The so-called “long
tail” shows the popularity relationship between
top “hits” and less viewed niche and specialty
content. It’s the second part of that equation that
the likes of Akimbo and DaveTV
are counting on to establish a following.
But, thanks to the coupling of high-speed data services and
the flexibility of the Web, roducers of content, particularly
content they are extremely passionate about, don’t necessarily
need a formal relationship with a cable operator or even an
“over-the-top” IP bypass service to reach their
Last month, among the hordes of press releases that cross
my screen daily, I was struck by one promoting a documentary
about Superman. So? Documentaries are released almost daily,
right? But what I found interesting about this one was that
the director, Ross Marroso, decided to premiere and distribute
his labors entirely over the Internet. Users can stream the
half-hour doc via his Web site for $1.50, or purchase the DVD directly for $9.95.
Marroso, a graduate of the NYU Film School who also has a
family connection to The Man of Steel (his uncle, Greg
Hildebrandt, has drawn up some Superman tales for DC Comics),
decided he would rather offer his labor of love over the Internet
rather than spending several weeks or months pounding on the
doors of traditional distributors…and then hoping for
“I felt mainly that the time was finally right and the
technology was in place,” he told me last week. “The
Internet is finally old enough to handle something like this.”
Other elements that helped his Internet project fall into
place: PayPal, which doesn’t require purchasers to fork
over sensitive credit card information; and digital rights
management, which allows Marroso to serve up his documentary
without fear of people “harvesting and molesting”
Marroso admits that he doesn’t expect to make much money
off his 30-minute “In A Single Bound” documentary.
The $1.50 fee for the streamed version “just barely”
covers his costs.
“Ultimately, I did this for the fans,” he
explains, noting that there’s little video-based content
about the history of Superman, and the books about the character
have largely fallen into obscurity.
“Many of the actors and people in my documentary have
never talked about this [subject], so I have something unique
here on my hands.”
I had a chance to watch Marroso’s documentary recently.
I’m not a TV critic, but I’ve watched a lot of
TV in my day, and found much to like in the obvious hard work
he has put into weaving the tale of Superman. Though not as
polished as some of the documentaries one might find on some
major cable networks, Marroso’s passion about this subject
shines through, with well-researched documentation, the use
of reels of rare archival footage and interviews telling the
story. Superman fans (and a few who aren’t, perhaps)
will enjoy this chronological ode to the Man of Steel.
But the jury is still out about how the Internet is transforming
the way consumers want to consume content like this. According
to Marroso, for every one person who streams the documentary,
three are buying the DVD sight unseen, so there’s still
much to be said for physical media that can be “owned.”
Although the doc is available on the Web, marketing it is
a major challenge in itself. “It’s been a battle
for people to learn about it,” Marroso says. A few Web
advertisements on Superman-related sites have drummed up some
business. But he hopes more mainstream exposure with Access
Hollywood, Entertainment Weekly and G4 (Jay Leno has even
called, he says) will turn his little project into a big success
But before the Internet and high-speed connectivity, Marroso
and his passionate story about the history of Superman might
never have made it past page 1.
expands advertising acumen
OpenTV Corp. has acquired cable advertising sales management
Systems in a cash and stock deal valued at $19.5 million.
OpenTV said the deal will advance its ability to provide interactive,
addressable and on-demand advertising services to broadband
operators. With the addition of CAM's assets and customers,
OpenTV said it now provides ad inventory management systems
in 13 top TV markets, and, through the agreement, has added
MSO customers such as Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications,
Bright House Networks and Charter Communications. The purchase
also enables OpenTV to extend its existing relationship with
Comcast Spotlight. The Lenfest Group founded CAM Systems in
“We consider CAM Systems’ customers as the most
valuable asset acquired by OpenTV,” writes B. Riley
& Co. Analyst Ali Mogharabi. Further, “we believe the
deal creates an opportunity for OpenTV to also cross sell
its interactive, addressable and on-demand front-end advertising
He estimates that the purchase, which puts OpenTV in the enviable
position of providing both front-end and backend interactive
advertising technology, moves the company from No. 3 to No.
2 in the sector, behind market leader Harris Corp., which purchased Encoding Systems Holdings
"Adding CAM Systems and its customer base to our existing
AdVision inventory management portfolio puts us at the heart
of the estimated $5 billion local cable advertising market,"
said OpenTV Chairman & CEO Jim Chiddix, in a statement. "This
transaction is also an important stepping stone toward the
provisioning of a complete interactive advertising solution."
Are you ready for some interactive football?
Moving ahead on an application
that has been a big hit in the U.K., EchoStar Communications has launched a “mosaic”
video platform that allows customers to choose from six different
camera angles during select sporting events.
Supported angles include
high end zone, low end zone, goal post, reverse slash, reverse
low end zone, and the regular network feed from TBS. Once
selected by the customer, the mosaic thumbnail is transitioned
into a full-screen feed.
The multi-angle fun begins with EchoStar’s coverage
of TBS College Football Extra, which is running every Saturday
through Nov. 5 on Channel 100, DISH’s interactive television
channel. The first game to include the feature was the Sept.
3 clash between Colorado State University and the University
The effort stems from a larger strategy from EchoStar involving
mosaics. Earlier this year, the company launched the application
in partnership with OpenTV, allowing viewers to watch six thumbnailed video
channels and access interactive components concurrently. The
launch followed some of EchoStar’s earlier work with
the technology. Last year, the company offered mosaic support
for the Summer Olympics and for coverage of the Presidential
Cable, of course, has some grand plans for mosaic video applications,
as well. The
Comcast Media Center and GuideWorks LLC, the Comcast
Corp./Gemstar-TV Guide joint venture, are developing “video-rich
navigation” enhancements for interactive program guides.
Vidiom opens iTV training hub
Vidiom Systems Corp. has opened a new training center
dedicated to OCAP (OpenCable Application Platform) and other
interactive television technologies at the company's Broomfield,
The center will host instructor-led courses designed for cable
operators, CE manufacturers and iTV players. The center also
sports a range of interactive workstations equipped with application
development tools, set-top boxes and connections to multiple
types of headends--enabling operators and content developers
to train in this environment without having to shell out $300,000
or $400,000 per headend.
Among the offerings, Vidiom will offer a slate of OCAP courses,
including its OCAP API Essentials class and its OCAP Application
Developer's Workshop, a five-day course scheduled to kick
off at the center on Sept. 13. Later this year, the company
will add Java courses tailored to the cable industry and embedded
systems, as well as other OCAP-centric courses.
The second course, coming in October, will enable students
to build a basic OCAP application using the lab’s set-top
testing platform and a PC outfitted with Vision Workbench,
Vidiom’s OCAP application development tool, explained
Vidiom exec Michael Malcy.
The OCAP API Essentials class runs $3,000 per person. The
five-day Application Developers course runs about $5,000.
The classes are also designed to help programmers grow more
comfortable with Java, a key component of OCAP.
“There are lots of C++ [programmers] who don’t
know Java,” Malcy said. It’s not hard to teach
a programmer a new language, but someone has to teach them.”
TiVo lowers the DVR bar
In TiVo Inc.’s quarter earnings call last month, company
CEO Tom Rogers said subscription growth is the “biggest
critical challenge we face,” noting that the DVR pioneer
plans to launch several promotions in the fall.
TiVo sprung ahead with that strategy last week by slashing
prices on the stand-alone box and launching a national contest
that seeks a “TiVo Ambassador.”
In a major effort to drive DVR subscriptions and essentially
buy market share, TiVo is selling its 40-hour Series2 box
for just $49.99--after a $150 mail-in rebate.
The big rebate comes in the wake of a recent decision by DirecTV to stop marketing
the TiVo service later this year as it shifts its focus to
DVR platform. Of the 3.6 million subs reported by TiVo in
Q2, 2.3 million came by way of DirecTV.
TiVo is coupling the rebate effort with a national contest
to find a “TiVo Ambassador” who will be tasked
with spreading the word about how time-shifting changes the
way people watch television. To qualify for the title, customers
must have referred at least five people to the service by
TVN offers karaoke on-demand
Cable customers across the country
will be able to belt out a tune on-demand following a deal
consummated last week between TVN Entertainment and Sound Choice.
The agreement, which makes TVN the exclusive distributor and
sales agent for The Karaoke Channel, will initially serve
up 300 to 500 songs from the Sound Choice library, which includes
categories such as pop, modern rock, classic rock, country,
R&B/hip hop, oldies, standards, and show tunes.
TVN will handle the encoding and transport
of the songs to cable affiliates in the U.S. and Canada, which,
in turn, will offer the songs for free or via a subscription
model. Operators that choose the latter will get access to
a free preview package to drive customer awareness.
Service operators already signed up for the service include
Advanced Cable Communications, Armstrong Cable, Bend Broadband,
Blue Ridge Communications, Buckeye CableSystem, Champion Broadband,
Click, Muscatine Power & Water, Shrewsbury Electric & Cable,
Sunflower Broadband, Verizon and Wave Broadband.
Other TVN affiliates, which include the likes of Adelphia
Communications, Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications,
Comcast Cable, and Cox Communications, plan to roll out the
service over the next three months or sometime later in the
calendar year, said TVN Vice President of Business Development
For singers who like to belt it out with a bit more boom,
they can purchase a karaoke microphone and mixer directly
from TVN and Sound Choice via the Web or through a toll-free
The merchandise mechanism “is not [offered via] interactive
television yet, but we’re getting closer to that,”
Communications also has a deal with Sound Choice,
offering the karaoke service on a subscription basis.
Telecom Services Inc. (MTS)
We are making changes and
additions (including several international deployments) to
our Web- 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.