Comcast Media Center takes headend into the skies (again)

The Comcast Media Center (CMC) is taking the next logical step forwards--or perhaps backwards--in the way it uses its Headend in the Sky (HITS) business unit to deliver cable TV packages to smaller cable operators. The CMC has introduced what it calls HITS Central as a centralized headend management system that includes an "open standard conditional access (CA) platform that supports multiple set tops."

That, said Brent Smith, president of Evolution Digital, with whom CMC is partnering on the venture and which is supplying technology, "can dramatically reduce the costs for a cable operator to go all digital."It can also impact the types of conditional access--set-top boxes--a smaller operator needs to purchase, perhaps marking the first signs that the box duopoly of Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Motorola (NYSE: MOT) is not infallible, at least for smaller operators.

The HITS Central system "supports channel map changes, code object downloads, encryption, automated provisioning of CableCARD devices and management of non-linear video operations such as switched digital video, VoD and interactive TV," CMC said in a news release.

The new service harkens back to the original formation of HITS which was developed by TeleCommunications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: TSYS) as a way to feed cable packages to primarily rural operators, thereby saving the cost of set-top boxes and other infrastructure. As then, it probably won't have a major impact on big MSOs which are entrenched into equipment supplied by Moto or Cisco.

For more:
- see this news release

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