XOD Capsule - November 01, 2005

Mon, 10/31/2005 - 7:00pm
xOD Capsule Newsletter | CED Broadband Direct | Current Issue | Subscriptions Nov. 01, 2005 In search of better search Among all the different reasons why a company like Comcast might hook up with Google, the most obvious near-term reason is search, Google's bread and butter. Last week, I had a chance to mess around with Google Video, which is still in beta form. Like the main Google site, this one is as easy to use as the design is Plain Jane'ish. On a night of a recent visit, three video thumbnails were present at the Google Video home page: A 16-second clip of some woman named "Weeda" pretending to play guitar A 13-minute comedy sketch not in English A five-minute home video that shows some people I don't know having fun on a boat and enjoying the night life of Chicago. Not exactly the kind of stuff that will keep you riveted to your PC screen. In fact, it was all a bit strange. But the sharing of personal video and video blogging in general is catching on, and being embraced by companies like Akimbo. But where Google Video misses with glitz and glamour, it hits the mark with functionality, and it's easy to see how the company will play a role in how people will sift and find the video content they are seeking. Still, what the beta version of the application leaves a lot to be desired. I searched for "news," thinking I'd get some video clips associated with breaking news. Instead, the first result it pulled up was a two-hour, 10-minute Long Beach city council meeting. The original reason why I stopped by the site was to follow-up on Google's partnership with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation, whereby Google is offering archival interviews with people such as Alan Alda, Sid Caesar, Phyllis Diller and Steven Bochco. What's offered there is a lot more compelling than watching a stranger perform air guitar or checking out a council meeting for a city that's 1,000 miles away from my own. Once Google gets access to more content?make that more timely content?its value will only grow as video that's distributed via the Internet only continues to grow. But that value should also be extended to the television environment, where it remains relatively lacking. ?Jeff Baumgartner Time Warner starts up 'Start Over' service Time Warner Cable has picked Irmo, S.C. as the site of the initial launch of the operator's much-anticipated "Start Over" service. Adding a new twist to the network digital video recorder (nDVR), Start Over allows customers to restart shows and movies that are already in progress. In a move that's sure to please advertisers, customers that enable Start Over cannot fast-forward through commercials. Time Warner has not provided much technical detail for Start Over, but noted that it does require a software upgrade to the existing video-on-demand platform and to the installed base of digital set-top boxes. According to current CED VOD deployment data, Time Warner uses servers from Concurrent Computer Corp., VOD backoffice software from Tandberg Television, and digital set-tops from Pioneer and Scientific-Atlanta in its Columbus, S.C. system. Aptiv Digital Inc., a set-top software company that recently spun out of Pioneer, is providing the system's interactive program guide (IPG). Because Start Over captures live television for on-demand viewing, the system most certainly uses real-time encoding. For a lengthier look at the significance of real-time encoding for an application like Start Over, please see this recent issue of xOD Capsule. In addition to the technical elements of the Start Over system, Time Warner Cable has also had to obtain the programming rights for the service. For the initial launch, which puts the new service in front of about 10,000 customers, the operator will Start Over-enable programming from 60 networks. They include cable nets such as CNBC, Bravo, Comedy Central, SCI FI, TRIO, MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, HBO, Fox News, and CNN, as well as local NBC and WB affiliates. An on-screen prompt will alert viewers if they are viewing a Start Over-enabled program. Pressing the "Select" button on the remote control will immediately restart the show. The operator expects to expand Start Over to about 137,000 digital cable subs in South Carolina in the coming months, and to other systems later on this year. Comcast nearing VOD record Comcast Cable said it is on pace to post a new monthly usage record for its slate of "free" on-demand movies, which are available to digital customers in VOD-enabled systems. The MSO said customers viewed more than 7.2 million free movies last month, and expects to post a new record this month, with customers having viewed 6.5 million free movie titles during the first half of October. Comcast recently expanded the number of available free on-demand movies to 250. In all, the MSO's VOD movie library (free and otherwise) contains about 800 titles. Overall, Comcast said its VOD service presently features 3,800 programs, with 95 percent of that total available for free. ESPN, Zodiac in set-top gaming deal ESPN has teamed with Zodiac Gaming to develop and distribute a range of games for the set-top environment. Under the deal, Zodiac will develop sports-themed games (titles not yet announced) that will integrate the sports network's "personalities, programming and other properties." In turn, ESPN will handle the marketing and licensing of the games to affiliates. "This is yet another way we are using our brand to support our affiliates and help them grow their business," said ESPN SVP of Interactive Sales Matt Murphy, in a release. The ESPN agreement marks the latest for ZBG, Zodiac's recently announced branded-games division. ZBG also has a deal in place to create games based on the Speed Racer franchise. Comedy Central taps broadband 'MotherLoad' Comedy Central has set Nov. 1 as the launch date for "MotherLoad," a "broadband-optimized" service that will feature five channels of programming and a slate of original and "classic" network fare. At launch, the broadband-based service will include shows such as Robert Smigel's "TV Fun House," "Strangers with Candy," and "Viva Variety," as well as stand-up performances, show previews, and exclusive behind-the-scenes content. The five channels of MotherLoad (Originals, TV Shows, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Comedians, and Cult Classics) will serve up more than 450 video clips, and add up to 80 new clips per week, the network said. Comedian Greg Giraldo will "anchor" a roundup of what's new on the service. The service will target the network's young adult audience, which "is made up of technically savvy and avid Web users," explained Comedy Central VP of Digital Media Beth Lewand, in a statement. "MotherLoad is the latest addition to Comedy Central's multiplatform strategy, delivering content anywhere, anytime." New Maxtor hard drive targets HD-capable DVRs A new hard drive from Maxtor aims to tackle one of the biggest challenges faced by high-definition television digital video recorders: limited recording space. Optimized for HD, multi-stream or multi-tuner DVRs, the Maxtor QuickView drive comes in three sizes: 300 gigabytes, 400 GB and 500 GB. Maxtor did not disclose pricing on the drives. Maxtor, whose hard drives can be found inside DVR/receivers from companies such as Scientific-Atlanta, said the largest drive can store up to 500 hours of standard-definition video, and 89 hours of HDTV. In comparison, a high-end DVR set-top with a 160 GB hard drive can store about 20 hours of HD programming (via MPEG-2). To work around storage limitations in legacy DVRs, Maxtor has already introduced a line of external DVR hard drives, with capacities ranging from 40 GB to 300 GB. The company designed its QuickView Expander initially for S-A's Explorer 8300-series set-tops. blinkx to search and send Akimbo content Blinkx has inked a deal to index the video database of Akimbo. The integration will enable users of the blinkx Web site to search for and send programs to their stand-alone Akimbo players or Akimbo-powered Microsoft Windows Media Center PCs. Akimbo presently uses broadband connections to distribute its library of 5,200 titles from providers such as DIY Network, Food Network, The History Channel and National Geographic. Akimbo has also unveiled a cable strategy that leverages set-tops with on-board digital video recorder hard drives. Correction: AgileTV A story appearing in this space last week incorrectly stated that Comcast Corp. is an investor in AgileTV Corp. Although Comcast has conducted technical trials of AgileTV's voice-enabled navigation system, the operator is not an AgileTV investor. We are making changes and additions (including 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.   November 2005 Issue Contents » Company: ViewNow Headquarters: Bend, Ore. URL: CEO: Steve Roberts Claim to fame: Content aggregation for IPTV and other video service providers. Also handles content encoding, transport and marketing services. A division of VOD server and software firm Kasenna Inc., ViewNow has distribution with major studios such as Warner Bros, DreamWorks, NBC/Universal and 20th Century Fox. Recent news of note: Iowa Networks Services (INS), a firm owned by 127 independent rural telephony companies that serves a combined 280,000 users, signed on ViewNow as its primary VOD content partner. Company: Interactive Television Networks Inc. URL: CEO: Charles Prast Company claim to fame: Considered by some as an "over-the-top" IPTV content provider, ITVN streams titles from its library to a special IPTV set-top via broadband connections. Recent news of note: Completed a $4 million placement to an undisclosed institutional investor, with $2.4 million of that total going toward full repayment of an outstanding letter of credit issued from Manufacturer's Bank, and repayment of a $1.6 million short-term working capital loan from Mercator Momentum Fund III LP. TelcoTV Conference & Expo 2005 San Diego, Calif. Nov. 8-10, 2005 SCTE Live Learning Event "Should Cable Move to IPTV via Video over DOCSIS" Wednesday, Nov. 16 Cost: Free to SCTE members, $29 for non-members ("seats" are limited) Location: The Web   You are receiving this email because you have either requested a newsletter or a magazine from Reed Business Information. You are currently registered to receive this newsletter as: [] Unsubscribe | Change your Profile/Update Email Address Print Subscriptions | Email Subscriptions | Privacy Policy| Online Support 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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