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There are early signals that Comcast may launch a streaming service

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In a world of increasingly available streaming options, Comcast remains an outlier.

AT&T and Disney both pledged to launch streaming services in 2019. Yet armed with an arsenal of NBCUniversal content and the largest cable TV subscriber base in the US, Comcast doesn’t offer an over-the-top (OTT) service, and has said publicly it hasn’t identified a business model that makes sense for one. That’s left media analysts confused.

“Everybody I talk to is puzzled about why they haven’t launched a vMVPD,” Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst for TVREV, told Business Insider.

There are signs that might soon change. First, in December, NBCU president Steve Burke in December sent a note to employees teasing the possibility of a plan for OTT in 2019.

Also, Comcast has been “overbuilding,” the industry term for when a cable operator enters a competitor’s territory, Tim Hanlon, founder and CEO of The Vertere Group. To Hanlon, that shows Comcast is closer to launching a national virtual MVPD.

“There’s always been this sort of established gentleman’s agreement on a cable operators not competing with each other overbuilding other territories. Comcast over the last number of months has begun to do that in smaller less populated areas of the country,” Hanlon said.

Comcast applied for and won a number of cable franchise agreements in New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania in 2018, Multichannel News reported. In each of those cases, Comcast entered a regional incumbent’s territory, like Atlantic Broadband, to overbuild on its network.

Atlantic Broadband told Business Insider it has always had competition in its service areas, often from multiple competitors.

While Comcast provides broadband access to more than 26 million subscribers and services 39 states and Washington, D.C., a coverage map from the FCC shows most of its service area is located in the North and Southeast.

FCC

“If anybody in the classic MVPD space that’s not already doing it, like Sling, can launch a virtual MVPD outside of their own regions, I think Comcast has the opportunity and wherewithal to do it,” Hanlon said.

Read more:Comcast thinks it has developed the next technology to elevate TV advertising — now it needs the industry’s buy-in

It might be too late

The timing of an OTT launch could prove difficult.

Comcast has a rocky history with streaming services. NBC shuttered its comedy streaming service Seeso in 2017 and couldn’t get the app Watchable off the ground. Meantime, AT&T and Disney have already started working toward their streaming launches for later this year. Both companies are also in a position with stronger content now that AT&T closed its deal with Time Warner and Disney won assets from 21st Century Fox.

“It’s at a point where it’s maybe too late to break into that market now,” Wolk said.

The emergence of 5G adds another layer of competition as mobile operators start to offer fixed wireless broadband for home internet with TV service bundled in, Wolk said.

Verizon has already begun to offer TV service incentives along with 5G. The wireless giant announced it would include YouTube TV service for free for the first three months and Apple TV 4K along with 5G service to customers in each of its four initial markets — Houston, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Sacramento — when the service went live in 2018.

YouTube TV typically runs at $40 a month and offers live TV distributed OTT, without a cable subscription. It includes more than 60 channels, including networks like CBS, Fox, and ESPN. Apple TV 4K is a product that allows viewers access to streaming services, like Netflix, HBO, and Hulu, and retails for around $179.

The decision to offer bundling of residential broadband service and live TV allows customers to cut linear-TV subscriptions to get similar programming.

Hulu remains a lingering question

Then there’s the factor of Comcast’s 30% stake in Hulu. Disney owns 60% of Hulu.

“My sense is that they’re probably going to somehow look to monetize that or divest that because I don’t know that they want to stay on Hulu as a minority shareholder,” said Tuna Amobi, senior equity analyst at CFRA Research.

Wolk sees another option: Comcast and Disney having all their programming on Hulu, a service that already has more than 23 million subscribers.

NBCU has robust programming content with all the original shows from Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, and USA, Wolk said. Added to Disney’s ABC and ESPN content provides a powerful combination of programming assets. And the possibility to offer Hulu programming abroad, now that Comcast owns British broadcaster Sky, would be another boon to the cable operator.

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More groups join in support of women in STEM program at Carleton

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OTTAWA — Major companies and government partners are lending their support to Carleton University’s newly established Women in Engineering and Information Technology Program.

The list of supporters includes Mississauga-based construction company EllisDon.

The latest to announce their support for the program also include BlackBerry QNX, CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), Ericsson, Nokia, Solace, Trend Micro, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, CGI, Gastops, Leonardo DRS, Lockheed Martin Canada, Amdocs and Ross.

The program is officially set to launch this September.

It is being led by Carleton’s Faculty of Engineering and Design with the goal of establishing meaningful partnerships in support of women in STEM.  

The program will host events for women students to build relationships with industry and government partners, create mentorship opportunities, as well as establish a special fund to support allies at Carleton in meeting equity, diversity and inclusion goals.

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VR tech to revolutionize commercial driver training

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Serious Labs seems to have found a way from tragedy to triumph? The Edmonton-based firm designs and manufactures virtual reality simulators to standardize training programs for operators of heavy equipment such as aerial lifts, cranes, forklifts, and commercial trucks. These simulators enable operators to acquire and practice operational skills for the job safety and efficiency in a risk-free virtual environment so they can work more safely and efficiently.

The 2018 Humboldt bus catastrophe sent shock waves across the industry. The tragedy highlighted the need for standardized commercial driver training and testing. It also contributed to the acceleration of the federal government implementing a Mandatory Entry-Level Training (MELT) program for Class 1 & 2 drivers currently being adopted across Canada. MELT is a much more rigorous standard that promotes safety and in-depth practice for new drivers.

Enter Serious Labs. By proposing to harness the power of virtual reality (VR), Serious Labs has earned considerable funding to develop a VR commercial truck driving simulator.

The Government of Alberta has awarded $1 million, and Emissions Reduction Alberta (ERA) is contributing an additional $2 million for the simulator development. Commercial deployment is estimated to begin in 2024, with the simulator to be made available across Canada and the United States, and with the Alberta Motor Transport Association (AMTA) helping to provide simulator tests to certify that driver trainees have attained the appropriate standard. West Tech Report recently took the opportunity to chat with Serious Labs CEO, Jim Colvin, about the environmental and labour benefits of VR Driver Training, as well as the unique way that Colvin went from angel investor to CEO of the company.

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Next-Gen Tech Company Pops on New Cover Detection Test

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While the world comes out of the initial stages of the pandemic, COVID-19 will be continue to be a threat for some time to come. Companies, such as Zen Graphene, are working on ways to detect the virus and its variants and are on the forefronts of technology.

Nanotechnology firm ZEN Graphene Solutions Ltd. (TSX-Venture:ZEN) (OTCPK:ZENYF), is working to develop technology to help detect the COVID-19 virus and its variants. The firm signed an exclusive agreement with McMaster University to be the global commercializing partner for a newly developed aptamer-based, SARS-CoV-2 rapid detection technology.

This patent-pending technology uses clinical samples from patients and was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The test is considered extremely accurate, scalable, saliva-based, affordable, and provides results in under 10 minutes.

Shares were trading up over 5% to $3.07 in early afternoon trade.

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