Switched digital video ripens for large operators
With the bandwidth constraints that some MSOs face, switched digital video (SDV) has become one of the more often-used tools in cable operators' tool boxes this year.
On Monday, Charter Communications announced it was trialing SDV in parts of its Los Angeles division, which includes Malibu, Glendale and Burbank. Charter is employing SDV for the near-term to be able to offer more HD channels.
Now that Charter is on the SDV bandwagon, the top-five MSOs—Comcast, Cablevision, Cox, Time Warner Cable and Charter, in case you've forgotten—are in various stages of using SDV to send just the programming that people in a service group or node are watching instead of the entire slate of channels.
The common denominator in all five of the above deployments is BigBand Networks, which has products in use by all five MSOs, although Comcast is currently using just BigBand's digital video management software.
BigBand was on hand for the first SDV trial in 2004, by Time Warner Cable in Austin, Texas. TWC has pledged to have SDV in 50 percent of its divisions by year's end.
BigBand's BEQ6000 supports SDV, broadcast video, VOD and IP services
Scientific Atlanta is also competing in the SDV space, and it issued a press release Monday, as well, that said its SDV platform has exceeded commitments for seven million homes passed. For those who are scoring at home, BigBand has completed, or is in the process of deploying, SDV with the five biggest operators across 20 cable systems that collectively pass more than 11 million households.
SA said it is in pre-launch mode with TWC but hasn't released the names of any other cable operators who are using its SDV platform.
Other SDV vendors in this now-crowded house include Tandberg Television, Motorola, Arris/C-Cor and Harmonic.
C-Cor's CHP eQAM
While there are two unofficial topologies for SDV—one by Comcast and the other by TWC—there are plenty of customer wins to be had as cable operators also look at using edgeQAMs to share resources between services such as VOD and SDV, and possibly with the data and telephony silos farther down the road. But for now, Charter is just glad to be in the SDV clubhouse with the short-term goal of having 40 to 50 HD channels two years from now.
"I know that we'll crawl before we walk and run," said Doug Ike, Charter's VP of advanced video and applied engineering. "We'll start with dedicated QAMs for switched and VOD, and as we feel comfortable managing them, we'll start looking at sharing QAMs."
For the most part, the smaller MSOs follow in the wake of the larger ones when it comes to deploying new services or technologies, with digital simulcast being a good case in point. But some smaller operators may not be ready to follow in the SDV footsteps of their larger brethren.
"We look at it (SDV) differently," said Pragash Pillai, Bresnan's VP of strategic engineering. "It's not practical in my mind, not because the technology isn't practical, but because I think we're at a different spot compared to other MSOs. We have a plan to launch more HD channels, but we can do that with our current capacity."
Currently, Bresnan has 16 to 20 HD channels, but the company plans on at least doubling that number by next year.
"We're planning close to 50 HD channels by 2008, and we can do that without switched digital video," Pillai said. "I look at switched digital video as another tool in our tool box, like MPEG-4, but we're going to use what makes sense. We're not as bandwidth-constrained as some of the others, so we can get to 50 HD channels with what we have."
One reason Bresnan is less bandwidth-constrained is that it has 60 to 65 analog channels, compared with larger MSOs that have around 80 analog channels. Pillai said having less analog channels "puts us in a different deployment timeline" than the large cable operators.
While some smaller operators may be taking a pass on SDV for now, the bigger MSOs will be rolling it out as fast as they can in large metropolitan areas in order to combat the HD offerings from the telco and satellite providers.
— Michael Robuck, Senior Editor, CED
RCN expands VOD service with Harmonic's edgeQAM
RCN Corp. was able to extend its VOD service capacity by using Harmonic's edgeQAM.
RCN—with more than 350,000 cable subscribers in several metro markets, including Boston and Chicago—is using Harmonic's Narrowcast Service Gateway (NSG) 9116 eQAMs with privacy mode encryption, and the operator is receiving a software upgrade to existing NSG 8108 systems to add privacy mode.
Harmonic's NSG 9000
With the Harmonic gear, RCN, which competes with Comcast and Verizon in some areas of its footprint, can deliver more VOD services to its subscribers. The eQAMs perform a variety of functions at a network's edge, including multiplexing, program routing, PCR re-stamping, scrambling, QAM modulation and RF upconversion.
Survey: If Internet video not monitored, bottom-line at risk
Broadcast and Internet video content owners are putting their financial bottom-lines at risk if they don't employ technology to track, monitor and measure content, according to a survey released by Myers Publishing and Teletrax
More than 80 percent of the media and entertainment executives surveyed in the poll foresaw this risk, and 55 percent favored eliminating digital rights management and allowing online content to be distributed freely—with "tagging" and tracking of the material via digital watermarking and fingerprinting technologies.
Eighty percent of the executives polled said that at least 40 percent of video content will be consumed on the Internet (vs. TV) in 2012. But only 26 percent said that video content will be distributed freely, without content owners mandating royalties, by 2012.
SyncTV launches beta trial of downloadable TV service
SyncTV has launched a private beta trial of its TV download service, which is based on open standards and is designed to work with Windows PCs, Apple computers and Linux operating systems, as well as with TVs and portable devices at some point in the future. Currently, the content can be played on up to five home devices.
"This beta period will allow us to fine-tune the system and get feedback on how we can improve the user experience," said John Gildred, president of SyncTV.
"We are going to be listening carefully to what our users are saying so we can give them the service they want and need."
SyncTV said the service will provide home-theater-quality TV shows on an unlimited download basis. The minimum video quality will be comparable to the same content on a DVD, and the company will make HD shows available across the different channels. SyncTV will also have programming available in 5.1 Dolby Digital Plus surround sound.
Streaming21, Japan's Cool.revo partner for IPTV, VOD solutions
Streaming21 and Cool.revo, an IPTV system integrator in Japan, have entered into a new system integration partnership to develop and market end-to-end IPTV and VOD solutions for telcos, broadband service providers and content service providers in Japan.
"We expect to bring on a new wave of video innovation for the IP media industry that enables service providers to not only enhance the attractiveness of end-user offerings, but also provide revolutionary end-to-end IPTV solutions with carrier-class scalability and flexibility," said Sakuma san, the founder and CEO of Cool.revo.
Nielsen's Q3 revenues up
On Wednesday, the Nielsen Co. reported that its third-quarter revenues were up 11 percent compared with the same time frame last year.
Nielsen, which tracks what people are watching on TV or buying though its various subsidiaries, reported revenues of $1.9 million in the recently completed third quarter, compared with $1.1 million in Q3 2006.
Excluding the impact of currency fluctuations and the deferred revenue adjustments in the last year, third-quarter revenues increased 7 percent.
AOL, with PointRoll, introduces video ticker ads
AOL and PointRoll—a provider of rich-media technology solutions—have jointly developed video ticker ads, a new interactive video ad solution that serves as an alternative to pre-roll ads.
AOL's video ticker ad is a graphic banner advertisement that is integrated within a streaming video without obstructing the video viewing experience. If clicked on, the ticker expands to launch a video or interactive Flash ad within the video player window. These ads will run across the AOL network within the newest version of the AOL Video media player platform.
Rather than overlaying an ad and obstructing the view of a video, AOL's video ticker ad appears at the bottom of the video player 10 seconds into the video stream, the company said. When clicked, the ad expands while the video pauses. If the user does not interact with the ad, it will dissolve after 15 seconds, leaving the branded text link.
Dish Network adds ESPN, Disney iTV apps
EchoStar's Dish Network has launched two interactive television (iTV) applications for ESPN and the Disney Channel, allowing advertisers to reach a more targeted audience with interactive ad campaigns. Interactive content includes scores, headlines, TV listings and show information.
The applications, ESPN Interactive Zone and Disney Channel Interactive TV, will be available to the more than 12 million Dish Network subscribers who receive iTV services. Dish Network now has 40 iTV offerings.
AT&T ups U-verse services in Bay Area
AT&T's U-verse customers in the San Francisco Bay and Detroit areas now have access to new TV features: AT&T U-bar, which brings customizable weather, stock, sports and traffic information to the TV screen; Yellowpages.com TV, a new way to search for local businesses and other information on the TV; and AT&T Yahoo! Games, which are also available on the TV screen.
• Web videos stealing TV viewers and marketers, according to The New York Times.
• Look out, YouTube: Here comes Bebo, reported by Advertising Age.
Company: Move Networks
American Fork, Utah
CEO: John Edwards
Claim to fame: Move Networks provides video services that drive the growth and support of online audiences for broadcasters and publishers. The video technologies and services developed and managed by Move Networks enable brands to deliver live and on-demand programming to millions of people without buffering, stalling or low-quality viewing.
Recent news of note: Level 3 Communications' Content Markets Group has partnered with Move Networks, enabling Level 3 to distribute Move's Media Services, and enabling the integration of Move's technology into Level 3's content delivery infrastructure.