How big a threat could Apple TV be?
As technologies such as Apple TV and the upcoming Vudu hit the market and add validation to the emerging and melding trends of online movie downloading (OMD), the adoption of digital media adapter (DMA) technology and PC-to-TV bridging, cable operators should be following two simple rules: 1) make sure your on-demand product is not being overpowered; and 2) pay very, very close attention.
This advice comes from Michael Greeson, founding partner, president and principal analyst for The Diffusion Group (TDG), who says: "The cable operators can't be in denial about the Internet as a multimedia medium. It's a powerful technology. You can't deny its power. Now that it's coming to the TV, it's time to be concerned."
Companies such as DirecTV have already heeded the warning. In September, the satellite company launched the DirecTV HR20 (DirecTV Plus HD DVR), an MPEG-4-compatible STB with integrated DMA—Intel's Viiv technology. A DMA translates IP-based content into legacy content or input, since most TVs do not have IP networking capabilities.
With a Viiv-enabled PC, a DirecTV customer can transfer photos and music from the PC to the TV, with the PC acting as the server and the DVR acting as the client.
In December, DirecTV began beta testing for unencrypted music and photo sharing. But Steve Kasakitis, senior director of marketing, says that the company will begin testing unencrypted video this summer, then encrypted video, and eventually access to the Internet on the TV. "We're stair-stepping our way there," he says.
And although stair-steppers are evil—I much prefer a treadmill or a Precor—DirecTV is climbing in the right direction. According to TDG, the last six months have seen major changes in the availability of online video and the distribution of it. More than 250 video start-ups have emerged, each promising a quality experience to the PC or Internet-connected STB.
This alternative universe of on-demand video is a huge threat to cable operators. Greeson says broadband TV services will start popping up soon, bringing more than just movies to the PC, and eventually the STB. "It goes around the traditional system of bringing content to the home," he says. "Who will be bringing TV to the TV set then?"
The technology is available. Both Motorola and Scientific Atlanta are perfectly capable of putting IP networking in STBs. Cable companies just aren't interested. But they will be when there is a compelling drive for the technology in the market, Greeson says.
VOD, when it comes down to it, is still yesterday's news, whereas Internet video and TV can offer long-tail (or niche) content, like Akimbo's Internet on-demand service. Satellite is not necessarily the biggest threat to cable; the biggest threat is the Internet, and even more so when satellite and the Internet are starting to join forces, Greeson says.
"Cable companies won't be easily swayed or bumped off," Greeson says, "but this is a major curve in the journey."
—Traci Patterson, Web/News Editor - CED, Editor - xOD Capsule
Gemstar-TV Guide reveals personalized TV navigation service
Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. is introducing a new suite of cross-platform, personalized guidance tools and services called "My TV Guide."
The solutions will enable consumers to access video entertainment on platforms ranging from traditional linear TV to the Internet and mobile devices. TV Guide will offer these new capabilities to distributors—cable, satellite, telco, CE and mobile—and work with them to develop custom solutions for their customers, the company said.
My TV Guide products and services, designed to complement existing interactive program guides (IPGs), will rollout later this year, with the initial phases of deployment taking place primarily on the Web, the company said. Living room-oriented apps are expected in 2008.
"We conducted a great deal of research over the past 18 months as we set out to address the complexity in the current media landscape," said Steve Shannon, executive VP and general manager of product development and technology at Gemstar-TV Guide. "We found that consumers are very interested in a personalized guidance experience . . . Through the My TV Guide services, consumers will be able to focus on the specific programs that interest them most, and they will be able to manage their viewing options at any time, and from any place."
The suite of tools and services will include MetaPlus enhanced data, personalized guide services, cross platform messaging, advanced guide ad services and client apps.
DirecTV offers satellite on-the-go
DirecTV Inc. is launching DirecTV Sat-Go (satellite-to-go), the first portable satellite TV system, the company said.
"DirecTV's digital satellite technology enables us to do what no cable service can—offer consumers TV programming that they can watch wherever they are," said Eric Shanks, DirecTV's executive VP.
The Sat-Go comes in a briefcase-like design that includes a 17-inch LCD monitor with an integrated DirecTV receiver, flat antenna and replaceable/rechargeable lithium-ion battery, the company said. The unit also includes AC/DC adapters for the home and car.
The $1,499 unit can be utilized as an additional in-home DirecTV receiver and TV. The LCD TV screen has a built-in receiver that can be separated from the antenna casing and connected to a DirecTV satellite dish.
Microsoft reportedly covets Yahoo, a $50B proposition
Some rumors are too big not to repeat: It's been reported that Microsoft Corp. is talking to Yahoo Inc. about a possible acquisition, to better compete with Google Inc.
Granted, the original source is The New York Post, but the markets are taking it seriously, and investors are sending Yahoo's stock soaring. The Post says the purchase price could be on the order of $50 billion.
Microsoft currently trails both Yahoo and Google in the lucrative and growing business of Web search and, by extension, online advertising.
Earlier this week, Yahoo said it would buy 80 percent of advertising exchange Right Media for $680 million, increasing its stake in that company to full control.
Concurrent sees revenue decreases all over
Concurrent posted on-demand, real-time and overall revenue losses for Q3 of its fiscal year, ended March 31.
Revenue from Concurrent's on-demand product line totaled $10.3 million, compared with $10.9 million in the previous quarter, a decrease of 5.5 percent. Real-time revenue was $5.8 million, down 6.3 percent from $6.2 million in Q2.
"Our on-demand revenue was down slightly from the previous quarter, due largely to a late change of terms in an Everstream contract, which negatively impacted the revenue in the quarter," said Gary Trimm, Concurrent's president and CEO. "In our real-time business, we made significant progress toward closing orders for our real-time operating systems software involving major financial institutions, but revenue from those products was minimal in the quarter."
Overall revenue of $16.1 million was down from $17.1 million last quarter, and $20.6 million in Q3 2006.
TVN unveils 'HD VOD Club'
TVN Entertainment Corp. has launched the "HD VOD Club," a new HD programming service that showcases on-demand content from Hollywood studios, Starz Entertainment and event suppliers.
The service is launching with several VOD affiliates including Blue Ridge Communications, Bend Broadband and Charter Communications, which is trialing the service, TVN said. TVN recently deployed a second satellite transponder along with new VOD receivers to support a major expansion in services.
The service delivers about 50 hours of HD on-demand programming each month. TVN already supplies the cable industry with HD on-demand shows from networks including MTV, Discovery and National Geographic.
According to The National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE), sales of HD TVs are up 47 percent from this time last year, and HD TVs outsold SD sets by 90 percent in 2006. It is projected that there will be more than 50 million HD TVs in the U.S. by the end of 2007.
SeaChange upgrades Axiom, will intro Flash drive server
SeaChange International said it will unveil its new generation of open software and server solutions this week at The Cable Show.
The new products will include Axiom Core 4.0—the latest version of the company's on-demand management software, which now supports third-party servers from Cisco Systems Inc., Concurrent Computer Corp. and Motorola Inc.—and the 100-percent-flash-based SeaChange MediaServer Flash Streamer.
The new product—designed to automate core services and manage next-generation apps—now supports up to 10 million subscribers at a single site and 20 aggregate sites, and will be enhanced to support up to 50 aggregate sites by year end. The company also promises faster content refresh (up to 6,800 hours per month, per site); optimized content propagation across both memory and disk servers; new graphical management tools for network and content administration; and support for third-party system resource managers.
SeaChange contrasts its flash-drive-based MediaServer Flash Streamer to rivals' DRAM-based solutions (SeaChange is indirectly referring to Motorola's Broadbus operation). Flash is non-volatile, meaning that it retains data when power is shut off, whereas DRAM is volatile. SeaChange said the Flash Streamer—available in Q3 2007—retains real-time ingested content in spite of server failures or maintenance downtime, which it said is a critical requirement for time-shifting.
And . . . Motorola integrates server with Axiom 4.0
Motorola Inc. has integrated its B-1 Video Server with SeaChange International's Axiom 4.0 on-demand management software.
The two companies will demonstrate the integrated solution by streaming HD VOD content at The Cable Show.
The B-1 server is an open platform, designed to integrate with standards-based solutions such as the Axiom software. Acting in concert, the hardware and software components make it possible to manage and automate every aspect of on-demand video delivery, from video streaming to billing to advertising, the companies said.
TandbergTV intros universal edge QAM
Ericsson's Tandberg Television has debuted a new edge QAM. The EQ8096 can be configured with up to 96 QAMs in a 2RU chassis, and is capable of simultaneous support of HD and SD streams.
The EQ8096 can operate in switched digital video (SDV), VOD, broadcast and high-speed data (HSD) application modes simultaneously within the same chassis, which TandbergTV claims is unique.
The company says the product is characterized by high reliability, low power consumption and redundancy features.
Also, TandbergTV will demonstrate the first live T-commerce application ported to meet the CableLabs open standards for enhanced television programming (ETV) at The Cable Show.
TandbergTV worked with TVWorks, a joint venture of Comcast Corp. and Cox Communications, to develop an open standards version of its interactive shopping app for the TV shopping network HSN.
Allied Telesis, IBM ally to sell IPTV systems
Allied Telesis and IBM have entered what is essentially a worldwide co-marketing agreement covering IPTV systems, formally bringing Allied Telesis into IBM's overseas IPTV plans.
IBM, which has made its mark as an integration specialist, intends to create an integrated system for broadband TV services, multi-channel HD TV, video-rich content on-demand, online gaming and other interactive services. The system will presumably be open to include multiservice access product offerings from Allied Telesis.
Allied Telesis will be IBM's preferred access network supplier for next-generation broadband access, and IBM will be Allied Telesis' preferred systems integration partner for IPTV sales activities in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Last month, IBM cut a deal with Cisco Systems to use Cisco routing equipment as the basis for an IPTV system aimed at Tier 2 and Tier 3 providers in Europe and Asia. IBM said it would also tap conditional access from Verimatrix and VOD equipment from Kasenna.
Comcast's NJ subs getting politics on-demand
Comcast Corp.'s digital subs in New Jersey and the Greater Philadelphia area will be given an exclusive public service, "CN8 Presents: Candidates on-Demand."
Beginning in October, subs in the region will receive on-demand coverage of the New Jersey gubernatorial race, for free, through Election Day. The content will feature in-depth campaign interviews with the leading candidates.
The service was first used for last year's Colorado Senate race and has been expanded for the New Jersey race for Governor.
"CN8 Presents: Candidates on-Demand" will be produced entirely by CN8, Comcast's 24-hour cable network that reaches about 7.1 million U.S. households. The five-minute candidate interviews will also air on CNN Headline News as "Comcast Newsmakers" segments.
MIke Doyle is president of Comcast Cable's Eastern Division and the founder of CN8
New on-demand channel lets it flow
FlowTV, the first on-demand TV channel dedicated solely to the hip-hop lifestyle, has launched.
More than 70 million viewers will have access via broadband and mobile, and more than 20 million TV households, including Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. customers, will receive the channel.
FlowTV is the third network Ripe Digital Entertainment (RDE) has launched, after Ripe TV and Octane TV. RDE is credited with developing the first multi-platform on-demand networks over cable VOD, broadband and mobile, the company said.
FlowTV will debut with more than 100 hours of programming representing all things hip-hop.
• BigBand to display new enhanced TV apps
BigBand Networks Inc. will demonstrate eight technologies—including IPTV over DOCSIS, a switched video ecosystem, addressable advertising and enhanced TV—at The Cable Show.
• ICTV to bring Web video to TVs—with targeted ads
ICTV said it will unveil the first live, available ActiveVideo programming and navigational channels at The Cable Show. ICTV said it will demonstrate how ActiveVideo enables Web media to be universally distributed through TV with high-quality video and targeted, interactive ads.
• Imagine all the people . . . seeing the QOD suite
Imagine Communications plans to showcase its QOD Product Suite at The Cable Show. The suite features variable bit rate and statistical multiplexing (VBR/StatMux) innovations for the VOD, HD-VOD and Switched Digital Video (SDV) markets.
• Comcast, Yahoo partner for online ad deal
Comcast Interactive Media and Yahoo! Inc. have entered into a multi-year strategic partnership for online display and video advertising services on Comcast.net.
Comcast.net, a top 10 online site, has more than 2.5 billion page views, more than 80 million videos viewed and 15 million unique visitors per month.
• Arris' next-gen system delivering IP VOD, data in China
Arris' wideband data and video delivery system is now available. It is designed to assist Chinese cable operators in delivering digital video IP VOD and high-speed data services to their customers as part of a government mandate to deliver digital video throughout the Chinese market, Arris said.
The solution combines the D5 Universal Edge QAM and the C4 CMTS and Touchstone Wideband modems to deliver broadcast video, VOD and video over DOCSIS, as well as bi-directional wideband data via 120 Mbps wideband data and IPTV services.
• Desktopbox wins innovation award
Desktopbox Interactive, a Toronto-based technology firm with an interactive Internet broadcasting platform, was awarded the "Top Innovation Award" from Television Broadcast magazine at the NAB convention.
Desktopbox's live software uses computer Web browser technologies to automatically select live Web links a user might want to see while watching a television program, the company said.
• Freedom Interactive gains online video networks
Freedom Interactive, the Internet division of Freedom Communications Inc., has added Brightcove Inc., a pioneer in Internet TV, and MeeVee Inc., an online video and TV guide provider, to its network of more than 40 national Web sites.
The new networks will launch in May, beginning with OCRegister.com, the home of The Orange County Register.
• Starz to launch 3 HD channels
Starz Entertainment plans to launch three additional high definition (HD) channels on top of the one already offered.
The new channels will be East Coast feeds of Starz Comedy, Starz Edge and Starz Kids & Family and are expected to launch by the end of the summer. The existing Starz HD channel is available in East and West Coast feeds, as well on Starz On Demand HD and Encore On Demand HD services.
• Online MLS video—Gotuit!
Gotuit Media Corp.—a metadata-driven video provider—has renewed a contract with Major League Soccer for the 2007 season.
Gotuit will power QuickKicks, its free broadband video portal on the MLS Web site. QuickKicks, which launched last soccer season, allows MLS fans to search through and watch all of the 2007 game video with access to game highlights.
• Wrestling wins PPV and VOD spots
Ring of Honor Wrestling (ROH), in association with G-Funk Sports & Entertainment, has landed programming and distribution deals for PPV and VOD wrestling cards with In Demand Networks, TVN Entertainment and EchoStar Communications Corp.'s Dish Network, approximately 50 million U.S. households.
• ITV offers Internet catch-up service, according to an IT Week article.
• iTV is back in our vocabulary, according to an xchange online article.