Can MovieBeam fly on early release windows?
MovieBeam is back! The service, mothballed by Disney last spring, was relaunched last week with some new investors and a much wider reach—29 "major" markets versus the meager three it had in its early days.
In addition to offering a limited number of titles in hi-def format, the new version of MovieBeam aims to differentiate itself by offering Disney films in the DVD window, making their appearance on the service preempt traditional video-on-demand and "over-the-top" broadband video services out there today (Akimbo, Vongo, et al). The new MovieBeam set-top also comes equipped with an Ethernet port, meaning it will be able to obtain content directly from the Internet.
Other than these three primary differences, the new MovieBeam looks a lot like the old MovieBeam:
• The set-top and equipment isn't cheap ($199.99, after a $50 rebate).
• The box comes preloaded with 100 titles.
• New titles are fed to the box via datacasting in partnership with local broadcasters (Note: U.S. Digital Television LLC also uses this technology to fuel its limited lineup, "no frills" digital TV service).
Among what's new with MovieBeam, the early window is the key differentiator. But is that really enough to get consumers to shell out almost $200? I don't think so.
What it will do is teach Disney the true value of an earlier window and help it determine if it will commit cannibalism by releasing films on VOD and DVD simultaneously. If it looks like it will produce a higher rate of buys, look for Disney some day down the road to offer early access to its other VOD partners (cable, telcos, etc.). But I don't see MovieBeam becoming a runaway success. Except for those early windows, which are applied only to Disney-owned content for the moment, consumers can get pretty much the same thing from cable and other suppliers...and, in most cases, for a whole lot less.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Editor in Chief, CED magazine and xOD Capsule
Comcast looks to pay the freight on 'free' VOD
Operators have offered so-called "free" VOD fare for several years, leveraging it as a retention tool, to add value to the digital tier, and as a way for consumers to grow comfortable using VOD without getting charged for it.
Although cable has embedded ads to help pay the freight on VOD, the process has been clunky and cumbersome. New technologies and systems, however, promise more accurate targeting and an overall easier and more automated way to handle the process.
Comcast Spotlight, the ad sales arm of Comcast Cable, is among the early ones taking a stab at on-demand advertising and looking at its ability to create a new revenue stream for VOD.
Using the Tandberg Television AdPoint platform, Comcast Spotlight said it will automatically splice ads directly into VOD content. The company's said the move marks "a major advancement in how advertising will be delivered to consumers."
And it is past the trial stage.
"Anyone with VOD (from Comcast) will be getting these ads," said Braxton Jarratt, SVP of business development and marketing at Tandberg.
Though in just the early phases of the rollout, Comcast initially will insert ads into VOD titles from networks operated by the MSO, including SuccessTV, Music Spy Videos and DriverTV.
Enlisting this capability with networks owned and controlled by Comcast offers a way to start the VOD ad placement process, Jarratt explained.
Initially, the system will enable Comcast to target ads geographically, starting with some national advertising.
AdPoint, a product Tandberg acquired via its purchase of N2 Broadband, handles the production, management and placement functions of "non-linear" advertising. The system is comprised of a Campaign Manager, Media Manager, and the Xport Producer, which marks "advertising opportunities" within on-demand assets. AdPoint is already integrated with "major" video servers, and can run on cable VOD systems that run on a variety of VOD backoffice platforms.
Jarratt likens the Campaign Manager to the "brains" of the system. As a centralized component, the Campaign Manager captures every program on the VOD network that has the ability for ad insertions.
The Media Manager, controlled by the Campaign Manager, tracks VOD assets and ad content in the operator's local system.
Jarratt said Tandberg's work with Comcast on on-demand ad insertion is just the beginning. A "major goal" of Tandberg's is to be part of at least two more "significant" MSO deployments this year.
C-COR adds DPI deals
C-COR Inc. had some ad-related news of its own last week, announced it had secured digital program insertion (DPI) deals in a total of nine more markets with Adelphia Communications, Charter Communications, and Comcast Spotlight.
With Charter, C-COR's DPI gear, which uses IP transport, is now installed in the MSO's headquarters market of St. Louis. Charter already uses C-COR's DPI platform in more than half of its markets.
Adelphia, meanwhile, has added the capability in Cleveland, extending its total of C-COR DPI markets to nine.
Comcast Spotlight has installed C-COR DPI in Boston, Denver, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco and St. Paul (Minn.). In all, Comcast uses C-COR DPI systems in 15 markets.
"IP transport has been tremendously important to our business model for delivering next-generation advertising cost-effectively," said Comcast Spotlight VP of Technology Paul Woidke, in a statement.
C-COR said it presently has more than 120 ad insertion deployments worldwide.
Boltax joins PixelPlay
Cable vet Jonathan Boltax has been named VP of programming and service management for PixelPlay Inc., a provider of interactive games and services.
Boltax, who will head up the company's cross-platform gaming and community services and assist with its relationships with cable MSOs, joins PixelPlay from Cablevision Systems Corp., where he most recently served as director of iTV development and digital product management. In that role, he managed and negotiated deals for iO Games, a service component of Cablevision's iO digital cable service. He also had a key role in the development of the iO Dashboard, a product that received an Emmy last year for Outstanding Achievement in Interactive Television.
Before Cablevision, Boltax was director of NBC's enhanced broadcast group.
"We are pleased that Jonathan has joined PixelPlay's already strong management team and look forward to him further expanding our subscriber base in North America under his leadership in this market," said PixelPlay President & CEO Ron Chaimowitz, in release.
PixelPlay distributes a range of games—including traditional titles such as Scrabble and Monopoly as well as coin-op classics such as Missile Command and Asteroids—for interactive television and other platforms.
DISH and CNN get interactive
EchoStar Communications has launched CNN Enhanced TV, an interactive version of the news channel that pushes headlines and images from CNN.com.
The application will also support polls and network schedules. Powered by OpenTV Corp., the service is available on EchoStar channel 100, also known as "DishHOME."
"This application offers our viewers an interactive news experience, enabling them to not only benefit from our extensive televised coverage but also take advantage of the extensive resources of CNN.com, all without leaving their television sets," said Turner Broadcasting System SVP of Strategic Planning, Corporate and Technology Strategy Kevin Cohen.
Movielink elevates two
Studio-backed Internet movie rental company Movielink handed out two promotions, naming Bryan Spaulding to senior vice president, architecture; and Bruce Anderson to senior vice president, engineering operations.
Both report to Movielink CEO Jim Ramo.
Spaulding, a founding member of Movielink and former Sony Pictures exec, will continue to support the company's strategy for portable media devices and home entertainment networks, and integration with new platforms via Web service APIs.
Anderson, late of Intertainer (now defunct), meanwhile, will head up the delivery and operation of all technologies used to bring Movielink content to consumers and other customers (e-commerce, affiliates, digital rights, and reporting, among them).
Heard on the 'Net
Denver library to check out free VOD
As if cable operators and the telcos didn't have enough to contend with when it comes to "over-the-top" video-on-demand services, it appears that some of the nation's public libraries are starting to get into the act.
Last week, The Denver Post reported that the Denver Public Library will be the first to complement a slate of free audio book downloads with free access to Internet-delivered copies of movies and educational films.
According to the paper, the library is offering the capability through OverDrive, a Cleveland-based digital rights management and digital media company that distributes premium digital content.
HBO pushes 'copy never' provisions
In a Feb. 2 filing with the FCC, HBO asked lawmakers to consider "copy never" provisions on subscription video-on-demand content. Under the proposal, DVRs would not be capable of recording the premium net's SVOD content to the hard drive. A portion of the filing is available here.
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.