Cox may license Comcast RDK middleware platform

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WASHINGTON, D.C.--Cox Communications is considering licensing Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA) Reference Design Kit (RDK) to help speed the rollout of advanced digital cable services, VP of Video Product Development and Management Steve Necessary said Tuesday.

"We're definitely evaluating it. I would say it's an active evaluation," Necessary told FierceCable in an interview at The Cable Show.

Comcast unveiled the RDK, an open-source software platform, last year. While about 70 technology vendors have licensed the RDK, the only cable MSOs that Comcast has confirmed publicly that will use the platform are Liberty Global (Nasdaq: LBTYA) and Canada's Rogers Communications (NYSE: RCI).

Cox's Trio interactive program guide is based on the CableLabs OCAP (OpenCable Application Platform) specification, and Necessary said Cox currently sources the OCAP spec from Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO), its biggest set-top supplier.

"It works technically. The downsides associated with that approach are probably twofold. One is it ends up tying Cox more closely to a single supplier than we might otherwise want. We have a great relationship with Cisco. But it's always nice to have choices," Necessary said.

Several set-top vendors have licensed the RDK, including Cisco rivals Arris (Nasdaq: ARRS), Pace (LSE: PIC.L) and Humax. Licensing the RDK could make it easier for Cox to deploy set-tops from multiple suppliers.

While Comcast doesn't charge royalties to companies that license the RDK, it requires those that develop solutions based on modifications to the RDK to contribute their technology with other licensees. Necessary compared the RDK to Linux, the open-source computer operating system.

Also worth noting from our interview with Necessary:

  • Cox, which added a recommendation engine from ThinkAnalytics to its interactive program guide last November, will include personalized content recommendations to subscribers that stream cable networks on Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL) iPad this summer, Necessary said. Cox subscribers in most markets can stream 91 cable networks through the iPad app. Necessary said Cox will also add personalized content recommendations based on viewing habits of subscribers to apps for Android devices, PCs and Macs.
  • Necessary said that Cox just eight hours to reach out-of-home streaming deals with programmers that allowed it to offer subscribers impacted by the deadly tornadoes in Oklahoma last month the ability to watch cable programming on mobile devices. He said the idea came from Bruce Berkinshaw, director of product management at its Oklahoma operation. "It was one of our finest moments," Necessary said of the effort, which involved coordination of technology, programming and public affairs teams.

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