xOD Capsule - September 29, 2005

Wed, 09/28/2005 - 8:00pm

xOD Capsule Newsletter CED Broadband Direct Current Issue Subscriptions Sept. 29, 2005

China going 'over-the-top?'

With a country full of Akimbos and DaveTVs, the "over-the-top" concept in the U.S. is a bit like yesterday's news. There are plenty of content companies out there that are using high-speed pipes to distribute mainstream and niche content to PCs or specialized players outfitted with hard drives. The big question is how quickly these will catch on beyond the early adopters.

But what caught my eye last week was a story in Newsday that two big company founders—Cablevision Systems Corp.'s Charles Dolan and Computer Associates' Charles Wang—are supporting a China-based startup that is distributing more than 15,000 hours of video over the Internet.

KyLinTV Inc., the paper said, has been testing the service since June, and already has north of 500 paying subs in the New York metro area. Earlier this year, I was speaking to a high-ranking cable engineer on the subject of IP bypass video services. At the time, Akimbo had just announced a strategy to partner with cable operators and distribute titles to DVRs. I asked if he had lost much sleep about over-the-top video services.

"Not much," he said, adding that he thought Akimbo's latest move smelled a bit desperate. But there was a tinge of worry in his voice about a service being developed in China that sounds an awful lot like KyLinTV—massive server farms teeming with content, including stored broadcast fare, outside U.S. control and jurisdiction.

Although KyLinTV will initially target about 3 million Chinese-American homes, company executives told Newsday that programming could include sports and Wang's New York Islanders. For his part, Dolan said such a service complements, rather than competes, with traditional cable and DBS television services.

I have a sneaking suspicion that KyLinTV, which requires a separate set-top box with wireless capabilities, is a bit more interested in competing than complementing anything cable or DBS does today.

—Jeff Baumgartner

EAT.TV navigates video-on-demand market
EAT.TV has entered the sector with a media rich navigation platform specially targeted to video-on-demand applications.

The platform, dubbed ImageGuide, aims to deliver graphical, emotional "browsing" capability to television, akin to the way someone might sift through magazines or record jacket covers, and to get far away from a more linear, text-based experience.

Executives at EAT.TV, an acronym for Entertainment Advertising Technology Television, believe that today's navigation platforms and interactive program guides are in great need of jazzier, more intuitive interfaces.

"Somebody needs to make [navigation] look like television again," says company Creative Director and Acting CEO Dewey Reid. And he'll probably get little argument, considering all of the "mosaic" guide activity going on these days in DBS and cable. EAT.TV is designing ImageGuide for three environments: television, broadband PCs and cellular telephones.

Having cross-platform ability was critical to the design of ImageGuide, says Jim Theberge, EAT.TV's technology director and CTO.

The San Francisco-based company is getting its product off the ground on the Web. is using the system to supply on-demand access to videos from several programmers under the Scripps Networks umbrella, including HGTV, Food Network, DIY, and Fine Living. Taking a magazine-like approach, the site is updated every two weeks with 36 new videos. This combo of content and navigation has been getting some notice. ImageGuide and were nominated for a 2005 Advanced Media Technology Emmy.

To help pay the freight, ImageGuide also supports advertising. General Motors, for example, is the prime sponsor of the Web site, allowing visitors to access longer-form videos and even shorter-form (8- or 10-second) interstitials on GM products. To reduce the intrusiveness, the GM brand also appears as impressions as users navigate from one screen to another.

"Shortening advertisements is critical in the broadband space," where attention spans are shorter than with television, Theberge says.

During testing, users have found the more subtle ad-supported transitions "almost likeable," he adds.

Because of the much longer sales cycle, EAT.TV is concentrating most of its efforts on the path of least resistance (the Internet) rather than the cable set-top environment. But it has participated in a lab trial with Cablevision Systems Corp. "I think our near-term best opportunities are with cable programmers in environments that they control," Reid explains.

Although ImageGuide supports snazzy graphics, it can play out on just about any thin-client set-top with the help of headend processing. In the Cablevision example, ICTV Inc.'s HeadendWare platform handles much of the processing and heavy lifting at the headend, but ImageGuide is also be designed to run on video-on-demand platforms. EAT.TV has yet to announce any integration deals with traditional VOD vendors.

While ImageGuide can serve as an IPG, it doesn't have to. It can also complement existing IPGs as a VOD client, Theberge says.

EAT.TV, which competes with other IPG and VOD firms, is just the latest company to try a new spin on navigation. Also new to the sector is Hillcrest Labs, a company that is taking more of a PC approach to navigation with its "HoME" application suite and navigation system.

Verizon boots up with 600 VOD titles
Verizon launched its much-anticipated FiOS TV service last week in Keller, Texas, kicking off with 600 video-on-demand titles.

Verizon, whose primary VOD partners are SeaChange International and TVN Entertainment, plans to offer as many as 1,800 on-demand titles by year-end. Pay titles will run $3.95 for new releases, and $2.95 for "library" fare.

While fellow RBOC SBC Communications is using IPTV technologies to deliver video for its "U-verse" service, Verizon is tapping an RF overlay. Akin to cable television broadcast techniques, Verizon is carrying video via a separate 1550 nm carrier.

Verizon's expanded basic tier runs $39.95 per month for about 180 digital video and music channels. The service also features upwards of 20 HDTV channels. Its "basic" tier is $12.95 per month, offering 15-35 channels, but requires a digital set-top box because Verizon has decided not to offer analog video services.

Verizon's widescale carriage deal with The Walt Disney Company, meanwhile, has a distinct broadband twist to it. In addition to carrying a dozen Disney and ESPN channels, Verizon has also agreed to offer ABC News Now, Disney Connection and ESPN360 to its fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) Internet subscribers. The telco has also agreed to track down and cutoff customers who are found to distribute Disney content illegally over the Internet.

TVN puts 'Eurocinema' on-demand
TVN Entertainment has expanded its video-on-demand content vaults with Eurocinema, a service that features theatricals and short films from Europe and across the globe.

TVN will launch the service on Oct. 15 with 12 hours of content, including "My Mother's Smile," a 2002 Cannes Film Festival winner. Other titles include Andrei Tarkovsky's "Nostalgia," and "Stand-by," a film based on the same story as Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal."

TVN said each feature film will serve as the "centerpiece" of a two-hour thematic block that provides information on movie themes, along with commentaries and director interviews. Each block, to be refreshed monthly, will run $3.99. By November, TVN plans to expand the service to 20 hours of content.

TVN will serve as the exclusive distributor for Eurocinema, and will handle everything from asset delivery and management, to marketing and promotions, and affiliate support. Financial terms were not disclosed.

TVN's VOD affiliates include Adelphia Communications, Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, Insight Communications, and Mediacom Communications.

2010: A mobile TV odyssey
Although VOD dominates the TV screen, it could also find a huge audience on smaller, mobile phone screens as well, if recent forecasts hold up.

The number of mobile phone users subscribing to a streamed or broadcast video service will jump to 65 million worldwide, according to Juniper Research.

Revenues, meanwhile, are expected to rise from $136 million this year, to $7.6 billion in 2010.

Juniper said streamed services will maintain the lion's share of those customers (56 percent) and a bit more than half (51 percent) of the revenues. Broadcast mobile video services should overtake streamed video content by 2012, the research firm predicts, but adds that mobile broadcast TV still has to muddle through competing standards.

Juniper believes DVB-H will become the most popular broadcast mobile TV technology, with a market share of 35 percent by 2010.

Market Video
Verizon Keller, Texas SeaChange SeaChange TVN TVN

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.

October 2005   
Issue Contents >>

Palm Pictures


Claim to fame:
In the VOD world, the company offers a range of independent feature films, documentaries and shorts.

Recent news of note:
Secured a VOD carriage deal with Comcast Cable. Comcast is offering Palm content "free" to digital subs, who are urged to vote on the Web whether a title should be released in U.S. theaters and via DVD.

Integra5 Communications

Burlington, Mass.


CEO: Eyal Bartfeld

Company claim to fame:
Founded in 1999, Integra5 survived the "dot-com" bubble and now appears to be hitting its stride with UniTV, a software platform replete with applications such as TV-based picture caller ID and voicemail message waiting, SMS messaging, and instant messaging. With an eye on convergence, UniTV serves to combine cellular, data, voice and TV into a single platform.

Recent news of note:
Completed an integration deal with Digeo Inc., a maker of broadband media center reference designs and software. This agreement teams UniTV with the Moxi Media Center, which features Moxi Telephone, an interface for apps such as caller ID, call logging, and message control.

CED Webcast:
"Wielding the wireless weapon: How to take aim at traditionally out-of-reach businesses"
Archive available Oct. 3
Cost: Free
For registration or information
Sponsored by Arcwave, C-Cor, CommScope and Motorola

SCTE SoCal Show
DoubleTree Hotel,
Ontario Airport, Calif.
October 11-13, 2005
Cost: Daily attendee registration is $20 for SCTE Members and $25 for Non-Members

Interactive '05—istart Developer Conference
Atlanta, Ga.
Oct. 20-21, 2005
Registration information

Telecom '05
Las Vegas, Nev.
October 22-26, 2005

TelcoTV Conference & Expo 2005:
San Diego, Calif.
Nov. 8-10, 2005

You may view an online copy of this newsletter at CED Magazine's Web site.

Copyright © 2005 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.



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