DirecTV rolling out VOD service this summer
DirecTV's newly born on-demand offspring is in the early alpha stage, but the company says it will reach the beta stage of testing by at least mid-May and be ready for rollout in July.
The new service will bestow basic-cable networks with complete control of their own dedicated channels for delivering on-demand content. All DirecTV subs need is an HD DVR receiver and a high-speed modem connection.
Networks that DirecTV has confirmed for the service include Starz!, Sprout, A&E, E!, Style Network, FOX, the Golf Channel, Versus, Oxygen, Food Network and HGTV.
Studios that DirecTV has confirmed include Paramount Pictures, Dreamworks Pictures, MGM Studios, 20th Century Fox, Universal Studios and Lions Gate Entertainment to provide HD movies on-demand. DirecTV will also provide movies from its lineup, including the HBO, Showtime and Cinemax families, making more than 2,000 movies available on the service.
Via the consumer's broadband connection, DirecTV can propagate content to a television more efficiently than a cable operator can, says Eric Shanks, executive VP for entertainment at DirecTV.
Shanks says DirecTV has the technology to ingest content through the system, to a customer, within 30 minutes, whereas it takes cable operators more time to get titles from a programmer. DirecTV subs will be able to watch the programming immediately because they won't have to wait for the entire program to download before consuming it.
And, Shanks says, the more popular clips-say one about the Don Imus scandal today-could be delivered via satellite far more efficiently than over a broadband connection.
On DirecTV.com, customers can browse on-demand titles and have them sent directly to their DVR. They can also record scheduled programs on their DVR and book live recordings.
As for the STB, DirecTV engineers have architected it so that, from a security standpoint, the same encoding arrives whether the content has passed over satellite or a broadband connection.
And, even though its cable competition has been offering on-demand services for several years, sending billions of video streams to their subs, DirecTV maintains that its VOD rollout is not delayed.
"If you take a look at video on-demand in general, it's had zero impact on our business so far," says Shanks. "We just think it's something nice to do for our customers. It opens up another level of entertainment choices for them. We think we're doing it at exactly the right time."
—Traci Patterson, Web/News Editor - CED, Editor - xOD Capsule
Harmonic offers new VOD capability, software app, gateway
Harmonic Inc. said its new VOD capabilities for non-real-time content delivery, on its StreamLiner 2000 video server product line, are now available. The company also introduced the new LIVEcut scheduler and the enhanced ingest gateway solution for its on-demand software.
The new VOD download capability allows video servers to download assets to STB hard drives, in addition to the existing support available on the StreamLiner platform for real-time VOD sessions, the company said.
The VOD capability is designed for service providers such as satellite direct-to-home (DTH), terrestrial (DVB-T) and telco operators who are unable to guarantee or deliver a real-time VOD service today.
Harmonic said it has also debuted LIVEcut, a software app that enables service providers to automate the capture of broadcast video content for on-demand apps such as VOD, time-shifted TV or network personal video recording (nPVR).
And Ingest Gateway, a workflow system for managing the ingest of offline assets, has been integrated with the company's CLEARcut storage encoding solution to facilitate the video processing needed prior to storage on the StreamLiner 2000.
Canadian companies launch TV-to-VOD ad solution
Quebecor Media Inc. (QMI) and etc.tv have commercially launched the world's first network-TV-to-VOD "telescopic advertising" solution, according to the companies.
The solution gives viewers the option to link from an advertiser's network TV commercial to content about the marketer's product or service.
The etc.tv service operates in conjunction with Videotron, Canada's third-largest cable operator, and TVA, a French-language broadcast TV network in Canada. Both TVA and Videotron are wholly owned subsidiaries of QMI.
The service will be rolled out in Canada within the next two years, and etc.tv said it is already in discussions for a U.S. launch.
Comcast plans Fancast launch
Comcast Corp. plans to launch Fancast.com this summer, a new online destination that will enable consumers to search, discover and manage their entertainment options across many devices and channels, including television, computers, DVDs and wireless services, the company said.
With Fancast, consumers can search for their favorite TV shows, movies or actors, or they can ingest the video content on the site (in YouTube fashion). Fancast will tell consumers when TV shows or movies are "on," and where they can view them via television, VOD, online or on other devices.
Comcast Corp. has also reached an agreement to acquire Fandango, a Web site with movie information, show times and ticketing. Comcast said Fandango will be an integral part of the Fancast user experience.
Both Web sites will be managed by Comcast Interactive Media (CIM), a division of Comcast.
Comcast already has a top 10 Web site in Comcast.net, with more than 2.5 billion page views, 80 million videos viewed and 15 million unique visitors per month.
TWC ups Texas VOD offering
Time Warner Cable has made some 250 movies available, 24 hours a day, at its expanded "on-demand video store" for customers in North Texas.
The movies-classics, kids & teen films, action movies—and comedies—are priced between 99 cents and $1.95.
Expanded VOD is part of a service enhancement effort by TWC since coming to the Lone Star state. TWC runs digital telephony, television and Internet services over its fiber optic network in the region.
BigBand's switched broadcast reaches 5M HHP mark
BigBand Networks Inc.'s commercial deployments of switched broadcast —a solution that makes it easier for cable operators to add VOD content— have now passed more than five million U.S. households.
Three top-five U.S. cable operators have selected the switched broadcast solution, and two —one being Cablevision Systems Corp.— have deployed it commercially and are using it to switch digital broadcast programs on more than one million tuners.
Switched broadcast, aka switched digital video, allows operators to expand programming and add new, high-bandwidth services such as HDTV at a relatively low cost per subscriber.
According to a January ABI Research report entitled, "Assessing CATV Bandwidth-Expansion Solutions," switched digital video is estimated to cost between $5 and $10 per household passed (HHP), compared with about $1,000 per HHP with a PON Overlay, and about $50 per HHP with an HFC bandwidth expansion to 1 GHz.
Because it directs live programming only to where it is requested by viewers, instead of delivering all programming to all subs, all the time, BigBand's solution makes it easier for cable operators to add more VOD and more "long-tail" content that is traditionally associated with the Internet, the company said.
BitBand's VOD servers off to Italy
BitBand's new Vision 880 VOD servers are being installed throughout FastWeb's points of presence in Italy.
The servers will allow FastWeb —Italy's second largest fixed telephony operator— to expand its delivery of IPTV, VOD, network personal video recording (nPVR) and Catch-Up TV services with higher streaming throughput and increased storage capacity, BitBand said.
The servers employ BitBand X:Stream, the company's new streaming technology offering more than 7 Gbps streaming throughput and storage of up to 10,000 hours of H.264 SD video on a standard server platform, the company said. The servers will add more than 100 Terabytes of storage to FastWeb's IPTV network.
FastWeb operates in more than 130 Italian cities via a network of more than 22,000 kilometers.
High-value content accelerates 2006 streaming market
Streaming video saw substantial growth in 2006, driven by an expanding library of high-production content from major networks and channels, broadband extensions of entertainment and information content, and an appetite for streaming audio and video content by an increasingly savvy group of broadband users, according to Research and Markets.
The results are from the company's latest report, "Streaming Media Growth and Content Category Share: 2006 - 2010."
Key 2006 findings of the report: Video streams increased by 39 percent across all media sites; broadband streams made up about 89 percent of all streams; music videos had the largest share of streaming video usage with 36 percent; and news and information captured 24 percent.
"Media and entertainment brands fully embraced broadband publishing in 2006," said research director Paul A. Palumbo, in a statement. "They made more premium content available, that's the key, and fashioned syndication relationships with aggregators who can deliver audiences and began to populate emerging distribution platforms. Moreover, a growing base of high-speed users and the adoption of Flash propelled the market."
Digital Media rockets DVD-On-Demand
Digital Media Applications said its Rocket DVD-On-Demand, an option for its RocketDVD Professional software, is now available.
The on-demand option can fully automate the entire DVD production process—from clip/media asset selection to duplication and packaging, the company said.
The option can be controlled from a second app, such as a Web site, database or asset management system. It eliminates the manual process of DVD authoring by allowing consumers and end users to order on-demand video assets that are digitized on a central server and delivered to them as a complete DVD, the company said.
The product will be showcased at the NAB convention in Las Vegas April 16-19.
• Inlet Technologies has launched the Fathom 3.0 family of encoding solutions. The solution tackles encoding tasks such as VOD, broadband TV, IPTV, and content for mobile and Web viewing.
Fathom can produce formats including AVC, Flash, VC-1, Windows Media, MPEG-4 and MPEG-2. Automatic multi-resolution and multi-bit-rate encoding enables one workflow process to create file outputs for the television, PC and mobile, the company said.
• Private Media signs VOD agreement with Belgium telecom
Private Media Group Inc. has signed a multi-year agreement with the Belgacom Group, Belgium's leading telecom, to supply content via their VOD service on Belgacom's TV platform.
The agreement includes access to hundreds of titles from Private's movie library.
Belgacom's TV offering is available to 80 percent of Belgium's 4.1 million households. Private's goal is to be featured on all major IPTV and cable VOD platforms in Western Europe by the end of the year.
• OpenTV 'participates' in licensing agreement
OpenTV Corp. has entered a multi-year licensing agreement with Active Loop Television for its OpenTV Participate system.
Participate will serve as the central interactive TV business management system for Active, which provides more than 2,500 hours of programming in 13 countries each month. The service will enable participation-TV format creation and competition management, and it will also provide extensive analysis and reporting tools, the company said.
• Ensequence has completed its $40 million Series C funding round. The company has raised $87 million to date.
Ensequence's on-Q software enables advertisers and programmers to enhance their video with interactivity and distribute that interactive video content across TVs, PCs and mobile devices.
• here! and WOW! offer SVOD service
here!, a gay television network, has launched a SVOD service to WideOpenWest (WOW!) subs in four new markets: Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio.
Through its new partnership with WOW!, here! will be available to all WOW! digital subs for a monthly fee of $6.99. here! is currently available nationwide via all major cable systems and Internet TV providers as either a 24/7 premium subscription channel, a VOD service and/or an SVOD service.
• Meredith launches female-targeted broadband network
Meredith Corp., a media and marketing company, has launched Better.tv, its first-ever broadband network.
Better.tv offers viewers more than 20 channels of original video content and programming from Meredith's magazines, television stations, books, Web sites and live events, according to the company. The site targets women with topics such as food, family, home, style, remodeling, entertainment, relationships, fitness and health.
• OxfordSVI gets VOD hospitality agreement
OxfordSVI Inc., a media distribution company, has completed a five-year agreement to provide its eMOD VOD solution to more than 1,150 rooms in 11 Pacifica Host Hotels.
The latest round of installations brings the total number of hotels with VOD support from OxfordSVI to more than 2,000, positioning the company as the second-largest provider of VOD services in the hospitality industry, the company said.
• Time Warner Cable President and COO Jeff Bewkes says cable VOD has huge potential, according to an Advertising Age article.
• Microsoft plans to support the digital download service soon to be launched by On Broadband Networks, according to a Gamasutra article.