For years television broadcasters have promised to deliver their content to all the screens in your home, but TV Everywhere has largely gone nowhere. Despite a proliferation of apps and websites that extend broadcast and pay TV content to mobile devices, the dream has turned into a nightmare for many consumers, thanks to service restrictions, subscriber authentication problems, and a host of other issues. That may change, however, with the arrival of VidiPath, a new wireless standard that allows you to stream content directly to your devices from your service provider's set-top box.
The force behind VidiPath is the Digital Living Network Alliance, the trade group that kicked off the streaming revolution more than a decade ago with the DLNA protocol. DLNA enables you to stream media from hard drives and memory cards to your TV, Blu-ray player, tablet, and other multimedia devices. Building on that experience, DLNA worked with Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications Sony, Samsung, and Broadcom to develop a similar content-streaming solution for pay TV.
One box to rule them all
Under the current model, if you want to share your cable subscription on multiple screens you'll require some intermediary devices and software. First, you need a separate set-top box for each TV in you home. Then, to be able to view cable content on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, you need to download your service-provider's app on each device or log into the provider's web portal.
While that may seem easy enough, the system is far from perfect. Authenticating your subscription is a common hurdle, and once you do, only a portion of your subscription content is typically available online. While some providers let you stream live TV, many will only let you view on-demand programming, sometimes only 24 hours or more after the show or movie has first aired. Also, because of the complexity of the deals each provider has with the television networks, not every channel in your subscription will be offered online. You can work around this by downloading the proprietary apps for the networks you want to watch, or use an over-the-top app like Hulu, but they each come with their own restrictions.
VidiPath simplifies this considerably. The protocol enables a single cable set-top box, or "gateway," to stream all a provider's programming — including HD content and channel guide data — directly to VidiPath-equipped TVs, PCs, smartphones, tablets, game consoles, and Blu-ray players over your Wi-Fi network. Best of all, it requires no configuring from you: Any VidiPath-certified product guarantees out-of-the-box interoperability with other VidiPath-certified devices.
Getting full service across all your devices is only part of VidiPath's allure. Multi-room installations will no longer require cumbersome coaxial runs through the house, and you won't need to additional set-top boxes for each of your TVs. Unlike the current TV Everywhere model — where you have the headache of different interfaces for TVs, PCs, and mobile devices — VidiPath gives you a consistent UI across all of them. And, according to DLNA, VidiPath devices have low-power capabilities built in, potentially reducing your energy consumption.
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