Extending video to any screen
At CTAM Summit '07, ExtendMedia Corp. showcased its upgraded OpenCase digital content services platform, which allows service operators (service providers, content rights holders, retailers and device manufacturers) to operate an online video business.
OpenCase helps cable operators and telcos maximize the value of video syndication so they can offer video apps on any screen—on PCs, mobile phones, portable devices and TVs. The company can license the technology, allowing it to participate in larger, more strategic opportunities, says Keith Kocho, founder of ExtendMedia.
The platform, about four years old, launched as a self-service and provisioning platform for advanced services such as VOD and IPTV. The second release of OpenCase contained upgrades of rights management, asset management and publishing features.
The highlighted feature of the newly upgraded platform—OpenCase Version 2.5—is a new syndication functionality, which allows distributors to syndicate subsets of their master catalog to different retail affiliates for publishing into their own video storefronts. Affiliates can access OpenCase to manage their own accounts and edit syndicated product pricing and metadata.
Version 2.5 also features expanded portable device support, new support for commerce models, a unified storefront player delivered in Flash—that combines the browse and purchase elements of a storefront with the download—enhanced metadata management and greater content control with Certified Output Protection Protocol (COPP).
"Service operators need extreme efficiency to generate the greatest revenue from online video businesses—at the same time they must assure studios and content companies that their license rights have been protected," Kocho says. "Our OpenCase Version 2.5 allows both, and early industry feedback on this feature by service operators has been extremely promising."
Kocho says ExtendMedia will soon be announcing both international and domestic cable operator and telco partnerships for the upgraded platform. And hopefully by year's end, the company will release OpenCase Version 3.0. Pre- and post-ad insertion is available now, but 3.0 will introduce an opt-in advertising network focusing on coupons and discounts and the insertion of local ads.
In April, ExtendMedia received $12 million in venture capital funding in a Series B round led by TVM Capital, with previous investors Atlas Venture and Venrock Associates also participating. The financing followed an $11 million Series A round, bringing the company's total funding to $23 million.
Kocho says the company is currently working on a lot of applications in the VOD space, related to overlaying and greater management. And an announcement will drop soon regarding on-demand and storefront applications for the IPTV market, he says.
—Traci Patterson, Web/News Editor - CED, Editor - xOD Capsule
CTAM: Cuban agitates for access
By Gary Arlen, special to CED
WASHINGTON – "We'll see a whole new bunch of applications as soon as these guys open up their networks," maverick media magnate Mark Cuban, chairman of HD-Net, passionately proclaimed as he looked at his co-panelist CEOs from Time Warner Cable and Charter Communications at the closing session of the CTAM Summit.
Cuban focused on user-generated content shared through very high-speed local "intra-nets." He insisted that the local architecture will be able to sustain QoS at very high levels—furthering the appeal to local audiences.
During a VOD discussion, TWC CEO Glenn Britt surprised other panelists by saying that his viewers do not consider "Start-Over" (the service that lets viewers see a show from the beginning) to be VOD. "They don't care about the technology," Britt explained. "They just want the functionality."
At the summit, Ensequence, an iTV products and services developer, privately showed "Stick Around," an added-value function that brings DVD and Web-like enhancements (character profiles, back-story and other content extensions) to the set-top box; no rollout schedule has been set. And BlackArrow, an enhanced advertising developer, quietly showed "Round-Tripping," its customized system for moving localized video commercials between a Web server and the TV screen.
Comcast taps Arris, Harmonic eQAMs for switched video
Comcast's Q2 earnings report served notice that Arris and Harmonic edge QAMs (eQAMs) were selected for the MSO's switched digital broadcast deployments.
Arris' D5 U-eQAM
According to Needham & Company analyst Anton Wahlman, the selection of Arris and Harmonic "suggests that Comcast is moving forward with at least one of its early trial partners, Motorola and C-Cor." Wahlman continued, "Our guess would be Motorola, which has the complementary set-top software."
To date, BigBand Networks has been the early mover and most widely deployed vendor in the switched broadcast arena, but the eQAM selections could reduce BigBand's role in Comcast's overall deployment, Wahlman said.
And . . . Comcast's profit surges to 28 percent
Comcast's second-quarter profit rose 28 percent to $588 million, aided by a surge in digital TV and triple-play subscribers.
Video revenue increased 7 percent to $4.5 billion, reflecting growth in digital cable customers and increased demand for digital features including VOD, DVRs and HDTVs.
And . . . Comcast launches Penn State on-Demand
Comcast has launched Penn State on-Demand, which delivers the resources of Pennsylvania State University to 2.4 million Comcast customers in Pennsylvania.
The free service offers hundreds of hours of interviews, instructional and educational videos, documentaries and archival material on subjects such as the arts, education, health, home and gardening, outdoors, and Penn State and Pennsylvania life.
Houston op to deploy CMC/C-Cor's "VOD In a Box"
Phonoscope, an independent cable operator in the Houston area, will deploy on-demand services to its subscribers this fall using "VOD In a Box," a joint solution from Comcast Media Center (CMC) and C-Cor Inc.
VOD In a Box is a pre-integrated on-demand solution designed to reduce the complexity, cost and time required to deploy VOD in markets that serve 25,000 digital customers or fewer.
Platform components include C-Cor's n5 Compact (n5C) on-demand server and nABLE software management platform, and the solution offers up to 1,200 hours of program content, which is aggregated and managed by CMC. The joint product includes complete content aggregation, receiving equipment, storage and streaming hardware; a full suite of management software and tools; and professional services, installation and support.
"Phonoscope will now be able to bring its customers the same competitive services, like video on-demand, as the large operators—quickly and without straining their resources," said Michael Pohl, president of global strategies for C-Cor.
AOL to acquire Tacoda
AOL is set to acquire Tacoda, whose technology enables advertisers to offer relevant ads based on consumers' online behaviors. Tacoda will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of AOL. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
With the acquisition, AOL will be able to extend its targeting capabilities and the reach of its third-party display network, which AOL obtained with its acquisition of Advertising.com in 2004.
This year, AOL has also acquired Third Screen Media, a mobile ad network and software provider, and AdTech AG, an online ad-serving company. In 2006, the company acquired Lightningcast, which delivers ad solutions for on-demand, live and downloaded video content via the Web.
Patent flap escalates as Imagine fires back at BigBand
Imagine Communications unsurprisingly declared it is not infringing any of BigBand Networks' patents and has filed a counterclaim against its accuser.
Imagine has developed a scalable digital video platform that processes and multiplexes video, allowing network operators to cost-effectively increase bandwidth efficiency and video quality, accomplished in a manner that Imagine insists is fundamentally different from any other video processing approach, including—of course—BigBand's.
Imagine aims to kick the legs out from under BigBand's claim with the charge that BigBand was deceptive when applying for its patents, "withholding material information from the Patent Examiners who would not otherwise have allowed the patents," Imagine said. And Imagine has not yet commercially deployed its product, so BigBand could not have been able to examine it yet, Imagine said.
TiVo launches new HD DVR
TiVo Inc. is releasing a new HD DVR in early August that will allow users to record two HD channels simultaneously while watching a third previously recorded program.
The set-top will store 20 hours of HD content, or up to 180 hours of SD content. Consumers can pre-order the HD DVR, priced at $299.99, on TiVo's Web site. The TiVo Series3 HD digital media recorder was priced at $799.99.
The digital-cable-ready DVR is compatible with any U.S. cable provider. A built-in Ethernet jack and two CableCARD slots and USB ports allow for advanced connectivity and networking. Also, features such as downloads from Amazon.com, home movie sharing and universal swivel search will be available.
Harmonic to buy Rhozet
Harmonic Inc. will acquire Rhozet Corp., which offers software-based universal transcoding solutions that facilitate the creation of multi-format video for Internet, mobile and broadcast applications. The purchase price is $15.5 million.
The move automatically brings Harmonic's presence into the online video service provisioning market, where Rhozet's transcoding solutions are in use by Amazon.com, MSN and Yahoo!, amongst others.
Harmonic also expects to use Rhozet's transcoding technology to enable its current customers to create and deliver Internet and mobile video programming.
Gemstar-TV Guide signs deal with Decisionmark
Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. has signed a patent license agreement with Decisionmark for the latter's TitanTV Web site.
The multi-year agreement includes patent license rights for Decisionmark in support of interactive program guides (IPGs) offered on TitanTV.com, and for IPGs provided by them to various TV broadcasters for their online Web sites. TitanTV is an online television search site for TV programming. Financial terms of the agreement were not available.
On July 9, Gemstar-TV Guide's board said it would explore strategic alternatives, which could include a sale of the company's assets.
• Joost chooses Level 3 for Internet access
Joost has selected Level 3 Communications' European Markets Group to support its Internet TV service. Level 3 will provide Joost with high-speed Internet access and colocation services in North America and Europe.
Joost—based on a secure, peer-to-peer streaming technology—will utilize Level 3's IP backbone, available in more than 175 markets.
• RCN offering VOD content from Disney, ABC Family, ESPN
RCN Corp. has entered a multi-year programming agreement with ESPN and the Disney-ABC Television Group for access to programming, networks and services.
RCN will carry VOD content from Disney Channel, ABC Family Channel and ESPN, as well as ABC News broadcasts and an ABC News Now broadband portal available to VOD-enabled customers.
• Avenue A | Razorfish adds new CEO
Avenue A | Razorfish, an operating unit of aQuantive Inc., has promoted Clark Kokich to CEO. Kokich has held the title of worldwide president for the past two years.
Microsoft's $6 billion acquisition of online-advertising company aQuantive was announced in May.
• Online movie services not affecting movie-rental retail outlets
The Diffusion Group's latest report concludes that one-third of broadband households that rent movies from traditional retail outlets also use another VOD, PPV or direct-mail service for movie rentals.
Online movie services, the report found, continue to have a negligible impact on rental behavior—less than 2 percent of adult broadband users have rented movies through online services, and less than 1 percent uses them with any frequency.
• Pope goes with T-DMB mobile TV standard
The Vatican has decided to embrace the Korean mobile TV platform, terrestrial digital multimedia broadcasting (T-DMB), as its standard for cell phone-based TV services, according to The Korea Times.
Currently, 11 nations around the world have launched commercial T-DMB services, and 11 other countries are testing the platform. Last week, the European Union (EU) adopted DVB-H as the mobile TV standard for its 27 member states.
• Oklahoma cooperative using ETI's ad-insertion platform
Kingfisher, Okla.-based Pioneer Telephone Cooperative has implemented Enhanced Telecommunications Inc.'s VideoDirect 6000, with ad-insertion support for digital tier channels. Pioneer offers its more than 50,000 subscribers telephone, Internet, wireless and digital TV services.
ETI provides automated, flow-through service activation and ad-insertion systems. Pioneer uses ETI's VideoDirect 6000 to insert local ad spots, run locally produced content and insert self-promotions for its services. ETI's platform works with either analog or digital program insertion, or a combination of both.
• Pew study: Web users want professional video, according to ClickZ.com.
• Yahoo veteran looks for Veoh's "great business," according to Advertising Age.
Company: Synergetic Technologies Inc.
Headquarters: Murray, Utah
Claim to fame: The company, along with its wholly owned subsidiary Ad Systems Inc., offers cable TV ad-insertion systems and forms advertising partnerships with hotel groups and programming providers.
Recent news of note: Ad Systems has completed its installation and is now running commercials at Georgia Tech University.