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EchoStar’s Aria platform fades to black

Tue, 04/24/2012 - 1:52pm
Mike Robuck

EchoStar is abandoning its efforts to serve Tier 2 and Tier 3 cable operators in the United States with its Aria platform, which included its own brand of set-top boxes.

EchoStar announced Aria – which featured a hybrid IP/QAM platform that used existing cable plant and featured cloud-based VOD, TV Everywhere and an interactive HD program guide – last year.

EchoStar said in a statement that the cable set-top box market in the United States offered insufficient revenue return opportunities for the company and its investors, and for that reason, “EchoStar is ceasing development of the Aria platform, effective immediately.”

Instead, EchoStar is focusing its efforts on hardware, software and system products to serve global cable, satellite and telecom customers outside of the highly competitive U.S. set-top box marketplace.

Multichannel News first reported on EchoStar’s decision to drop its Aria platform yesterday afternoon.

EchoStar certainly seemed to have all of the bases covered with Aria, which would have given the smaller operators all of the bells and whistles that their larger brethren enjoy, but without the capex and opex.

Aria was designed to work with the new EchoStar SD, HD or SlingLoaded set-top boxes, and it would have allowed operators to offer services over multiple platforms for out-of-home viewing with the branding of the in-home cable operator.

The Slingbox technology was supposed to give Aria’s set-top boxes a leg up on traditional set-top box vendors, such as Cisco and Motorola, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.

Two questions emerge out of EchoStar’s decision to kick Aria to the curb: Were cable operators across the nation uncomfortable partnering with EchoStar since it’s a corporate cousin of cable competitor Dish Network; and maybe the platform just didn’t work the way it was supposed to?

It’s hard to answer the first question, but there were reportedly plenty of cable operators that lined up to kick the tires on Aria, including Cable One, which publicly said it was testing the platform during the Consumer Electronics Show in January. EchoStar invested a fair amount of money and engineering efforts on the assumption that it could convince cable operators across the nation that it would be a good partner.

On the second question, Light Reading Cable reported in February that Cable One dropped Aria after EchoStar failed to come through on several deadlines.

As for SlingLoaded set-top boxes, Broadcom announced in January that Sling Media software was integrated into Broadcom's BCM7425 dual HD transcoding MoCA 2.0 gateway SoC. With the integration, set-top box vendors other than EchoStar could start offering SlingLoaded boxes, but despite a large investment by EchoStar, the Aria boxes are now stillborn.

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