VOD lawsuit targets big MSOs
The U.S. cable industry has launched video-on-demand (VOD) services on a wide scale, and although operators have yet to provide much detail about buy rates, one can assume that it's generating some decent revenue from movie purchases. Even more money should come in the VOD door, thanks to new digital ad-insertion technologies that allow for greater targeting.
It's apparently high time then for a company that owns a VOD-related patent to strike with a lawsuit against the companies that for years have spent the cash and engineering capital to deploy the service, which is exactly what USA Video Technology Corp. (USVO) did last week.
Rather than going after the vendors that make the servers and software that make VOD go, USVO has instead filed suit against the service providers - in this case, Time Warner Inc., Cox Communications, Charter Communications and a handful of Comcast Corp. entities. USVO is alleging that they infringe on a patent (No. 5,130,792) describing a "system and method for a user to request, and have delivered over a network, a digitized video program." USVO was awarded the patent back in 1992.
Although none of the operators named in the suit have yet to comment on the suit, history so far has shown that they probably have little to worry about. USVO leveled similar charges against the studio-backed Movielink service and not only lost the original case, but lost the appeal just last week after a three judge panel upheld the earlier judgment that Movielink's technology does not infringe on the USVO patent.
— Jeff Baumgartner, Editor in Chief, CED magazine and xOD Capsule
Studio vet named president of Ensequence
Gary Marenzi, a former exec with Paramount Pictures and MGM, has been named president of Ensequence, a maker of cross-platform software tools for interactive television (iTV).
Ensequence, which counts customers such as BBC, BSkyB, Cox Communications, and EchoStar Communications, said the addition of Marenzi will boost the company's profile with TV programmers and advertisers, and help it embark on an international expansion strategy.
Marenzi, the former president of Paramount International Television and the MGM Telecommunications Group, reports to Ensequence CEO Dalen Harrison.
During his tenure at Paramount (1997-2004), Marenzi oversaw distribution of feature films and TV programming to broadcasters and other channels outside the U.S. At MGM, Marenzi is credited, among other things, of architecting the studio's production alliance with Showtime Networks.
"Viewers are coming to expect interactive content on every imaginable delivery platform in addition to traditional television, which represents an incredible opportunity for Ensequence and the programmers, advertisers and operators that we serve," Marenzi said, in a release.
He most recently was the founder and president of his own media and entertainment consultancy firm, Marenzi & Associates.
Nielsen enlists multi-platform initiative
Nielsen Media Research has launched a new initiative that will measure TV viewing in just about any format video programming is made available.
The new "Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement" (A2/M2) initiative will develop and deploy measurement technologies and techniques to cover TV viewed via the Internet, outside the home, on cell phones, iPods and other video-capable mobile devices.
Key elements of the strategy include a continued focus on new Active/Passive (A/P) metering technology (for viewing via video-on-demand and digital video recorders as well as video viewed via "place-shifting" services), the measurement of online streaming video, out-of-home viewing samples, new meters capable of supporting portable media devices, and, by 2011, the deployment of electronic measurement in all local markets. Nielsen also plans to create new research tools that measure viewer "engagement" in TV programming.
To aid in the integration of TV and Internet measurement, Nielsen said it will fuel those plans alongside taking a majority stake in Nielsen//NetRatings, a sister company that specializes in Internet measurement. That division will integrate date from its "SiteCensus" service, which uses proprietary "ping back" technology, which measures online usage with demographic data obtained from its metered panels of Internet users.
Nielsen will also add Internet television measurement capabilities to its People Meter samples starting next year. That, the company said, will create a unified panel to measure the relationship among traditional TV viewing with Web site usage and streaming video consumption.
Nielsen is working on new personal meters to measure viewing at work, bars, restaurants, hotels, airports and other venues that include out-of-home TV viewing. The company expects to introduce these new meters by the end of 2008, but this fall will start tests on two personal meters that will capture out-of-home viewing. Among those so-called "Go Meters," one will go in cell phones, and the other will resemble an MP3 player.
For other portable media platforms such as the iPod, Nielsen is developing "Solo Meters." To push that effort, the company expects to have a 400-person panel of iPod users by the end of this year.
Insight opens gateway to real-time VOD encryption
Insight Communications is protecting video-on-demand content using a real-time encryption platform from Harmonic Inc..
Insight, which has VOD deployed in north of 13 systems, is leveraging a "privacy mode" version of Harmonic's Narrowcast Services Gateway (NSG). The operator added the capability via a software upgrade to its deployed NSGs.
Harmonic said the platform will enable Insight to deliver larger libraries of VOD content via IP-based video transport streams, but ensure that only authorized users can access premium and other subscription-based fare.
"As the consumer migration to digital cable continues and VOD usage accelerates, the ability to scale in step with demand and, at the same time, securely transport video assets to the home is a critical business issue," said Patrick Forde, Insight's VP of engineering, video platforms, in a statement.
Harmonic's solution provides Insight with a single-system solution for VOD delivery. The use of real-time encryption is considered more scalable than traditional pre-encryption systems, which can require operators to store multiple versions of a program, even for something as simple as a version for regular play out as well as one to support "trick play" functions (fast-forward, rewind, etc.).
Santana takes reins of NTN Buzztime
Dario Santana has returned to the broadband business after being named president and CEO of NTN Buzztime Inc., which has gaming partnerships with several cable operators.
Santana, who officially assumes that post on July 10, joins the company following a lengthy stint as president of Tyco Fire & Security - Latin America.
Before joining Tyco Fire & Security in 2002, Santana was president and CEO of Aerocast Inc., a Liberty- and Motorola-backed startup that specialized in streaming video. Before exiting the market, Aerocast was able to secure some trials, including a technical pilot in Seattle with Millennium Digital Media.
Santana joined Aerocast following about three years with General Instrument and Motorola. His last role there was as VP and GM of advanced network systems.
At NTN, Santana will succeed Stanley Kinsey, who has decided not to renew his employment contract, but will remain on the board.
PixelPlay powers Dish Network game pack
EchoStar Communications is adding a new pay-to-play games service called DishGames in partnership with PixelPlay.
For an additional $4.99 a month (or $49.95 annually), subscribers will be given access to a set of games that feature limited interactivity.
service, which will feature
titles such as Asteroids Mega,
will run $4.99 per month.
DishGames will feature 16 games from PixelPlay's stable, including Asteroids Mega, Centipede Mega, TextTwist, Chainz, Monopoly and Scrabble, among others. EchoStar has a working relationship with PixelPlay, which has been the source of the Dish Network's KidsWise feature and the Olympics iTV application. KidsWise will now be a subsection of DishGames.
Other titles from Atari (which owns Asteroids and Centipede), Hasbro (Monopoly, Scrabble), MumboJumbo and Real Arcade will be launched on DishGAMES in the future.
Subscribers to DishGames will be able to submit their scores on four of the games that EchoStar features each month. EchoStar will be able to tabulate and present leader boards, which in turn will allow the company to hold game tournaments. EchoStar expects to give out prizes in tournament play.
New customers will have access to all 16 games for the first five weeks, after which the games will rotate out weekly from a library, EchoStar said. All games will also be available for non-subscribers in demo mode.
Dolby tones down VOD and DPI
At this week's SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver, Dolby Laboratories is showing off the DP600 Program Optimizer, a new audio analysis and loudness correction system for video-on-demand (VOD) and digital program insertion (DPI).
Dolby's DP600 Program Optimizer looks to regulate loudness for
on-demand fare and digitally inserted content, such as ad spots.
The DP600, an extension of Dolby's LM100 Broadcast Loudness Meter with Dialogue Intelligence, is designed to analyze and correct the loudness of DPI and legacy (MPEG-1 LII) ad-insertion files, as well as VOD files, without impacting dynamic range, the company said.
"The cable industry is continuously faced with the challenge of maintaining consistency among digital and analog program sources, including locally encoded ad content," said Dolby Senior Broadcast Product Manager Jeffrey Riedmiller.
Noting that estimating and controlling the loudness of DPI and VOD content has been an issue faced by cable operators for "quite some time," Dolby's new gear "intelligently and automatically addressed these issues for all of their file-based content and ensures subscribers are provided with a higher quality and more consistent entertainment experience," added Steve Grossman, the product manager at Mega Herz, a Dolby partner.
TVN puts TV Guide on the spot
TVN Entertainment has secured a multi-year video-on-demand (VOD) deal with TV Guide Spot, a network that has access to about 20 million subscribers.
Under the deal, TVN will supply its asset management and distribution services, including its "TVNow" quick-turnaround VOD platform.
TV Guide Spot supplies content created specifically for cable-fed VOD services supplied by MSOs such as Adelphia Communications, Time Warner Cable, Insight Communications, Charter Communications, Cox Communications and Comcast Cable. Short-form programs on the service include Watch This! (a guide to primetime TV); Big Movie Guide (highlights of on-demand movies and celebrity interviews); mVids (musical acts and artists appearing on TV); and highlights from the TV Guide Channel.
If it walks like a TiVo…
Last week, we asked readers to comment on the litigious fallout of Cablevision's plans for the remote-storage digital video recorder (RS-DVR), which is under big pressure from several major programmers and studios.
Well, here's a comment from a reader, David Carr (check his blog), who is in favor of Cablevision's approach:
"It seems to me that what counts is the consumer experience. If it walks like a TiVo and quacks like a TiVo, it's a TiVo. In other words, the physical location of the storage medium shouldn't matter so long as the same services are provided to the user, with the same restrictions. It also seems that the content owners could potentially have more control over the feature set of this service vs. TiVo, which should be attractive. It will certainly be interesting to watch this unfold. I'm hoping Cablevision wins - otherwise I believe our options for remote consumption will be severely limited."
Ring my bell
VOD may not be 25 years old, but C-COR Inc., one of the primary companies that supplies the technology that runs it (thanks to its purchase of nCUBE back in early 2005), has been trading on the NASDAQ for that long.
C-COR's Dave Woodle (center) is presented with
a crystal commemorating his company's 25 anniversary
as a NASDAQ-listed company. He's flanked by two NASDAQ
officials -- Jeff Kaplan (far left) and John Shipley (far right).
To mark the company's 25th anniversary on NASDAQ, C-COR Chairman & CEO rang the closing bell on Tuesday, May 30. NASDAQ also featured C-COR on its landmark seven-story tower on NYC's Times Square.
'Banshee' opens early on VOD
In the latest example of using VOD to give some extra, early attention to programming, Oxygen is allowing Time Warner Cable to offer an on-demand, sneak peek of "Banshee," an original movie from the network starring Taryn Manning.
Time Warner is serving up the movie for free through Jun 21. The linear, more traditional premiere of "Banshee" is set for Saturday, June 24 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
It marks the third early on-demand premiere for an Oxygen original.
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.
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