Verizon fine-tunes VOD platform
Say, this VOD stuff may just have legs. OK, it's obvious that VOD is here to stay, but the above was the first thought that crossed my mind when thumbing through the program guide for TelcoTV and coming across the session entitled "Early Returns for VOD."
It's still early days for the IPTV providers when it comes to VOD services, even though Time Warner Cable's Oceanic division first launched the service seven years ago. A constant refrain around TelcoTV last month was, "You've got to provide better or different services than cable does if you want to win over its customers," which is certainly a lesson that Verizon has taken to heart.
As even the most casual industry observer knows, Verizon has literally spared no expense when it comes to delivering video and Internet services over its fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) infrastructure. To date, Verizon has 717,000 FiOS TV customers—with 600,000 added over the past year.
Verizon’s VOD movie posters
Tricia Lynch, Verizon's VP of programming acquisitions, says Verizon has 10,000 VOD titles, compared with Comcast's 9,000 during the TelcoTV panel presentation. Verizon is targeting 1,000 HD VOD titles across all categories (movies, subscription and free content) by next year, and dynamic ad-insertion trials are slated for the first half of 2008, as well, with rollouts scheduled for the latter half of the year.
Lynch says Verizon's goal is to not only take the best of what cable has to offer in the VOD space, but to also exceed it. On that note, Verizon plans to launch free movies within the next few months, once it sews up several deals with several major studios.
VOD is also an important component of the bundle, Lynch says, and Verizon is working on similar platforms across its linear and VOD video services, and high-speed data and mobile offerings.
Verizon's new programming guide searches both linear and VOD titles, which Lynch says will drive more VOD usage. The company also added movie posters to its new interactive media programming guide.
"That's a big leap because they (customers) recognize movies from the stars and the look and feel of the posters," Lynch says.
Verizon's installers are encouraged to run through the VOD platform when they're in customers' homes, and the company is also acquiring content that appeals to various demographics, or "something for everyone," as Lynch says.
Like TWC and Comcast, Verizon is also working with studios such as Warner Bros. to get movies closer to the date they're released to rental stores, which Lynch says would increase VOD buy rates.
VOD has come a long way from being a replacement for pay-per-view (PPV) to a standalone service, and cable operators are now poised to reap ad revenues of their own from VOD, but Verizon will be lurking around every corner.
"We're in acquisition mode," Lynch says. "We'll take every cable and DBS subscriber that we can."
— Michael Robuck, Senior Editor, CED
Imagine lands funding for VBR/Statmux technology
Imagine Communications has completed a $15 million Series B round of financing, bringing its total venture capital investment to more than $24 million.
The new financing will be used to accelerate growth and commercial deployments in digital video markets with its Variable Bit Rate and Statistical Multiplexing (VBR/Statmux) technology, the company says. The technology offers operators 50 percent more bandwidth and improved video quality, allowing operators to deploy advanced services such as VOD, SDV and HDTV.
The round was led by Court Square Ventures, with participation by all existing investors, including Columbia Capital and Carmel Ventures.
Comcast, Turner add to Vitrue's $10M funding round
Vitrue Inc. has closed a $10 million Series B round of funding, with continued participation from Comcast Interactive Capital and Turner Broadcasting.
Vitrue's branded, video-centric social media sites enable consumers to create, edit and submit videos and content, and the company's review and approve module allows customers to ensure brand safety standards for all posted content.
"By embracing video as an important component of social media, Vitrue's customers are changing the way they interact with their audiences," said Reggie Bradford, Vitrue's CEO. "While it's exciting that we've attained a leadership position, our strategic investment partners are going to be key to helping us achieve the next level of success."
TVN deploys Harmonic's CLEARcut software
Harmonic Inc.'s CLEARcut offline content preparation software has been deployed by TVN Entertainment for the company's HD on-demand assets.
Video is digitally compressed with Harmonic's DiviCom MV 500 MPEG-2 HD encoders, and it is then formatted using the CLEARcut software for storage on video servers. CLEARcut is a part of Harmonic's MediaPrism application suite for on-demand asset creation.
Hulu beta begins testing Internet TV, movie content
Hulu.com, the online baby of NBC Universal and News Corp., has begun private testing with select users at its Web site. Hulu is also launching videos to the sites of its five distribution partners: AOL, Comcast, Microsoft, MySpace and Yahoo!.
Hulu's online video service
Hulu's online video service offers viewers streaming, on-demand and premium programming on a free, ad-supported basis. Content includes full-length current and archived TV programming, as well as clips and an initial selection of feature films. thePlatform is providing content publishing and distribution services for the video venture.
Hulu has licensing deals with MGM Studios and Sony Pictures Television, as well as multiple broadcast and cable networks. NBC recently removed its content from YouTube in preparation for the Hulu introduction. The company has also closed a $100 million investment from private equity firm Providence Equity Partners.
TiVo, Windstream hook up on bundled offering
TiVo and Windstream Corp. signed an agreement to serve up bundled services to Windstream's customers.
Windstream, which provides voice, broadband and entertainment services in 16 states, will package TiVo's DVR services with its high-speed Internet offering.
Windstream customers will use TiVo's interface to access broadband video content, as well as traditional linear TV. Windstream will start marketing its bundled service with TiVo in the first half of next year. Specific pricing of the bundle and the terms of the deal between TiVo and Windstream were unavailable.
ESPN content hits Microsoft's Xbox
ESPN and Microsoft will add HD and SD full-length games, TV shows and video game programming to Xbox Live—the online games and entertainment network on the Xbox 360.
Sporting events and programming that will be available include full-length NCAA college football and basketball games, Summer X Games 13, "World Series of Poker," "The Contender" and "Madden Nation."
"This is a natural fit for us, as so many Xbox 360 owners are huge sports fans," said Ross Honey, senior director of the media and entertainment group at Microsoft. "We are dedicated to providing our diverse community of Xbox LIVE users the premium entertainment content they want, and partnering with ESPN is a great example of our continued dedication in the video-on-demand space, especially in high-definition."
Digeo postpones Moxi HD DMR releases
Digeo has decided to postpone the release of both the Moxi Multi-Room and the Moxi Home Cinema HD DMRs until 2008. The news was reported last week by Dave Zatz in his blog.
The Moxi Home Cinema is the higher-end of the two, and it features ATSC and NTSC tuners for over-the-air and clear QAM tuning. The DMR, with an integrated 5.1 audio amp, provides no support for the CableCARD.
The Moxi Multi-Room does support the CableCARD, and it will be bundled with a Moxi Mate extender for multi-room viewing. Real-time streaming, including HD content, will use the 1394 spec over existing coax, as opposed to via Ethernet or Wi-Fi.
YuMe selling, serving ads for Dave Networks
YuMe Networks has signed an agreement to sell and serve ads for Dave Networks, a digital media technology platform provider.
Dave's peer-to-peer (P2P) IPTV system provides a video distribution, social networking and blogging platform. The technology allows media outlets to utilize user-generated content (UGC).
YuMe organizes online video content into ad-ready channels for targeted ad placement, and the company allows advertisers to buy specific cross-channel audiences. With YuMe, Dave and its advertisers will be able to ensure brand safety, contextual relevance, controlled syndication and consistent delivery across all digital media platforms.
Mirror Image, Kiptronic announce strategic partnership
Mirror Image Internet has entered into a customer referral and reseller agreement with Kiptronic Inc.—which offers an ad-insertion platform for downloadable media, enabling media publishers to manage, measure and monetize their downloadable content assets. Mirror Image combines a global network with content delivery solutions to help customers deploy, monitor and refine online strategies.
The partnership enables Mirror Image and Kiptronic to provide joint customers with rich media ad-insertion and QoS. Content producers will be able to dynamically schedule, insert and track pre-, mid- and post-roll video and audio ads within downloadable media to devices such as iPods, mobile phones and PCs.
TITV launches IPTV trial in Taiwan
Taiwan Interactive Television (TITV) has launched trials of a 24-channel IPTV service over Chunghwa Telecom's Multimedia on-Demand (MOD) platform, according to IPTV News.
The trials were reportedly started on Oct. 25, making TITV the first independent channel operator after MOD became an open platform—as required by Taiwan's National Communications Commission (NCC). The 24 channels include movies, drama, sports, news, arts, music and children's educational programming.
The service offers both broadcast and on-demand content, and TITV may offer more channels at a later date, IPTV News reports. TITV aims to reach 500,000 subscribers within three years to break even.
• Verizon potentially linking up with Google, according to Advertising Age.
• MySpace gets 'Hyper' with targeted ads, according to CNET
• FTC member vows tighter control of online ads, according to The New York Times.
Company: LiveHive Systems
Claim to fame: LiveHive is a software development company that specializes in two-screen, interactive technology for TV broadcasters and Web sites. The company's NanoGaming technology platform powers viewer interaction with entertainment media, such as live TV broadcasts and streaming video.
Recent news of note: LiveHive 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 could play along with "Live Game Trivia"—powered by LiveHive's NanoGaming technology.