xOD Capsule - October 06, 2005

Wed, 10/05/2005 - 8:00pm

xOD Capsule Newsletter CED Broadband Direct Current Issue Subscriptions Oct. 6, 2005

New name, bigger goals for Aptiv

Newsflash! There's a new set-top application and interactive program guide player in town…sort of.

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 the set-top.

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 activities in-house.

"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 much.

—Jeff Baumgartner

DeGabrielle takes helm of Arroyo
Arroyo Video Solutions Inc. has tapped Rick DeGabrielle as president and CEO, filling a post that has remained vacant—at least in the permanent sense—at 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.

His 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
SeaChange 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.

In 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, he adds.

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
Concurrent 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" navigation applications.

In an 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" brands.

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 and ICTV 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.

October 2005   
Issue Contents >>

On Demand Group Limited (ODG)

London, U.K.


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 note:
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 fame:
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 note:
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.

CED Webcast:
"Wielding the wireless weapon: How to take aim at traditionally out-of-reach businesses"
Archive available now
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

CED Webcast:
"Gearing up for PacketCable Multimedia "
Oct. 27, 2005
Cost: Free
For registration or information
Sponsored by CableMatrix, Camiant, Motorola, Sandvine

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

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


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