The fact that homes with Internet
connections (high-speed or otherwise) watch less television
is hardly earth-shattering news. Just about anyone reading
this can recognize that much just based on their own experiences.
But just how much time the Internet saps away from the television
has been the bigger question, and one that Forrester Research
has tried to answer with its recent "State
of Consumer Technology Adoption" report. According
to a Forrester survey of more than 68,000 households, high-speed
users in North America watch two fewer hours of TV each week
than homes without Internet access. Among homes that connect
through syrupy slow dial-up connections, the difference drops
to 1.5 hours.
Further, Forrester broke down consumer attitudes toward technology
as "optimists" and "pessimists." Optimists, the report explains,
include people who are more apt to use and enjoy the options
that technology affords them, including streaming media, playing
video games and visiting blogs.
After this info hit the wires, Chicken Littles flooded the
boards with the same tired "death of TV as we know it." Once
again, everything had to be lumped into a big "winner" pile
and a big "loser" pile. The reality, of course, is that there
will be multiple winners, and maybe a loser here and there.
I seriously doubt linear TV will be among the latter. It just
won't enjoy as much of the pie as it used to. Despite the
evolving ad models, TV as we know it will continue on. And
those broadband users? It's likely that they are spending
time away from the TV streaming other forms of video…and
receiving those ad impressions that keep the video world spinning
just the same.
And those two hours of TV viewing that have disappeared? Broadband
users are still watching 12 hours of TV per week, so clearly
their lives haven't changed that much. Last I checked,
analog radio is still around despite television, despite satellite
radio, and despite the Internet. It may be weaker than it
once was, but no one expects to wake up one morning and discover
that the radio waves we grew up with just vanished in the
middle of the night like the Baltimore Colts. Same goes for
But DVRs and video-on-demand, whether through a cable operator
or the Internet, will certainly alter, but not completely
change, the way we watch television, and this is hastening
targeted and interactive advertising. There is a wave of change
coming, but it's becoming more and more likely that the television
world will be ready to face it when it arrives.
basic: Comcast's Trojan horse for VOD?
Putting video-on-demand (VOD) in
every customer household appears to be a big driver behind
Cable's "enhanced basic" strategy.
For an additional fee, enhanced basic customers will receive
a low-end digital box capable of supporting video-on-demand
and an interactive program guide (IPG). Comcast has not yet
disclosed pricing on enhanced basic or where or when it will
become available first. But Comcast will have to offer enhanced
basic deployments in markets where it is using digital simulcast,
a technique that replicates analog channels in digital. In
a research note, Richard Greenfield of Fulcrum Global Partners noted that enhanced basic subs
will get one free box, and will be expected to pay $4 to $5
per month for each additional box.
Comcast will use this strategy to beef up digital penetration
and to promote VOD, a key competitive weapon it is wielding
against DBS that is not available to analog cable subs. With
the "enhanced basic" set-top, which amounts to a digital box,
customers can order "transactional" VOD titles as well as
a bevy of "free" titlesabout 500 of them, including
hundreds of shows from Encore that are refreshed every month.
"With these movies, we're going to go to an entirely new level
come this fall," Comcast President & COO Steve Burke told
media and analysts last week during the MSO's quarterly earnings
Like a digital Trojan horse, the tactic is also designed to
push the value of the full digital tier in the hopes that
customers will upgrade their service. Once the box is in the
home, Comcast can adjust it to support the traditional digital
video service tier, which runs about $14.95 per month.
Enhanced basic will also place more digital boxes in what
were analog-only homes, a move that will also fuel Comcast's
plans for digital simulcast. Last week, Comcast said it expects
to introduce digital simulcast in 75 percent of its markets
Cavalier goes all-in with Kasenna
Kasenna Inc.'s strategy to offer soup-to-nuts video-on-demand
technology and services is starting to pay off in some unique
situations in the telco world, but one of its competitors
believes that the tactic could backfire.
The latest telco to tap Kasenna's "end-to-end" VOD platform
Telephone, a CLEC that serves about 180,000 residential
customers in Richmond and Hampton Roads, Va.; Philadelphia,
Pa.; Washington, D.C.; southern New Jersey; and parts of Maryland
Under the deal, Cavalier will deploy Kasenna's "PortalTV"
VOD suite, comprised of the vendor's "LivingRoom" middleware
and client software developers kit (SDK), MediaBase video
servers, and vFusion network management software. When services
begin to launch in November, Cavalier will also receive on-demand
films and other fare from Kasenna's ViewNow subsidiary.
Although many large cable operators
have opted to deploy and integrate myriad components from
various VOD vendors, many telcos are looking for just the
oppositea fully integrated platform from one vendor,
according to Kasenna Chairman & CEO Mark Gray.
"If you talk to the telcos that were early [VOD] adopters
and ask them what they would do differently…they would
all tell you that the biggest problem is buying servers from
one company, content from another, DRM (digital rights management)
from another, and then putting someone in to integrate them
all," Gray explained.
But if one of the vendors puts forth a new software revision,
"it breaks everything else. There's always finger pointing,"
Gray said. He added that two other telcosHutchinson
Telecom of Hutchinson, Minn. and James Valley Telecom of Aberdeen,
S.D.,have also taken the all-in approach with Kasenna.
Despite Kasenna's win with Cavalier, Steve McKay, the CEO
another VOD vendor that targets the telcos, called Kasenna's
move into middleware, content and encryption a "strategic
"They've declared war on everyone in the industry, to Minerva,
to Entone, to SeaChange
to TVN [Entertainment],
[Technologies]. It's hard to name a company in the
IPTV space that doesn't compete with Kasenna now."
Gray counters that Kasenna continues to partner with middleware
competitors, including one with a yet-to-be named "major"
telco, "because they like what [the middleware provider] has,
and they like what we have." Gray labels this trend as "coop-etition."
But Kasenna views its integrated approach, especially with
independent telcos, as a financial necessity. Historically,
the offering of only the piece parts of a VOD system has caused
the ILEC sector to become underserved, Gray said.
"If we were only doing middleware, we couldn't afford calling
on them. If you're selling them [every component], it's a
nice piece of business," he added.
But how nice? In the case of Hutchinson, selling only the
servers would generate about $100,000 in revenues over five
years. With the whole system, including products and services,
Kasenna looks to generate more than $1 million over that same
Selling piece parts into the cable sector, which its tendency
toward larger systems and higher stream counts, makes more
sense for Kasenna, which has deployments with operators such
Communications and Charter Communications, McKay agreed that the financials,
especially those tied to integration, might not add up in
"But that's why you see some of the vendors getting together
with pre-integrated solutions. Then the threshold goes away,
because the integration is minimal," he said. One combo that
is often repeated by telcos, he explained, is the matching
of Entone's asset management, servers and CPE gear with Skystream Networks' IP
headend, middleware from Myrio (now part of Siemens),
and transport from Calix.
Entone barks up Telewest's VOD tree
Telewest is using servers and ingest gear from Entone Technologies to play-out The Barker Channel, a
key component of the U.K.-based MSO's "Teleport" video-on-demand
today to 26,000 subs in Cotswolds, will be offered to more
than 1 million digital TV customers by early 2006. Entone's
StreamLiner gear will serve up interactive promotional trailers
of VOD films and other on-demand offerings.
The Barker Channel seamlessly plays dozens of movie trailers
interactively, Entone CEO Steve McKay explained. Once the
customer engages a trailer from the play-out server, the system
hands the customer over to video servers from SeaChange International, which initiates the actual VOD
session for the movie or show selected.
The capability enables "impulsive viewing" for the on-demand
environment, McKay said.
For Telewest, The Barker Channel "fulfills two main requirementskeeping
our customers informed of what films are available, as well
as acting as an advertising vehicle to encourage the impulse
consumption of movies-on-demand," said Telewest Director of
Product Management & Marketing Philip Snalune.
Computer Corp. is also exploring the interactive barker
concept. Its patent-pending Interactive Media Solution (IMS)
technology pipes VOD barker channels via the streaming of
in-band, scaled video to the set-top.
TiVo, Motorola help out the smaller guys
Inc. and Motorola
Inc. have moved ahead with strategies designed to
give small- and medium-sized operators more weapons to use
against their DBS and telco foes.
In the case of TiVo, it will market its digital video recording
(DVR) technology as a stand-alone service to that group after
it obtained a hunting license with the National Cable Television Cooperative, an organization
the represents more than 1,000 cable operators that serve
about 14 million subs combined. The first to formally sign
up for it is Benton Cablevision Inc. of Rice, Minn. It marks
the latest cable foray by TiVo, which entered into an agreement
Corp. earlier this year.
Inc. and the Comcast Media Center (CMC), meanwhile, have developed
a centralized platform for interactive services for small-
and mid-sized operators. The new system, designed for HITS
QuickTake users (the upgraded version is called HITS QuickTake+),
will usher in interactive services such as digital video-on-demand,
DVRs and interactive program guides (IPGs) without the expense
of a Digital Access Controller (DAC). Motorola is marketing
it as an upgrade to its existing National Authorization Service
The resulting NASRAC platform will give operators access to
the complete line of Motorola set-tops, including the digital-only
DCT-700 and the high-end DCT6412 HD-DVR, according to Michael
Hicks, senior product manager for access control systems at
Motorola's Connected Home Solutions division. The platform
will also support CableCARDs used in Digital Cable Ready (DCR)
A big driver is overall costs. According to Hicks, NASRAC
provides a 40 percent cost reduction versus the NAS system.
Code downloads is one area that will be improved under the
new system. Under the existing platform, bandwidth could be
tapped out as interactive applications proliferate. The new
system can download specific code for SeaChange's VOD system,
for example, to just the targeted headend, rather than to
all headends supported on the existing NAS system.
Although DVRs are now on the national control system, VOD
was a bit more difficult due to constraints on the transponder,
but the "Plus" upgrade will eliminate that problem, Hicks
explained. He noted that the upgrade does not apply to HITS2Home,
which uses a different architecture than QuickTake and operates
on a separate controller for authorization. It will be suggested
to HITS2Home affiliates that they migrate to the new QuickTake+
system if they want to take advantage of Motorola's complete
line of set-tops.
Field trials are slated for this month, Hicks said, noting
that a more economical means of obtaining and distributing
high-definition television (HDTV) is a primary driver for
operators that are interested in the new system. However,
QuickTake+ will not enable HD until HITS puts those networks
up on the transponders.
A Comcast Media Center official noted that HD will be offered
as part of NASRAC, but could not offer a specific timeframe
on when such content would become available.
Concurrent, GoldPocket match VOD and ETV
Concurrent Computer Corp. and GoldPocket Interactive have forged an integration deal
that will marry the interactivity found in some linear programs
with the time-shifting capabilities of video-on-demand (VOD).
Under the agreement, Concurrent will combine its MediaHawk
On-Demand platform, including its Interactive Media Solution
(IMS), with GoldPocket's iTV system. More specifically, Concurrent
will carry GoldPocket's enhanced content, and handoffs will
take place between the GoldPocket and Concurrent set-top clients
and between each company's servers on the cable network.
One initial application for the combination will be interactive
advertising, including "telescoping," which allows viewers
to obtain more information about a product or service being
advertised. In this example, GoldPocket's "hot-spotting" overlay
application, once activated by the user, could handoff to
the Concurrent VOD system to stream a longer form advertisement.
The technique could
be used in an interactive ad or within a show that supports
enhanced television (ETV), according to Martijn Lopes Cardozo,
EVP of distribution partnerships for GoldPocket.
"Advertising will be a good hook for [the integration with
GoldPocket]," said Mike Tudisco, VP of customer service &
product management at Concurrent, noting that Concurrent and
GoldPocket will explore several other capabilities.
Among them, GoldPocket-enabled ETV elements found on some
linear broadcasts will become stored and available on Concurrent's
"With this integration effort, on-demand customers will be
opened to other content like gaming, polling…and triviathings
that we wouldn't offer on our own," Tudisco said. Yet another
will be home shopping, added Jack Birnbaum, Concurrent's director
of product management.
"We're probably just scratching the surface on applications
we're thinking about now," Lopes Cardozo said.
By tapping IMS and leveraging more processing power at the
headend, Concurrent also intends to extend the GoldPocket
experience to more technically-limited set-tops, Tudisco explained.
Concurrent hopes to make it through the certification process
with Goldpocket by the end of this year, with the intention
of entering trials with cable operators in Q1 and Q2 2006.
Concurrent, which is deployed with operators such as Time Warner Cable,
Brighthouse Networks and Comcast
Cable, is the first VOD server and system vendor to
announce an integration deal with GoldPocket. GoldPocket,
meanwhile, has won ETV deals recently with networks such as
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.