xOD Capsule Newsletter - May 09, 2006

Mon, 05/08/2006 - 8:00pm  |  CED Broadband Direct  |  Current Issue  |  Subscriptions May 09 , 2006 CBS takes 'innertube' over the topCBS Corp. became the latest big broadcaster to spread its broadband wings with innertube, an ad-supported, Web-based video channel. innertube, which dabbles in a broadband business model mirrored by other "free" Internet video services such as AOL's In2TV, will compliment programming from CBS programming divisions (including the company's news, entertainment and sports units, and King World) with content created uniquely for Internet distribution. Genres will include reality TV, music, entertainment magazines and talk shows, sketch comedy and animation. CBS said it will offer "encore" presentations of its prime line lineup and a library of 2,600 titles and about 100,000 hours of programming. Initially, CBS will stream three shows daily, and will post a new program each day of the workweek. Original programming will include titles such as "Greek to Chic," "BBQ Bill," "Animate This!" and "Beyond Survivor," a behind-the-scenes look at the network's popular reality show. CBS will also leverage innertube to debut several new series, including "Inturn," "The Green Room," and "Hook Me Up," and offer "repurposed" highlights from "Big Brother." The strategy also follows in the footsteps of the Disney-ABC Television Group, which announced earlier this year it would stream ad-supported, full-length episodes of "Lost," "Desperate Housewives" for free as part of a two-month trial at Disney, however, has maintained that the service is designed to be additive, rather than cannibalistic, to cable VOD. CBS, meanwhile, did not shy away from the fact that its new over-the-top service is designed to ride high-speed connections with little or no direct relationship with the companies providing the link. "With this broadband channel, we've essentially bypassed cable and created a general entertainment outlet utilizing existing creative and content resources," said CBS President & CEO Leslie Moonves. Despite that posture, CBS has played nice with cable on the VOD front. In January, Comcast began offering four primetime series from CBS via VOD: "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "NCIS," "Survivor," and "The Amazing Race." The big difference: Rather than supporting it with ads, the cable-fed VOD versions sell for 99 cents per episode. Obviously, CBS is leveraging cable VOD and burgeoning high-speed access to test the new distribution waters, but has no plans to cater exclusively to one or the other. What are your thoughts on this growing trend? Is Internet distribution of prime time programming simply additive to the existing model, or is this something that cable operators should be extremely worried about? I'll share your thoughts in a future issue. — Jeff Baumgartner, Editor in Chief, CED magazine and xOD Capsule Imagine touts variable bit rate VODImagine Communications, a startup based in the San Diego area, emerged from stealth mode last week with a first round of funding and its first product in tow. As for products, its PersonalizedTV platform is a software-based statistical multiplexing tool that initially will be targeted to help cable MSOs manage bandwidith devoted to video-on-demand less expensively and more efficiently. By incorporating stat muxing and variable bit rate (VBR) methods to VOD, the company claims operators will see a greater-than 50 percent enhancement in bandwidth utilization. On the financial front, Imagine picked up $9.2 million in its first round of venture funding led by Carmel Ventures and Columbia Capital. Its patent-pending PersonalizedTV statistical multiplexing technology and software-based infrastructure solutions will be able to improve bandwidth usage, enhance video quality, and allow operators to customize services such as targeted ads and personalized audio. "We believe we're the first company to offer variable bit rate to the consumer in a VOD environment," Fred Cary, Imagine's president and CEO, told CED. With the introduction of PersonalizedTV, operators could as much as double the number of video streams per QAM. Continuing to deliver VOD at a constant bit-rate is not economically justifiable, he explained. Imagine's technology can be used in both a stored VOD and real-time switched environment. In a switched environment, Imagine's technology will allow operators to use stat muxing techniques to simultaneously and efficiently ship SD and HD streams. By implementing its technology in software, Imagine is able to leverage carrier-grade, off-the-shelf hardware available from multiple suppliers. But not all believe that VBR VOD is ready for prime time. Although VBR for VOD will happen someday, it is presently cost-prohibitive compared to the bandwidth it actually saves, argued Seth Kenvin, vice president of strategic marketing for BigBand Networks, an Imagine competitor. (Note: Imagine co-founders Ron Gutman, who serves as chief technology officer, and Doron Segev, vice president of engineering, hailed most recently from BigBand). "The amount of silicon dedicated to (VBR VOD) isn't worth the bandwidth efficiency gain," he claimed. "It is not economically practical, but it will get there." He said about 10 standard-definition VOD streams (at about 3.75 Mbps) can be send down a 6 MHz channel. Once VBR VOD can squeeze 15 to 20 VOD streams down that channel, then it will make more sense, Kenvin said, noting that operators can get more out of their bandwidth-saving buck with tools such as switched broadcast. For its part, Imagine said its technology can be used in stored VOD and in real-time switched environments. As mentioned earlier, it claims its technology can double the number of VOD streams per QAM. AT&T loads up on more high-speed downloadsAT&T Inc. has inked a deal to offer TotalVid's library of 2,600 videos to the company's high-speed Yahoo! and Worldnet subs. Under the deal, AT&T and TotalVid will operate a co-branded site, and push it with a seven-day free trial to the service. AT&T will also offer TotalVid content on the Worldnet portal. Following the trial, TotalVid runs $9.95 per month for unlimited downloads. Customers can also download titles individually for $1.99 on the low-end. TotalVid is a subsidiary of Landmark Communications, the company behind The Weather Channel. Its partners include Akimbo, AOL, Blinkx, Comcast, DaveTV and The Platform. TotalVid's library features content in genres such as action sports, anime, cooking, fitness, home improvement, martial arts instruction, music, and travel. The broadband content deal marks just the latest in a string for AT&T, which has north of 7.4 million DSL lines in service. Last month, it hooked up with Vongo, a new movie download service from Starz Entertainment Group. Navic, Cox expand targeted ad partnershipCox Communications has expanded its use of a targeted advertising platform in the San Diego market. Cox is already using the system, supplied by Navic Networks, in Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz. There, "thousands" of commercials include calls-to-action, "telescoping" and other targeted enhancements each day, the companies said. "The value of Navic's Targeted Advertising solution has been proven in Phoenix and Tucson, and we look forward to offering this enriched advertising product to our customers in San Diego," said Cox Media Director of New Media Business Development David Porter, in a statement. Everstream adds audience measurementsEverstream has broadened its product portfolio to include audience measurement tools. Everstream, a data collection and reporting company purchased by Concurrent Computer Corp. last year for about $15 million, has added audience measurement modules for its DataSuite and ReportOne platforms. Those, the company said, can enable partner cable operators, DBS and IPTV companies to continue to receive reports on linear viewing, as well as usage data linked to video-on-demand and digital video recording. Everstream said it can report on sample sizes in the "tens of millions," but protects subscriber privacy by aggregating data anonymously. EchoStar Communications is among the service providers already employing both of Everstream's platforms to collect and analyze viewing data and trends. Other Everstream partners include Comcast Cable, Time Warner Cable, Adelphia Communications, Cox Communications and Japan-based J:COM. Heard On The Net ABC affiliates join streaming trialPerhaps addressing affiliate complaints about Internet distribution of top prime time shows to devices such as Apple video iPods, four ABC affiliates will join a video streaming test that will offer "Lost" and other shows free-of-charge, reports (subscription required) corporate cousin pub Multichannel News. MCN said affiliates in Dallas, Orlando, Milwaukee and Knoxville and Los Angeles entered the deal and will help to promote the trial, which offer several ABC shows form the site. The ad-supported streaming trial is set to run through June 30, and feature shows such as "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," and "Alias." We are making changes and additions (including international deployments) to ourWeb-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.   May 2006Issue Contents » Company: Imagine Communications Inc. Headquarters: San Diego, Calif. URL: CEO: Frederick Cary Claim to fame: PersonalizedTV, stat muxing platform for video-on-demand, switched broadcast, targeted advertising and other digital video applications. The company was founded in 2005 by CTO Ron Gutman and VP of Engineering Doron Segev. Recent news of note: Came out of stealth mode last week to launch its platform and an announced $9.2 million first round of venture funding led by Carmel Ventures and Columbia Capital. The company's first public demo will be shown at the 2006 SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, set to run June 20-23 in Denver.   Company: AccuWeather Headquarters: State College, Pa.URL: President: Dr. Joel Myers Company claim to fame: Weather information delivered via multiple channels, including television, the Internet, and print. It counts north of 250,000 paying customers in the media, business, government and institutions sectors, with partners that include CNN Interactive, ABC's owned and operated stations, The Washington Post and The New York Times. Recent news of note: Launched an interactive channel for cable and IPTV platforms in partnership with ICTV. The resulting service, which will use Internet-style, targeted advertising models, will feature searchable local forecasts, animated, satellite-generated weather maps and local television weather broadcast programming   Summit on Intellectual Property and Digital Media "From Creator to Consumer: Working Together in the Digital World" May 22-23, 2006The Cable Center Denver, Colo. More information:303-871-7722 -or- Click Here Walk of Fame GalaRocky Mountain Chapter of Women in Cable & TelecommunicationsMay 25, 2006 Hyatt Regency Tech Center Denver, Colo. More information: Click Here ACA Washington Summit American Cable Association May 8-9, 2006Washington, D.C. More information: Click Here 2006 RFID Forum June 7-8, 2006 Toronto, Canada More information: Click Here Conference for the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association (BCFM) June 11-13, 2006Orlando, Fla. More information: Click Here SCTE Cable-Tec Expo June 20-23, 2006Denver, Colo. More information: Click Here 2nd AnnualC-COR Global IP Summit June 28-29, 2006 Athens, GreeceMore information: Click Here CTAM SummitJuly 17-19, 2006Boston, Mass. More information: Click Here IPComm 2006Sept. 25-27, 2006 Nashville, Tenn. More information: Click Here 2006 FTTH Conference & ExpoOct. 2-5, 2006 The Venetial Resort Las Vegas, Nev. More information: Click Here CTHRA Fall Symposium Oct. 18, 2006Philadelphia, Pa. Park Hyatt HotelMore information: Click Here Copyright © 2006 Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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