Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Cablevision Promises to Introduce Your PC to Your TV

What if you could move the contents of your PC directly onto your TV? If you’re a tech-savvy reader, you may already be doing this. And if you’re not, you may wonder why you’d want to.

But Cablevision says it will let subscribers pull this trick off without extra cables or boxes and promises they’ll love it. The Long Island-based cable company will be testing the technology later this spring, under a clunky but accurate moniker: “PC to TV Media Relay.”

That means you can move anything you can put on your monitor or laptop screen–from streaming video to photos to word processing documents, if you are so inclined–to your TV. Audio, too.

Of course, that’s the idea behind plenty of services and gadgets, from Boxee to Internet-connected TVs to Apple’s (AAPL) not very successful Apple TV box.

And, of course, you can already do this without any of that stuff, and it’s not that hard to pull off. Time Warner Cable (TWC) even showed its customers how during its fight with News Corp. (NWS) over subscription fees for Fox and other channels.*

But the do-it-yourself version still requires at least a couple steps: Figuring out what kind of cord you need to connect your computer to your TV and then, actually connecting it. From a consumer’s perspective, Cablevision’s solution is more elegant, since it’s cable-free; the company says you’ll only need to download one piece of software.

But it’s quite a bit of work on Cablevision’s end, since the company has to port your stuff from your PC through its network and back down to your TV through a set-top box to a channel reserved just for your stuff.

Why go to all this trouble?

If you sort of squint at this for a while, it sort of looks like Cablevision’s version of the “TV Everywhere” idea that Time Warner (TWX) and cable players like Comcast (CMCSA) have been pushing. But in reverse.

TV Everywhere’s offer is that if you pay for cable, you can watch your TV shows on your PC. Cablevision lets you watch your PC on your plasma. But both ideas end up at the same place: They’re meant to give cable subscribers another reason to keep subscribing to cable.

Cablevision (CVC) says the service will launch by June in a “technical trial,” which likely means just a fraction of its three million New York-area subscribers will get to try it. And they’ll have to be Windows users; the cable company says a Mac version will be introduced later.

One thing Cablevision wouldn’t tell me is what it expects to hear from Hulu, the Web video joint venture owned by Fox, GE’s (GE) NBC and Disney’s (DIS) ABC.

Hulu’s attitude about people watching the TV programming it delivers via the Web on a TV screen has ranged from disapproving to downright hostile–just ask Boxee.

That’s partly because Hulu’s TV owners want to enforce the idea that Hulu is a complement to TV, not a replacement for TV. And it’s also because Hulu’s owners see Hulu on a big screen as a feature worth paying for.

In any case, Hulu will have a hard time complaining openly about Cablevision’s plan. Because unlike Boxee’s solution, Cablevision is literally just moving what’s on your PC to your TV.

But there may still be some interesting emails flying back and forth from Long Island to Santa Monica in the next few days.

*Now that its Fox fight is resolved, Time Warner Cable has yanked its cord-cutting instructions. But I have thoughtfully archived them for you. You’re welcome!


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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”