Startup BlackArrow joins the ad-insertion crowd
Picture an ad map, a long rectangle about 12 inches by 2 inches, representing an hour-long TV show. In today's broadcast world, there are predetermined slots where advertisements go, and there are arrows drawn with a black marker representing these slots. But with more and more viewers time-shifting their TV experience, and fast-forwarding through ads, there are fewer coveted slots, and black arrows point to these as well.
This is how BlackArrow got its name. The ad-insertion startup, backed by a high-powered trio of cable and electronic investors, announced itself to the world on Monday. The company introduced its multiplatform ad-management system, which it says is the first purpose-built platform for dynamic advertising across the Internet video, VOD and DVR markets.
The BlackArrow System
"We did not go public for a long time because we're not a Web company," says Dean Denhart, BlackArrow's president and CEO. "We're a software and technology company, a player on the multiplatform side. This is hugely different from the 200 companies doing Internet and broadband-based video today."
BlackArrow just closed a $12 million series B round of funding led by Comcast Interactive Capital, which was joined by Cisco, Intel and two venture funds—Mayfield Fund and Polaris Venture Partners.
The BlackArrow system manages, delivers and measures targeted advertising for "user-controlled" video. One part of the company's proposition is to compensate for ad-zapping. If a subscriber fast-forwards through a commercial, an operator can set the BlackArrow system to insert a static ad on the TV screen during the process.
When it comes to any on-demand content, the system can be set to select and exhibit ads that are appropriate to the content being viewed and the time it is being viewed at.
BlackArrow has been working for more than two years on its standalone system, and the company has relationships with all of the major players on the technology side, as well as with the major MSOs. "It's not a coincidence that Comcast led our round of funding," Denhart says. "They're a very strong proponent."
Denhart, previously CTO of Knight Ridder Digital, brought with him other former-Knight Ridder executives: Sharon Mandell, who is BlackArrow's SVP and CTO, and Patrick Carter, who is the VP of operations. Carter was senior director of Web infrastructure for Knight Ridder Digital.
The company also added Chris Hock as VP of management, who had been with Adobe Systems and was a co-founder of RedSpark. Larry Kramer, MarketWatch founder and a former CBS Digital Media president, is on the company's board.
—By CED staff
Comcast enters next phase of TiVo roll-out
Comcast is inching closer to a full-scale commercial rollout of TiVo's technology in its deployed STBs with the recent news that some set-tops in the New England division have received software downloads.
Comcast customers in the New England division have been getting the TiVo DVR software downloaded to their Motorola dual-tuner DVR STBs. This phase is the next step in Comcast's beta testing, which currently includes a limited number of customers who may be receiving the service for free as part of the trial.
The download gives customers a TiVo interface instead of Comcast's GuideWorks interface.
Comcast has been working on deploying TiVo's software in its footprint for the past two years. A Comcast spokesperson said that commercial rollouts are expected to continue throughout parts of New England this fall, but Comcast hasn't given a timeline for a full-scale commercial deployment.
Bright House to deploy Start Over in Tampa Bay division
Bright House Networks will be rolling out Start Over in its Tampa Bay division on Oct. 24.
Bright House, which is part of the Time Warner Entertainment-Advance/Newhouse partnership (TWEAN), will launch the service in Manatee County first, with Pasco, Hernando, Citrus, Hillsborough, Polk and Pinellas counties to follow by the end of the year. The Start Over service will be available on 40 channels at launch.
Start Over is an interactive service that allows viewers to go back to the beginning of a show by pressing a button on their remote controls. Time Warner Cable debuted the Start Over service two years ago in its Columbia, S.C., division. Since then, the service has been deployed in most of TWC's divisions and has proven to be popular with the company's subscribers.
Start Over was fashioned out of TWC's Mystro technology, which was originally designed to create a network PVR (n-PVR). TWC is currently working on Look Back, which will allow viewers to view previous programming over a longer time window than Start Over. TWC is expected to start Look Back trials before the year is out.
TiVo expands TiVoCast service with VOD channels
TiVo Inc. has launched two Players Network VOD channels as part of its newly launched service, "TiVoCast," which gives TiVo's digital subs access to content channels unavailable on traditional TV.
When a subscriber chooses to receive either of the two channels—"Gaming Lifestyle" and "Vegas on-Demand"—the programming automatically downloads to the TiVo box in their home, and they can then view it on-demand at any time.
Players Network continues to expand its original VOD programming in the TV, broadband and mobile markets. With the addition of TiVo's distribution, the network is now available in 15 million households nationwide.
ClipBlast! releases widget to market
ClipBlast! has introduced the ClipBlast! Video Widget to the market.
The widget is a video search and navigation tool that resides on the desktop, enabling users to search and view online video without having to launch a browser or specific Web site. Using streaming, real-time indexing, the widget also alerts users of the most recent and relevant videos, based on preferences, as users come online.
It is currently available on the Mac platform, and it will be available on the PC later this month. A mobile version, compatible with the iPhone and other handheld devices, will be available later this quarter.
Nielsen releases new measurement, tracking services
Nielsen has launched two new measurement services—Nielsen Online and Nielsen Mobile—and has released DemoWatch, a new feature for its Web-based commercial tracking service, KeepingTrac.
Nielsen Online comprises the Nielsen//NetRatings and BuzzMetrics services, which provide independent measurement and analysis of online audiences, advertising, video, blogs, consumer-generated media, word-of-mouth, commerce and consumer behavior.
Nielsen Mobile combines recently acquired Telephia with existing Nielsen initiatives in the mobile market to understand and interpret the behaviors, attitudes and experiences of mobile consumers.
DemoWatch enables advertisers to monitor the demographic composition of their advertising audiences. The feature links demographic information from Nielsen's overnight TV ratings with the commercial monitoring ability of KeepingTrac to make sure TV commercials are reaching the intended audience.
Integra5 wins converged services/iTV-related patent
Integra5 has been awarded a patent for "call management via television." The patent—US 7,277,445—protects Integra5's active call control and call screening on TV technology within both IPTV and cable networks.
Integra5's TV Caller ID application allows a subscriber to see who is calling, via a TV banner alert, before the phone even rings. The call screening and call management capabilities in Integra5's Converged Services Platform (i5 CSP) enable subscribers to forward an incoming call directly to voicemail, then listen to the live message on their TV speakers, the company said.
Using the TV remote control, they can click to answer the call mid-message, continue listening or stop playback. The platform is network-based and requires no wiring changes or additional hardware within a consumer's home.
"The broad range of patents we hold across numerous countries provides us with a global footprint to capitalize on the widespread demand for converged services by geographically diverse service providers," said Dr. Eyal Bartfeld, Integra5's co-founder and EVP of strategy and product management.
LiveHive adds interactive element to MLB playoffs
LiveHive Systems has signed an agreement with Turner Sports to add an interactive component to the TBS Hot Corner on MLB.com.
Consumers watching the MLB Postseason on TBS are now interactive viewers, as of the Oct. 3 tripleheader, and can play along with "Live Game Trivia," which is powered by LiveHive's NanoGaming technology. To play along, viewers can log on to www.livegametrivia.nanogaming.com to answer trivia questions.
• ARF meeting reveals that Nielsen Ratings data is flawed, according to MediaPost.
• Networks stream shows online, but pricing structures are questioned, according to MediaPost.
• NBC goes direct with free ad-supported downloads, according to MediaPost.
Founder & President: Justin Chapweske
Claim to fame: Swarmcast is dedicated to transforming the Internet into a reliable medium for distributing high-quality video. Swarmcast's multi-source streaming platform enables the delivery of HD video, live and on-demand streaming, and accelerated downloads while managing delivery costs.
Recent news of note: Swarmcast was recently granted a patent that covers a wide variety of techniques to distribute data—including video—over a peer-to-peer (P2P) network. The techniques are variously described in the patent as multi-source streaming and, in the company's parlance, "file swarming." The basic description suggests that the patent could conceivably apply to almost any packet-based broadband network.