Good-bye, youth--hello, fiscal responsibility
On the road to maturity, video-on-demand
(VOD) has finally grown beyond the prepubescent stage and
entered early adulthood.
Judging from the discussions at last week’s CTAM Summit in Philadelphia (see story below), all
signs for VOD are pointing toward business modelsa sure
sign of the category’s growth.
Although the technical end of VOD is more important than everespecially
as libraries and usage surgethere’s not much time
spent at marketing conferences these days discussing things
like streaming, storage and transport. Nope. How to make money
out of this service appears to have taken top priority. A
close second is its use as a competitive weapon.
Speaking with Larry King at the show last week, Brian Roberts
Corp. was as bullish as ever about VOD’s power
to differentiate the cable platform.
The latest usage figures from Comcast only fuel that optimism.
Roberts noted that Comcast registered 105 million on-demand
orders last month, compared to a mere 20 million the year
earlier. About 70 percent of Comcast subs in Philadelphia
with access to VOD use it 24 times per month. Roberts also
talked up a “revolutionary” service that will
push the usage needle even moredelivery of up to 500
movies per month for free to digital subs.
But cable has to continue to find a way to maintain that edge
as DBS service providers leverage “push” DVR technology,
and as the telcos enter the video gamewith VOD in their
arsenals. And one way to do that is to apply advertising models
to free contentand to keep the programmers
happy. Bickering over content rights (also a regular occurrence
at last week’s conference) will only bog down the progress.
But both sides have much at stake, so nothing about this will
But unless someone’s willing to blink, VOD could soon
find itself going from the joys of early adulthood and into
the troubles of a mid-life crisis.
VOD business models still evolving
(VOD) deployments and libraries continue to expand, the burgeoning
service still lacks a definitive business model.
That was the consensus last week here at a Multichannel
News/B&C-hosted panel discussion at the CTAM Summit conference.
Time Warner Cable, growth is expected to come from
all three VOD categories: "free" on-demand fare, subscription
VOD and more traditional "transactional" VOD, according to
MSO Senior Vice President Bob Benya. No single category will
serve as the "killer model," he added, noting that VOD continues
to play an important role in the value of digital cable.
While the business models behind transactional and subscription
VOD are fairly straight-forward, much more contention exists
between operators and programmers in the "free" category.
Programmers pay big bucks for content, so the economic foundation
of that content and the VOD business must be supported, explained
Ron Lamprecht, vice president of new media at NBC Universal.
Century Fox Film Corp. owes its growth in the VOD
arena to MSOs such as Comcast
Cable, a free-on-demand pioneer, the content supplier
initially was leery about the model, said Jamie McCabe, Twentieth
Century's SVP of Worldwide Pay-Per-View. But that position
changed, he added, as it became clear over time that free
content helped customers become more comfortable with the
on-demand environment and transitioned them to "pay" titles.
Benya of Time Warner Cable maintained "it doesn't make a lot
of sense" for an operator to pay for the same content more
than once. The MSO, however, is more "open minded" on that
subject if the content in question happens to be new and unique.
Still, there are models emerging that will help to pay the
freight on free VOD titles.
"Advertising is important to what VOD has to offer," said
Scott Ferris, senior vice president & general manager of Atlas On Demand,
a company that is bringing its experience in Internet advertising
to the VOD world. He said ad agencies are attracted to the
advertising aspects of VOD because it offers a more measurable
platform than its linear counterpart.
There are already some early successes in this area. Comcast Spotlight,
for example, recently teamed with ESPN to promote the X Games
using the VOD platform. There, Comcast and ESPN assembled
three distinct advertising packages, offered them locally,
and gave the sports programmer some valuable exposure, said
Warren Schlichting, vice president of new business strategy
at Comcast Spotlight.
In terms of bringing business models together among operators
and programmers, Time Warner is also excited about the possibilities
of "start-over," an application in the works that enables
viewers to restart programs, but does not allow them to skip
ads. Customers ranked it first among 30 features brought up
in a survey.
"We think it's an interesting place to start," Benya said.
Programmers, meanwhile, are growing more interested in VOD
as the costs of encoding content, transporting it and storing
it continue to drop, but are not yet ready to put all of their
resources into it.
"We think there is a business there," McCabe said. "A big
business? I'm not sure."
PixelPlay goes cross-platform
PixelPlay has launched a platform that matches the
emerging platform of interactive television (iTV) with the
nearly ubiquitous reach of mobile phone technology.
Enabling gamers to
play head-to-head via set-tops and cell phones, the cross-platform
gaming service from PixelPlay will feature parlor games such
as checkers, chess and backgammon, and support leader boards
and prize tournaments.
Central to the platform is PixelPlay’s JIVE technology,
a server-based system that centrally integrates elements such
as billing and leader boards. PixelPlay supplies an SDK (software
developers kit) to support companies that want to create titles
and apps for the JIVE platform.
PixelPlay’s cross-platform service is already in the
field with HOT Network, an Israeli consortium of cable operators,
and with Cellcom Israel Ltd., a mobile operator.
In North America, PixelPlay has yet to go cross-platform,
but already has relationships with EchoStar Communications for the DBS service provider’s
KidsWise gaming service, and with BellExpressVu of Canada.
Systems Corp. also offers some PixelPlay titles for
the MSO’s pay-for-play gaming service.
PixelPlay CEO Ron Chaimowitz said cross-platform gaming is
important because any multiplayer service requires a sizable
lobby of players irrespective of the technology they might
be using. He added that the company will next add a broadband
component to its cross-platform strategy.
It’s also becoming quite attractive to cable operators
in North America as they attempt to converge their services
“It gives them a point of differentiation and ensures
that in the early states that there is a robust multiplayer
environment,” Chaimowitz said.
Akimbo uploads set-top plan
Akimbo has altered strategies a bit by launching a
program designed to help the company distribute its library
of niche content to digital set-tops outfitted with broadband
connections and digital video recorders (DVRs).
The company's "Queue-and-View"
client-server system is designed to download content directly
to the set-top's hard drive. Akimbo’s original business
model involved a separate broadband-enabled storage device
sold via retail.
Cable operators that opt for the program can download content
directly from Akimbo's servers, and then redistribute titles
to cable subscribers. Subscribers, in turn, will use on-screen
guides or PCs connected to the Internet to select shows for
download to the set-top.
Akimbo said it delivers metadata based on CableLabs specifications, and offers video in MPEG-2 and
“We’re ready to integrate to any set-top box,”
Akimbo CEO Josh Goldman said. So far, Akimbo’s only
distribution deal is for Microsoft Media Center Edition PC.
Akimbo is willing to share revenue with the partnering operator,
The new, more agnostic strategy calls into question the success
Akimbo has had so far with its initial business model, whereby
customers pay a monthly service fee of $9.99 (or a one-time
“lifetime” payment of $199.99), plus $199 for
the Akimbo set-top.
The company, which is counting on consumer appetites for niche
video fare, would not disclose subscriber numbers. On its
site, Akimbo has already reduced the lifetime subscription
fee and set-top price to $169.99 each.
C-COR adds to Adelphia deployment
Things are starting to add up for
deployment of ad insertion technology with Adelphia Communications with news the MSO will convert
its West Palm Beach system to the platform.
C-COR's ad insertion system already powers Adelphia's Puerto
Rico, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Buffalo, Yuma, Ariz., Hilton
Head, S.C., and Staunton, Va. markets. The West Palm Beach
deployment will set up 10 advertising zones and 440 insertion
Meanwhile, Adelphia's Cleveland system will tap into C-COR's
Gigabit Ethernet Digital Program Insertion platform, creating
11 advertising zones and 450 insertion channels. It is Adelphia's
first rollout of the GigE DPI platform, which can insert content
ranging from standard and high definition MPEG-2 advertising
to news updates, local programming, or long-form infomercials
into almost 2,000 cable network channels from a single server.
Elsewhere, C-COR also inked a development deal with digital
marketing provider Atlas to create a joint on-demand advertising campaign
management product. Atlas will provide its Atlas On Demand
automated campaign management, ad decision logic, optimization
and reporting tools, while C-COR will supply its overarching
Atlas has a similar agreement with SeaChange International.
Deployments extend reach of NTL's VOD service to 375,000
homes, following initial launch approximately six months
We are making changes and
additions (including several international deployments) to
based "living" deployment chart. If you
have a new deployment to report for the VOD Scorecard and
the Web-based deployment chart, please contact CED editor Jeff Baumgartner.
Marina Del Rey, Calif.
CEO: Curt Marvis
Company claim to
Broadband video-on-demand, touting a library of more than 7,500
new and classic movies, TV shows, music concerts and music videos
from studios such as 20th Century Fox, Disney, Lions Gate, MGM,
Miramax, Sony, and Warner Bros.
Recent news of
Made its initial foray into the world of high-definition video via
a distribution deal with Mark Cubans HDNet. The deal includes
more than 100 episodes from HDNet originals library, including Across
America and Get Out!
CEO: Gil Dudkiewicz
Company claim to
Formerly known as MyDTV, MeeVee has altered an initial digital cable
strategy, to one that leverages the Internet to consumers who want
personalized TV search and viewing recommendations.
Recent news of
Ian Aaron, the former president of TV Guide Television Group, joined
the MeeVee board last week.
"Digital Simulcaststepping stone to cables all-digital
August 18 at 11 a.m. ET
Sponsored by: EGT Inc., RGB Networks, Motorola Inc., Scientific-Atlanta,
Terayon Communication Systems
CTAM New York Blue Ribbon Breakfast:
Grand Hyatt Hotel at Grand Central Station--New York, NY
September 14, 8:00 a.m.
Tel: (212) 367-6921
Broadband Cities 2005:
Salt Lake City, Utah
September 19-21, 2005
Forum Meeting Q3:
September 19-22, 2005
Wireless IT & Entertainment 2005:
San Francisco, Calif.
September 27-29, 2005
& Expo 2005:
San Diego, Calif.
Nov. 8-10, 2005