VDC video service goes direct-to-consumer
VDC Corp. is putting a new spin on "over-the-top" video by offering linear cable programming via high-speed connections, but taking that extra step - actually paying carriage fees to the networks.
Formally launched this week in Atlanta at The National Show, VDC's subscription programming service delivers those networks directly to consumers over high-speed links.
To facilitate the offering, VDC, an eight-employee startup based in Northbrook, Ill., has carved out carriage agreements with programmers to deliver their networks via the Internet to PCs and handheld devices capable of running the Microsoft Windows Media Player.
VDC is launching the $11.95 per month service with enough carriage agreements for a lineup of approximately 20 channels, including NASA Television, Healty Living Channel, Fashion TV, ShopNBC, MavTV, The Pentagon Channel, Q Television Network and Adrenaline Nation. Initially, VDC won't support local broadcast channels, though it claims to have the technical capability to do so.
VDC Chairman Robert Heymann said his carriage contracts with programmers are very similar to those that cable and DBS providers pay - on a per subscriber/per month basis.
One obvious issue VDC will have to grapple with is QoS (quality of service) - something it can't really offer because its service travels the public Internet. The company, which uses VC-1 coding, hopes to deal with that potential shortcoming via optimized routing and peering deals with major IP backbone providers and by offering a video over variable bit rates that rise and fall based on the customer's current connection speed, according to company Chief Technology Officer Scott Wolf. Supported speeds range from 70 kbps on the low end for mobile phones, to 1.5 Mbps on the high end for PCs and other broadband-enabled devices.
To sweeten the pot, VDC is also exploring video-on-demand and a premium movie tier. In the meantime, company officials believe its price point and "impulse buy" potential will be enough to attract as many as 100,000 subs by year-end.
Although VDC's initial program lineup still leaves a bit to be desired, I was impressed by its mosaic navigation system.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Editor in Chief, CED magazine and xOD Capsule
Bresnan taps CMC for VOD
Bresnan Communications is the latest MSO to leverage the Comcast Media Center's national video-on-demand (VOD) content management and distribution service.
The CMS's platform offers operators a range of VOD content creation, management and distribution services. Insight Communications and corporate cousin, Comcast Cable, are already using the CMC to manage customized packages of VOD programming from a raft of TV networks and other sources.
The Colorado-based CMC launched VOD services in spring 2004. Its platform encodes and delivers more than 3,000 VOD "assets" per month, equating to roughly 1,200 hours of content.
"Providing on-demand services from the CMC platform broadens the variety of programming available to our customers and solidified this important competitive advantage [against DBS]," said Bresnan VP of Operations Jim Gemmill.
Bresnan has launched VOD in several markets in Montana, Colorado, and Wyoming.
Shaw puts Warner Bros. on-demand
Shaw CableSystems has inked a video-on-demand deal with Warner Bros International Television Distribution (WBITD).
With the deal, Shaw said its VOD library will swell to more than 2,000 titles.
Titles that are part of the agreement include "Corpse Bride" and "Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire."
Shaw offers VOD in several markets, including Calgary, Duncan, Edmonton, Ft. McMurray, Prince Albert, Prince George, Saskatoon, Thompson, Okanagan, Vancouver, Victoria and Winnipeg.
Cooney to head up Tandberg Americas
Eric Cooney will spearhead the Americas division of Tandberg Television, as the company moves ahead with integrating a spate of acquisitions.
Reggie Bradford, the president of the division, will be leaving Tandberg to join an unnamed "non-competitive media startup" based in Atlanta. Bradford joined the company last February, when Tandberg purchased N2 Broadband, a maker of VOD software and backoffice systems.
"My decision to leave is a hard one, driven by my passion for startups and the fantastic opportunity the new venture offers me," Bradford said, in a statement.
Cooney, Tandberg's president & CEO, will helm the integration of the company's recent additions of N2 Broadband; GoldPocket Interactive, an interactive television software company; and SkyStream Networks, a maker of IPTV headend and content distribution platforms.
"The Americas acquisitions have strengthened both our technology and market position and, as our largest geographic region, it is opportune for increased management attention to accelerate our profitable growth in the region," Cooney said, in a release.
Badawiyeh on way to C-COR
Basil Badawiyeh will officially join C-COR Inc. next Monday (April 17) as vice president of OnDemand Strategy.
Badawiyeh, who most recently managed advanced video engineering & development at Adelphia Communications, will report to Bailey Shewchuk, the company's SVP of global strategy.
In his new role, Badawiyeh will focus on the direction and strategic development of C-COR's on-demand platforms, which include video servers and backoffice systems, for the U.S. and other markets.
Badawiyeh was selected as the 2004 SCTE Young Engineer of the Year, recognized for his technical analysis and field trials of HFC equipment, including VOD edge QAM and high-definition television. He was also recognized for his role in helping Adelphia set a strategy for IP-based transport systems.
Charter rides Broadbus down south
Charter Communications has formally named Broadbus Technologies as a server vendor partner for systems serving the MSO's Southeast division.
The deployment, which covers systems serving about 1.2 million homes, will feature the Broadbus B-1, a DRAM-centric video server.
According to recent deployment data, Charter is using Broadbus servers in the following markets: Asheville, N.C.; Duluth/Gwinnett County, Ga.; Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C.; Newnan/La Grange, Ga.; St. Tammany/Slidell, La.; Stockbridge, Ga.; and Thiboudaux, La. All of those systems use the Tandberg Television OpenStream VOD backoffice system.
Calling the server deployment an "upgrade" to customers in the Southeast, Charter VP of Advanced Engineering, Digital Video Pragash Pillai noted that "the Broadbus architecture can stream a large amount of content in a very short time."
Charter said VOD is available to more than 65 percent of its 2.8 million digital subs, and to more than 80 percent of digital subs in its Southeast division. Charter said it plans to expand that figure throughout the year.
Charter's backoffice approach has enabled the operator to use a diverse group of server vendors that include Arroyo Video Solutions, Broadbus, C-COR Inc., Concurrent Computer Corp. and Kasenna Inc..
Gemstar-TV Guide makes mobile play
Gemstar-TV Guide International has ported two guide and listing products for the mobile world.
TV Guide Mobile is an interactive program guide (IPG) designed for cell phones and other mobile devices. The company's mobile entertainment division has also introduced an on-demand version of the TV Guide Channel for handsets.
Gemstar has already launched a mobile IPG in Japan via a joint venture with Dentsu Inc. and Tokyo News Service Ltd. That product, dubbed "G-GUIDE Mobile," is available through NTT DoCoMo Inc. and KDDI Corp.
Closer to home, expect Gemstar's mobile IPG and programming efforts to play a role in the cable industry's foray into cellular and mobile services, particularly with the joint venture between Sprint, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications, Advance/Newhouse and Time Warner Cable.
The Gemstar division said it will collaborate with a set of tech partners to expand its mobile strategy, including Roundbox (mobile broadcast software), Alacre (mobile content management), m-Qube (mobile channel "enabler"), and mPortal (mobile content and applications).
Of that group, Roundbox just closed a $15 million series-B round of financing.
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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.