Building B-eautiful blocks for the future
First of all, the startup digital media company known as "Building B" has developed and will provide a video entertainment platform and service, not a set-top box (STB). Now that that's settled . . . .
Building B has been in the works for about 14 months now and has amassed an impressive list of executives, board members and advisory panelists (see a full list here). And in conjunction with yesterday's announcement about a $17.5 million round of funding for the company, Building B is for the first time disclosing information about its upcoming service, which will integrate traditional TV with HDTV and include on-demand content and Internet video.
"To help bring the industry to the next level, we will deliver a platform that gives consumers a complete, modern video experience that is elegant and instantly accessible, rather than require the consumer to learn how to put all of the pieces together and then pay an exorbitant price," said Phil Wiser, Building B co-founder, president and chairman.
The service will leverage wireless broadcast technology and the Internet (it can bond with any traditional Internet connection) to create a video platform that works in the living room. For telecommunications and wireless providers, the service could be a companion for existing high-speed Internet and VoIP offerings, especially because it doesn't require additional or upgraded infrastructure.
"It is a solution that consumers can take home, plug in, and it works," said Buno Pati, Building B co-founder and CEO. The content will be delivered through a piece of hardware that is simple to self-install, he said, and that is as far as he would elaborate.
Building B saw all the hoopla surrounding Internet video but thought a missing piece of the puzzle was how it would ultimately serve the living room, Pati said. So instead of starting with the Internet and weaving its way toward the TV, the company started with the content that is expected in the living room—broadcast and cable channels and movies—and then moved outward.
With Building B's personalization features, individual viewers and groups, such as families, can be alerted to content specific to their interests, and they can also be targeted by advertisers. Building B's service also benefits content partners, who can extend their brands, and broadcasters, who can offer locally produced content and lower ad rates.
Some content deals are already in place, and others are being arranged. More information will be available when the company officially launches later this year. The video service will launch in 2008. Building B is working with broadcasters, content providers, advertisers, broadband service providers and consumer electronics companies to roll out the service.
"I am as excited about Building B as I was about Apple when I first invested in them," said Bob Pavey, a partner at Morgenthaler Ventures, which recently invested in Building B. "When a company is driving a paradigm shift, they really stand out, and Building B is gathering the talent, vision, technology and partners to bring breakthrough television to life."
—Traci Patterson, Web/News Editor - CED, Editor - xOD Capsule
Cox unveils VOD platform in Florida markets
Cox Communications has plugged in its on-demand service in the Florida markets of Gainesville/Ocala and Pensacola/Fort Walton.
The service offers Cox's digital cable subscribers a library of movies, network shows and music videos to view anytime they wish, with some programs available at no charge. Cox also offers premium on-demand content to subscribers of HBO, Starz, Showtime and Cinemax, and the operator is rolling out HD movies in select markets.
Cox, the third-largest cable operator in the U.S., said that consumer demand for access to its VOD library continues to grow, with more than one million customers using the service on a monthly basis.
MSOs hook up with RHI Entertainment for VOD movie premieres
RHI Entertainment is giving several top cable operators access to never-before-seen movies by allowing the original films to premiere on the MSOs' on-demand tiers. While cable operators have long wanted to offer movies on-demand the same day that they're released to movie theaters, Hollywood has resisted to date (see a related New York Times story here).
RHI signed early distribution agreements with Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Cablevision and Cox Communications for movies that include action, thriller and horror genres. RHI also laid claim to being the first company to produce and offer movies in both HD and SD for premiere on VOD.
A total of 24 original world premiere movies are being offered in the first year, with two new movies premiering each month. As part of the overall package, RHI is also offering many of its classic movies from its "Free on Demand" service.
Dish Network rolls out new HD DVR
Last week, EchoStar Communications and its Dish Network unveiled their newest HD DVR, called the ViP722. The DVR is an upgrade of Dish Network's ViP622.
Dish Network's ViP622 DVR
The ViP722 is a dual-tuner DVR receiver that powers two rooms, one in HD and the other in SD. It has a 500 GB hard drive for storage and the option of recording 55 hours of HD programming in MPEG-4, 350 hours of SD programming, and more than 100 hours of movies and shows with Dish On Demand, for a total of up to 500 hours of programming.
The receiver supports Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound along with a 30-second skip feature that allows subscribers to skip over commercials. The ViP722 is available for free to qualifying new Dish Network customers.
Study: Cable facing bandwidth crisis
The sky is falling for cable operators when it comes to their bandwidth capacity, according to a new report by ABI Research.
ABI Research said escalating demand for bandwidth-intensive services such as VOD, HDTV and online gaming is gradually leading to a critical lack of capacity in cable operators' networks. Several solutions are available, but, according to a study from ABI Research, collectively they will account for some $80 billion in worldwide investment over the next five years.
Certainly cable operators are aware of the need for more bandwidth as they've started rate shaping and expanding spectrum beyond 750 MHz. Other solutions will come into play over the coming years, including spectrum upgrades coupled with node-splitting, switched digital video, PON overlay, MPEG-4 compression and home gateway bandwidth-management solutions.
Concurrent's on-demand revenue soars in Q4
Concurrent cut its loss and showed strong revenue growth in the fourth quarter, ended June 30, but the company's revenues decreased and its loss increased overall in fiscal year 2007.
The company's on-demand product line was a shining star, bringing in $14 million in Q4, an increase of 35 percent sequentially, "fueled, in large part, by the success of the new MediaHawk 4500 system," said Gary Trimm, Concurrent's president and CEO.
And while overall revenue decreased in fiscal year 2007, Concurrent's on-demand product line brought in $43.2 million, an increase of 15 percent compared with $37.6 million in the prior year.
• YuMe releases interactive ad suite
YuMe has unveiled its full suite of interactive ad products, which will allow advertisers to target, monitor and optimize online video ads in real-time across any Internet-enabled platform—broadband, mobile, IPTV, download or P2P.
The suite includes ad takes, which enable advertisers to change content based on geography, device type, etc.; interactive overlays, which make ads more relevant and informative; interactive sponsored watermarks, which are clickable; interactive menus, which feature interactive options for viewers; viral video ads; branded players; and interactive text ads, which can be served post-roll or mid-stream.
• Hillcrest Labs' Freespace tech powers Logitech mouse
Hillcrest Labs' patented Freespace motion-control technology is powering the new Logitech MX Air Rechargeable Cordless Air Mouse.
The technology was initially designed for use in advanced TV remote controls, such as Hillcrest Labs' Loop controller. "Industry insiders often refer to the TV as the ten-foot viewing experience and the PC as the three-foot experience, so perhaps this can be thought of as the six-foot experience," said Dan Simpkins, CEO of Hillcrest Labs.
• Espial Group gives STB manufacturer Internet-on-TV abilities
Espial Group Inc., a provider of IPTV middleware and applications, has signed a licensing agreement with Coventive K.K., an international system integrator and set-top box (STB) manufacturer, for Espial's Evo Client.
Evo Client enables content-rich applications and Internet-on-TV services, and Coventive has selected the technology to power its multimedia STBs. To date, Espial has shipped more than one million Evo subscriber licenses worldwide.
• OpenTV goes international
OpenTV will be one of the components under the hood for a synchronized mobile interactive service by Israeli broadcaster Reshet. OpenTV's Participate platform will be used to power live, synchronized mobile interactive services for the game show "1 vs. 100."
Also, MultiChoice South Africa (MCSA), a TV provider in Africa, has selected OpenTV as its systems integrator for the rollout of advanced digital TV services on its DStv platform.
• iTV gets a boost, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
• Slow-'em-down spots get zapped by ad execs, according to Advertising Age.
• Now the clicking is to watch the ads, not skip them, reported by The New York Times.
Company: NDS Group
West Drayton, U.K.
CEO: Abraham Peled
Claim to fame: NDS—a majority-owned subsidiary of News Corp.—supplies open, end-to-end digital technology and services to digital pay-TV operators and content providers.
Recent news of note: Earlier this month, NDS announced its acquisition of CastUp, a specialist in delivering video and audio over the Internet. The deal will bolster NDS' online video delivery and help its current pay-TV customers expand their broadband video distribution services.