When no news feels like new news
It's the rare occurrence that news is made by the fact that there is really no new news to share. Such is the case with Cablevision Systems Corp. and its ambitious Remote Storage-Digital Video Recorder (RS-DVR).
Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge, speaking last Tuesday (2/27) during an earnings call with reporters and analysts, said the status of the case has not changed since the last earnings call.
"The case has been heard and we are awaiting a ruling," Rutledge said, responding to an analyst's question on the progress of the MSO's RS-DVR initiative.
Last June, Cablevision agreed to postpone the launch of its RS-DVR service until a programmer- and studio-led lawsuit against the MSO is resolved.Cablevision has argued that its RS-DVR concept —whereby consumers would be given access to a fixed amount of storage on network servers and set recordings manually— is protected under "fair use" rulings stemming from the 1984 Sony Betamax case, because its network-based approach is identical to traditional set-top based DVRs.
A raft of programmers and studios, including Paramount Pictures, Disney Enterprises, and 20th Century Fox, are alleging that Cablevision's RS-DVR platform would violate copyright laws.
— Jeff Baumgartner, xOD Capsule Editor, and CED Editor-in-Chief
Charter outlines VOD gains
Charter Communications offered some details related to its VOD last week during its quarterly call with analysts and investors.
Company EVP & COO Mike Lovett said Charter now offers VOD to 75 percent of its digital customers. New content and increasing awareness among consumers, he added, helped to drive a 55 percent increase in unique on-demand buyers in 2006, and a 56 percent jump in total on-demand revenues.
Invidi platform aims to put ads on target
Invidi Technologies Corp. has launched an advertising system designed to deliver targeted, addressable TV spots via cable, satellite and IPTV platforms.
Invidi's offering, dubbed "Advertising Decision System" (ADS), can work in tandem with its "Advatar" set-top-based ad-insertion application. That app, the company announced last October, was demonstrated to run on Motorola and Scientific Atlanta set-tops at an eTV (enhanced television) interop conducted by CableLabs.
The ADS platform determines which ads to run based on "privacy-based" subscriber data, third-party databases and criteria set by advertisers. The company said its system can be leveraged for both linear and on-demand video.
Fundamentally Invidi's system uses a behavioral model that takes into account who is watching TV at any moment in time, according to company CTO & COO Bruce Anderson, a former exec of now defunct VOD pioneer Diva Systems. That data is then incorporated toward a decision on which ad to deliver to the viewer.
He said Invidi's technology can cast a relatively wide, but targeted net, and deliver specific ads to a region or ad zone or household, or take sniper-like aim at an individual viewer.
Anderson said such a capability will come into play particularly with local cable ad avails, which, because they are local, are generally more relevant to the audience and, therefore, carry more value than national spots.
For "Monday Night Football," for example, a company like General Motors can tap Invidi's system to run four different types of commercials and target them to a particular demographic.
Invidi also has baked in a way to target ads only to people who are actually watching a channel. An ad, Anderson explained, can be targeted only to an individual who happens to be watching a given network at 2 a.m., compared to a traditional model where an ad is sent to a network at a specific time slot. At 2 a.m., it's quite possible that no one would be watching a particular network.. In that latter example, the advertiser is given the ability to pick a demographic and determine how many impressions they want to generate - independent of the network of time of day. Advertiser just know that their ads will be delivered to their desired demographic, and know that ads will only be sent when the system knows viewers in that particular demo are actually watching TV.
The difference between the two can be likened to an Internet-like "guaranteed impression model" versus a traditional TV ratings model, Anderson said.
Princeton, N.J.-based Invidi secured a $16 million "B" round of funding in March 2005 led by InterWest Partners. At the time, Invidi said it had raised a total of $28 million over a span of 14 months. The company was founded in 2000.
Anderson said Invidi is within a couple of months of its first launch with a yet-to-be-disclosed cable operator.
Initially, those deployments will involve "spot optimization" - allowing the operator to run multiple commercials within a specific break, with decisions based on protected demographic information.
Invidi's ad technology can also apply to DBS providers, because the set-top aids in the decision to run one ad over another during a given program.
Invidi's integration work has extended beyond the Motorola and SA set-top environments. On the VOD front, the bulk of Invidi's work has been done with C-COR. Invidi has also started some integration activity with SeaChange International, as well as headend/splicing firms such as Terayon Communication Systems, BigBand Networks, RGB Networks and Scopus Network.
Fox offers Web VOD play to broadcast affiliates
Fox (FOX), Fox Interactive Media (FIM) and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. have given their broadcast affiliates the green light to offer some of Fox's top primetime shows via the Web.
The deal will allow more than 200 broadcast network affiliates to offer local viewers the ability to watch or buy Fox shows such as "24," "Prison Break" and "Bones," via affiliate-run Web sites.
Fox has given the okay for broadcast affiliates
to offer prime time hits such as "Bones"
on their own Web sites.
New episodes will be posted the night after they premiere on broadcast television. Other shows offered on-demand include "Standoff," "Vanished," "War at Home," "American Dad," and "The Winner."
Under the terms of the deal struck with the FOX affiliate Board of Governors, FOX, FIM, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and the local affiliates will share both transactional and advertising revenues, the companies said.
FOX on Demand will deliver the programming. Previously, FOX on Demand offered an ad-supported, streaming-only platform, but now the service will allow visitors to purchase and download shows for PCs and portable, on-the-go devices, as well.
FOX on Demand has streamed free, full episodes of selected shows on its MySpace page and on 24 of its owned-and-operated MyFOX local Web sites since October 2006.
—Traci Patterson, CED News/Web Editor
Comcast partners to offer music countdown on VOD
Comcast Corp., Clear Channel Radio and Music Choice are tag-teaming on Video 6 Pack, a new VOD product for the Chicago market that will showcase local radio personalities as they host a music video countdown show.
Comcast will offer the episodes via its Music Choice free VOD service. Each episode will be offered for one month. WGCI-FM will also continue to stream each episode on its Website.
Clear Channel Radio station Web sites launched Video 6 Pack as a Web-only show in Aug. 2006.
Crazy Howard McGee and Tony Sculfield, hosts of WGCI-FM, also host the Video 6 Pack program originating out of Chicago.
As part of the deal, Clear Channel Radio and Music Choice will cross-promote the other's platform on-air.
Chicago is the first market to try out the Web/cable VOD multi-platform concept.
"The Chicago trial is a great first step towards further expansion," said Clear Channel Radio EVP Evan Harrison, in a release.
Comcast, meanwhile, hopes the added local fare will boost VOD usage. In 2006, Comcast served up 3 billion VOD "views," "due in large part to unique content such as hi-definition movies and exclusive, local programming like Video 6 Pack," added Comcast VP of Marketing Eric Schaefer.
SeaChange establishes India VOD foothold
SeaChange International is powering what it calls the first IP-based on-demand television service in India.
India Online (IOL) Broadband has launched the service to more than 250,000 subs in Mumbai using SeaChange's set of VOD software and servers and the vendor's IPTV set-top middleware. IOL Broadband is delivering services —including on-demand access to Bollywood and Hollywood fare— over the networks of government-owned Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd.
IOL Broadband marks SeaChange's
first deployment in India.
SeaChange said IOL Broadband is its latest partner to use H.264/MPEG-4 AVC video coding, which is about twice as bandwidth efficient as MPEG-2.
With the deployment, SeaChange has secured its first foothold in a market expected to see big growth by the end of the decade. According to a forecast by Media Partners Asia, India will have more than 100 million pay TV households by 2010.
"Growth here is rapid and is fueled by new consumer options, including IPTV," said Media Partners Asia Executive Director Vivek Couto, in a release.
Blockbuster in talks to acquire Movielink
Blockbuster is negotiating to buy the studio-backed Movielink service, according to the Wall Street Journal (story here, subscription required). The price is likely to be less than $50 million in cash and stock, the WSJ speculated.
The acquisition would be mutually beneficial. Blockbuster needs to compete against Netflix, which announced its downloading service in January, and MovieLink needs some marketing muscle to rise above the growing pack of movie download services from everyone from Apple to Wal-Mart.
Blockbuster, scrambling to keep up with Netflix, countered its rival's mail order success with a program to allow customers to order by mail, but also to exchange films at its outlets. The company has even adopted the "triple play" language of the cable industry, only its three elements are rental options: in-store, online mail and downloading.
The WSJ said Blockbuster Online still only has about 2 million paying subscribers compared with more Netflix's 6 million.
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