New name, bigger goals for Aptiv
Newsflash! There's a new set-top
application and interactive program guide player in town…sort
The name, Aptiv Digital Inc., is new. But the people who are
running it should be familiar if the name Pioneer Digital
Technologies rings a bell to you. Pioneer, you may recall,
was the company behind the Voyager line of digital set-tops
and the Passport-branded IPGs, digital video recording software
suites, and an emerging set of "mosaic" navigation apps for
Just recently, that division left the nest of Pioneer, spinning
itself into a new, independent company with about 65 people
based in Burbank, Calif.
Aptiv should serve as a much more spry entity than when it
was part of a large parent company, which is probably a shot
of exactly what the cable industry needs if it wants to stay
competitive and act on, rather than react to, its enemies.
But that doesn't necessarily mean that only smooth roads lay
ahead of it. Remember that Time Warner Cable, which happens
to be Aptiv's biggest customer, has moved much of its navigation
"We started out with a guide, but we have never fancied ourselves
as an IPG vendor," Aptiv President Neil Jones
told CED in the October issue.
He also said it's just fine that Aptiv serves the role of
a supporting player. Good thing then that Aptiv is now a smaller
animal than it once was. At least it won't need to eat as
takes helm of Arroyo
Video Solutions Inc. has tapped Rick DeGabrielle as
president and CEO, filling a post that has remained vacantat
least in the permanent senseat the video server startup
for much of the year.
Kim Kelly, a former Insight Communications executive,
stepped down in March. Since then, Paul Sherer, Arroyo's
co-founder and chief technology officer, has served as the
company's interim CEO.
selection is somewhat of a departure from Arroyo's initial
executive strategy with a cable insider like Kelly.
Although DeGabrielle is relatively new to the cable arena,
he is an old hand with smaller startups that sought business
with much larger service providers.
DeGabrielle most recently served as VP of sales and business
development at Catena Networks, a broadband access firm that
is now part of Ciena
Corp. He is also late of Network Equipment Technologies
(NET) and Cascade Communications.
He also has video experience. Catena, a maker of DSLAM gear,
began offering "triple play" platforms to telcos several years
ago, and that work included integration work with set-top
manufacturers and middleware platforms.
"Frankly, much of this stuff is not brand new to me," he said.
Near-term, DeGabrielle said he will focus on polishing off
a fair amount of business as cable operators press ahead with
big VOD expansions in 2006, and as telcos continue to introduce
on-demand services. Arroyo is also in discussions with mobile
phone companies that are considering ways to compress and
stream video applications.
Closing those deals "is a pressing priority," he says.
Arroyo presently has trials and deployments with six "top"
cable operators, including multiple deployments with
Comcast Cable and Time
Warner Cable. Time Warner has Arroyo installed in
Portland, Maine; and Wilmington, N.C. Comcast, meanwhile,
is using Arroyo servers alongside Tandberg
Television's OpenStream backoffice on-demand system
in South Bend, Ind., in support of the MSO's Next Generation
On Demand (NGOD) initiative. Arroyo has also integrated its
servers with C-COR
Inc.'s nABLE platform.
In some markets where operators have already launched VOD,
they are capping the growth on the existing system and adding
Arroyo servers, DeGabrielle says. In other cases, the operator
is switching out the incumbent vendor's servers for Arroyo's.
"But that will be the exception to the rule," he adds. "There
are not a lot of greenfield markets left with Time Warner
Cable and Comcast."
Arroyo hopes to play a key role in advanced on-demand applications,
including digital ad insertion and Time Warner's "Startover,"
which will enable viewers to restart programs already in progress.
An application like Startover, he explains, requires a different
set of requirements than what's been acceptable in the past,
because such a system will be required to ingest massive amounts
of content and have it ready for almost simultaneous play-out.
SeaChange buys into content
International entered the content game last week after
putting up $13.4 million to buy the London-based On
Demand Group Limited (ODG).
Under the deal, SeaChange is picking up the remaining 72 percent
of the outstanding capital stock of ODG that it did not already
own. SeaChange is also on the hook to pay an additional $9
million if ODG meets certain annual performance goals through
Jan. 31, 2008.
ODG, SeaChange is getting a company that aggregates television
programming, movies and other content for pay-per-view and
VOD services throughout Europe, including U.K.-based MSOs
NTL and Telewest.
ODG also serves as principal of FilmFlex, an on-demand movie
service operated in partnership with Sony
Pictures and The
Walt Disney Company.
The acquisition fleshes out SeaChange's VOD strategy in Europe,
South America and, eventually, Asia, according to company
VP of Marketing James Kelso.
Supplying content and content management services opens up
an additional revenue stream for SeaChange. ODG, which has
50 employees, ended fiscal 2005 with $10.7 million in revenues,
and earnings of about $1.4 million.
By supplying content, "we can get more and more of that [VOD]
deal," Kelso says. Offering content alongside the system itself
also makes it easier for operators to rollout VOD services,
Expanding revenue streams and the product portfolio also falls
in line with SeaChange's larger international strategy to
market more than servers and backoffice VOD software and applications.
As you may recall, SeaChange entered the middleware business
in April after putting up $25.5 million for Liberate Technologies'
business outside of North America.
ODG is involved in several emerging applications of VOD. While
Time Warner Cable continues to pursue "Startover"
in the U.S., across the pond, the BBC, an ODG partner, already
offers its top seven shows on-demand for up to seven days
after its original airing.
SeaChange is just the latest VOD server and system company
to make a content play. Kasenna
Inc., a SeaChange competitor, purchased ViewNow, a
content aggregator, last year. Unlike SeaChange's plans for
ODG, Kasenna is marketing its content service to telcos and
other operators in North America.
Vertasent, Concurrent match up on VOD
Computer Corp. and Vertasent
hope to make beautiful VOD music together.
Last week, the companies said they will collaborate on a next-gen
on-demand system that supports open interfaces.
The combination will enable headend components from multiple
manufacturers to work together without the need for costly
custom integration, the companies said.
The fusion will team Concurrent's MediaHawk VOD system with
Vertasent's Edge Resource Manager (ERM), a system that manages
the use of edge bandwidth, including capacity for VOD, the
modular CMTS, switched digital broadcast and "video-rich"
earlier conversation with CED, Vertasent noted that
operators might also use ERM technology to run more than one
type (and brand) of video server on their VOD networks. At
the time, Vertasent said it had already completed integration
with two QAM vendors:
Motorola Inc. and Harmonic
Inc. Concurrent, however, marks the first VOD vendor
to announce an integration deal with Vertasent.
Concurrent and Vertasent expect to complete the integration
and to enter commercial deployments by year-end.
Zodiac revs up branding play
Zodiac Gaming has launched a subsidiary that will
focus on publishing and marketing "branded" games for the
digital set-top box environment.
The subsidiary, Zodiac Branded Gaming (ZBG), has scored its
deal, an exclusive arrangement with Speed
Racer Enterprises. Under the agreement, ZBG will build
several Speed Racer games that enable players to take the
virtual wheel of the trademark Mach 5. The first title is
expected to launch "in the next few months."
"By partnering with instantly-recognized brands, we hope to
accelerate awareness of set-top box gaming," said Paul Niehaus,
EVP of business development at Zodiac, and president of ZBG.
ZBG said it is presently in discussions with other "high-profile"
U.K. ops slate iTV trial
Following a string of lab tests,
U.K. MSO ntl
Inc. and BroadbandTV Group plan to kick off live interactive
television trials in the fourth quarter.
BroadbandTV Group is a joint venture of YooMedia
Inc. The trial will run on HeadendWare, a platform
from ICTV that places most of the processing power at the
headend in order to play out on thin-client digital set-tops.
Interactive content for the trial will be supplied by a spate
of partners, including ITN, MTV Networks, Emap, Turner Broadcasting,
Sesame Workshop and UKTV.
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.
On Demand Group Limited (ODG)
Claim to fame:
A key video-on-demand and pay-per-view aggregator in Europe, and
a partner in the FilmFlex, and on-demand movie service that has
deals with ntl and Telewest.
Recent news of
After going it alone since 1995, the company was just sold (see
related story in this week's issue) to SeaChange International for
$13.4 million in cash, and another $9 million potentially if ODG
meets certain annual performance goals through January 2008.
Acacia Research Corp.
Newport Beach, Calif.
CEO: Paul Ryan
Company claim to
Founded in 1999, Integra5 Developer and acquirer of patented technologies.
The company controls 32 patent portfolios that include individual
patents tied to broadcast data retrieval, interactive television,
data encryption, and digital video production.
Recent news of
KY Data Systems, an Acacia subsidiary, licensed its portfolio of
iTV patents to Samsung Electronics. The portfolio includes patents
for set-tops and televisions that enable viewers to access interactive
features. Earlier this year, Acadia filed suit against several cable
operators, including Bresnan Communications, Cablevision Systems
Corp., and Time Warner Cable, claiming they infringed on patents
for VOD and one that describes how analog programming is transmitted
over a digital network.
"Wielding the wireless weapon: How to take aim at traditionally
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