparing the sports channel lists between DS and DP here:

    Digital Preferred Channel Lineup and XF Packages | CableTV.com

    Meanwhile, DS contains ESPN, ESPN 2, FS1, NBCSN, Golf, Altitude, local RSNs (Fox Sports TN and Fox Sports South here), and a local college sports channel (SEC Network here).

    Not saying that there won't be dramatically more bandwidth to be added to the IP system in other ways, although that will require expensive upgrades done over the next several years. If Comcast went all the way from the current status quo (29 QAMs of TV) down to the minimal scenario (12-13 QAMs of TV) in 2020, that would free up a nice little chunk of immediate IP bandwidth well before Comcast will get the next major network upgrade, DOCSIS 4.0, implemented. (It's now looking like D3.1 isn't going to be a thing; instead, its key features, like FDX symmetrical speeds, is getting folded into the new D4.0 announced this year by CableLabs, which will also support low-latency and multi-gig speeds on HFC.) In the meantime, incremental network upgrades will continue to happen. I've read that they've been aggressively implementing Node+0 in the Atlanta metro this year.

    And, of course, as you point out, phasing out QAM TV isn't JUST about the bandwidth. There are other efficiencies, network advancements, and cost-savings to be had. I do suspect that by the time Comcast gets D4.0 implemented (or at least key aspects of it), it could mean an all-IP network with zero QAM TV left. But that might also not be until 2022-23. So my hypothesis is that Comcast will begin seriously deprecating their QAM TV system in 2020 and then have it nearly or fully wiped out by that future point in time to coincide with the next major phase in the evolution of their IP network.

    Yeah, VOD is gone from QAM, I believe. Hence the fact that the Xfinity OnDemand app for TiVo no longer works.

    As for the premiums, no, I see no reason why Comcast would remove those from QAM during the phase-out period, given that they offer a nice profit margin (unlike base packages). Among that 30% of their TV base who's still on QAM-only hardware, I'll bet a significant number subscribe to HBO or Showtime or Starz. It's probably worth keeping 3 QAMs running for another couple years to accommodate those premiums so that they can keep that income rolling in. (Remember too that the folks still on QAM-only hardware likely skew older and less likely to have or use broadband, so these premiums are not competing with Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, etc. for these viewers' dollars.)

    And, amidst all this speculation, let's go back to the most recent piece of *real* info that we have from Comcast: their just-updated rate cards for the Central Division (where the new channel package system was rolled out earlier this year). What does it say? That the only old-style packages still for sale are Digital Starter and Limited Basic. That premium services are available as add-ons to either. That the $10 HD Technology Fee still applies to the old-style packages but not the new ones. And that the old-style packages no longer qualify for any kind of discount, including bundling discounts. In fact, as I just realized in a closer reading of the footnotes, while Limited Basic *can* be combined with other Comcast services (but without any discount), Digital Starter explicitly *cannot* be combined with any other services: not internet, not phone, not other TV services. I would assume that only applies for new customers and existing customers looking to switch to Digital Starter; surely existing customers who have Digital Starter (or any of the now-deprecated packages like Digital Preferred) will be able to keep their current TV package alongside other Comcast services, although keeping any old-style package other than Digital Starter or Limited Basic would require using an IPTV-capable device.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
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  15. HerronScott

    HerronScott Well-Known Member

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    Our latest rate chart (July 25, 2019) still lists Digital Preferred Tier under Xfinity TV Services with the only note next to it that you have to have Digital Starter to add it.

    upload_2019-8-31_12-16-5.png

    Scott
     
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  16. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Yes. Staunton, VA (where you live, per your ID block) is not part of Comcast's Big South Region. Only the southwestern-most part of VA is. TN, where I live, is completely in the Big South Region. The Big South Region, along with the Chicagoland Region (and other regions?), make up the Central Division.

    The Central Division is where the new channel package system (Basic, Extra, Preferred) debuted earlier this year. Those new packages are listed on my July 2019 rate card but they're not on yours. You can see the entire PDF of my rate card attached here.

    Aside from Central, I think Comcast only has two other major divisions: Northeastern and Western. Staunton, VA must be part of the Northeastern Division, although I don't know the name of your region within that division. It's definitely not Greater Boston or Western New England, which I've read are other regions in that division.

    I did read just yesterday that the Freedom Region, a part of the Northeastern Division covering some or all of NJ, DE and PA, will roll out 100% IPTV service to customers starting in October. I don't know if that will happen soon in other parts of the Northeastern Division too, such as yours, or not. We'll see.
     

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  17. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    Well, it looks like October is when they're targeting some other changes, including the rollout of 100% IPTV service (and, I would guess, the new channel package system) in at least one region in their big Northeast Division.

    I think I also read that October is when they've said Starz will disappear from the old Digital Premier package, following in the footsteps of Cinemax (which was at least swapped out for Comcast's own Hitz, a sad on-demand movie library). Significantly de-contenting a package (without lowering the price) is the kind of thing you do when you're trying to incentivize subs to drop a grandfathered package and switch over to a new system. Perhaps angry customers will contact Comcast to complain and be told that they can get all the channels they want if they switch over to the new system, e.g. the Preferred package plus whatever a la carte premiums they want to add. (The new system gives a discount if you get 3 or more premiums, charging you $30 for 3, $40 for 5, $50 for 5 or $60 for 6. Epix is not included.) I do not believe, though, that the new channel packages will be available to QAM-only hardware, including CableCARDs.

    I think it's seriously possible before long that the only choices for owners of CableCARD TiVos on Comcast cable TV may be to go with either the Digital Starter or Limited Basic package at its full regular price, or to give up using their TiVo and switch to one of the new channel packages. But I would definitely expect Comcast to announce that ultimatum awhile before they actually implement it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2019
  18. HerronScott

    HerronScott Well-Known Member

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    Right, I thought you were indicating that Comcast had grandfathered Digital Preferred everywhere and not just the Central region.

    Scott
     
  19. NashGuy

    NashGuy Well-Known Member

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    No, just here in the Central Division for now, as far as I know. And I haven't heard anything at all from any Comcast customers here or anywhere else on Digital Preferred or the other old-style Digital packages that have been told by Comcast that they're going to need to change packages, or swap out hardware, and/or lose any current discounts. Just want to make that clear.

    So far, the only indication we have that those Digital packages have been grandfathered is the info contained on the new July 2019 rate card which I posted above. But I suspect that a general announcement and/or direct communication to affected subscribers in the Central Division is coming before long to tell them that their channel package has been grandfathered, IF there are any implications of that development for the grandfathered subscribers.

    Maybe I'm completely wrong and there won't be ANY implications, other than if you ever drop your grandfathered package, you can't get it back.

    But I believe that subscribers on the grandfathered packages may be told that if they wish to stay on the package, they'll need to switch to IPTV-capable hardware because some of the channels in that package will soon become IPTV-only. And if they don't want to do that, they'll be downgraded to Digital Starter (plus whichever premiums they want). Or heck, maybe the only option for keeping their current non-IPTV-capable hardware will be to stay on their existing package (e.g. Digital Preferred) and pay the regular rate for it but without access to the upper-tier channels that become IPTV-only. Which would suck.

    The footnote in my rate card states the following (emphasis mine):

    Digital Starter does not qualify for Multi Product discount or Autopay and Paperless Billing discount. Cannot be combined with other Xfinity TV services, Xfinity Internet, Xfinity Voice or Xfinity Home service. HD Technology Fee required for HD programming.

    A guy over on DSL Reports (dishrich), who apparently sets up TV service for clients and deals with Comcast a lot, also lives in the Central Region, up in IL, and his rate card is the same as mine. He says an agent there told him that they could NOT put new customers on Digital Starter if they were taking other Comcast services, which lines up with the footnote above. If they're taking internet, the only choices are the new Basic, Extra and Preferred packages.

    What I don't know is whether or not existing customers who subscribe to both TV and internet would be able to switch from, say, Digital Preferred to Digital Starter and keep their internet. If so, then they'd lose those upper-tier channels but at least they wouldn't be paying for them. But if they weren't allow to do that, and their only option was to stay frozen in their current bundle of internet plus grandfathered Digital TV package if they wanted to keep using their TiVo (or other non-IPTV device), that would really turn the screws on them.
     
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  20. Bigg

    Bigg Cord Cutter

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    It's quite possible they want to move entirely to MPEG-4. They would need to get direct fiber feeds that come from before the station's own compressors though, since compression is much more efficient if it has a higher quality source. Just so that Comcast can efficiently make it look like garbage, of course.

    Opening up the handy dandy Branford, CT lineup that they email to me every year, I see ESPNews, FS2, Olympic Channel, ESPNU, and CBS Sports Network, all of which have large spikes of viewership occasionally. Some of these are regional, like ESPNews, FS2, ESPNU, and CBS Sports Network carry basketball here in CT. For example, SEC Network would be a popular channel in those parts of the country, not so much here.

    There will be, but I believe they are still limited more by the upstream, so they have to split nodes and/or go to mid-split, high-split or FDX.

    You mean D3.1 FDX? They use D3.1 extensively today. Today's technology can offer 1000/500 speeds with no data caps, they just haven't implemented fiber-deep and high-split together. European cable operators have, and they are offering fiber-like near-symmetrical service over cable. The one big thing that DOCSIS 4.0 appears to offer is low latency, as that's still an advantage of fiber, even when D3.1 is fully utilized.

    N+0 is interesting. I still don't think it will work in New England due to the mix of urban, suburban, and exurban development.

    My sense is once they start moving away from QAM, it's just part of a process to not have to upgrade everyone to IPTV-capable equipment at once. There's little benefit in doing a partial conversion by tiers or packages unless they are going to go all-in on IPTV. If they just wanted to save bandwidth, they'd pull most of Digital Preferred and some of Digital Starter off to IPTV and leave it that way, with the popular channels in each staying on QAM, and not forcing anyone to upgrade equipment unless they want the channels that were converted.

    I would think that they would be among the first to go, since the live channels are sort of useless at that point. HBO and others have moved to an on-demand model, whether you get that through XoD or through HBO Go, HBO Now, or Amazon Channels.

    CT might get them in 5 years. We're always way behind most of the rest of the country on Comcast, but as long as they keep CT lumped in with MA, they can't put data caps on service here so that's good.

    It's still weird to me that they're mixing technology and packages. Historically, cable TV has never grandfathered packages, they just change them and people have to go with whatever the new package and price are or cancel their service.
     

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