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News summary for 7/10/07

Tue, 07/10/2007 - 10:49am

Comcast forms unit to create local VOD content 
By Brian Santo

Comcast Cable's Eastern Division has formed a local video-on-demand (LVOD) team that’s been given the responsibility of developing exclusive, local and original content for its 5.4 million customers in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington, D.C. and Virginia.

Comcast’s plan is to expand its "Get Local" category of On Demand content by more than 200 percent over the next two years, growing to approximately 20,000 unique programs.

The new LVOD team will be led by 25-year industry veteran and Eastern Division Vice President of Programming Michael Ortman, with day-to-day operations managed by Noah Kodeck in the new position of director of local video-on-demand programming and production.

Both have experience with the development and distribution of VOD content. Between them, they have been involved with the following features: Candidates On Demand, Fugitive Files, Scholarships On Demand, Troop Greetings, Pet Adoptions, and “hyper-local” offerings ranging from the Philadelphia Asian Festival to a New Jersey St. Patrick's Day parade, the DC Cherry Blossom Festival, Annapolis Polar Bear Plunge for charity, instructional videos for new voting booths, local spelling bees and more.

With the majority of customers now Digital Cable users, On Demand has become a tremendous competitive differentiator, and VOD users are the company's most satisfied and loyal customers, the company said. In the past year, "Get Local" orders have increased by 41 percent, with consumers watching more than 800,000 local programs a month. The Division experienced more than five million LVOD orders through the first half of 2007, and is well on pace to more than double its LVOD views from a year ago.

"The success and growth of LVOD made it the optimal time to establish a group dedicated to identifying and delivering this unique content and taking local to the next level," said Michael Doyle, president, Comcast Cable Eastern Division and founder, CN8, The Comcast Network. "We offer 'Get Local' content for many reasons, but most significantly, it is just the right thing to do -- it has unlimited potential to put a face on Comcast and provide our customers with the information and entertainment they want, whenever and however they want it -- and it is something that competitors simply cannot match in breadth or depth."

Motorola to acquire content management specialist
By Traci Patterson

Motorola Inc. has signed a definitive merger agreement to acquire privately-held Leapstone Systems Inc. Terms of the transaction, expected to close in Q3, were not disclosed.

Leapstone is a communications software developer that provides a platform for creating, managing and delivering converged video, voice and data service bundles across multiple networks and devices. Both AT&T and Verizon are customers of Leapstone.

Leapstone’s Communications Convergence Engine (CCE) product suite enables fixed and mobile network operators to expand and evolve their service offerings through the company’s service broker and content manager software products.  

The deal complements Motorola’s recent acquisitions of Modulus, Broadbus, Kreatel, Tut Systems and Netopia as the company expands on its integrated, end-to-end video delivery systems for multiple network architectures.

Ensequence’s iTV app livens up ‘Top Chef’
By Traci Patterson

NBC Universal and EchoStar Communications Corp.’s Dish Network satellite TV service are enabling viewers of Bravo’s “Top Chef 3 Miami” to interact with the program, thanks to Ensequence’s iTV application.

Ensequence’s application allows the show’s viewers - with compatible interactive receivers - to simply click on their remotes to vote, view facts and answer trivia questions that are synched with each episode.

Viewers receive real-time notification of correct answers, and the voting results are tallied and broadcast in real-time, as well.

TiVo DVR users can order movies from Amazon.com
By Traci Patterson

Starting today, TiVo Inc.’s DVR users will be able to order movies off of Amazon.com directly from their TVs, according to the Associated Press.

The new “Buy on TV” feature allows owners of TiVo Series2 and Series3 broadband-connected DVRs to search, rent and purchase titles from Amazon’s video library with their remote control.

As a safeguard, a five-digit password is required to complete the transaction, the AP reported.

In March, the two companies teamed up to deliver Amazon’s Unbox service to TiVo set-tops, but orders had to be placed on a computer through Amazon’s Web site.

Comcast names slate of execs in programming, content acquisition
By Brian Santo

Comcast announced several promotions, and said it had expanded the responsibilities of several members of its Programming Group and its Content Acquisition Group.

Jeff Shell, president, Comcast Programming Group, announced that Bill Bridgen will join Comcast SportsNet. Bridgen, previously served as executive vice president of network distribution, Comcast Programming Group.

Alan Dannenbaum will succeed Bridgen as EVP network distribution. Dannenbaum was senior vice president of content acquisition for Comcast.

Earl Marshall was named vice president of business development, Comcast Programming Group. Marshall previously served as senior director for Comcast's Corporate Development Group. He will lead a team responsible for the expansion of the company's current network properties and will work with the company's existing networks in evaluating new media opportunities.

Matt Bond, EVP content acquisition, announced that Jennifer Gaiski has been promoted to senior vice president, Content Acquisition. Gaiski most recently served as vice president of Content Acquisition.

Allan Singer will succeed Dannenbaum as senior vice president, Content Acquisition.

Matthew Strauss has been named senior vice president, New Media. Strauss, who had been senior vice president of content acquisition and development, will continue to manage the development and acquisition of non-linear video programming services, and also will assume responsibility for developing content for Comcast's Internet properties.

Gemstar TV-Guide may put itself up for grabs
By Brian Santo

The board of Gemstar-TV Guide International has approved the company looking for strategic alternatives – basically approval to look into a sale.

The company has been losing money as it transitions to an electronic-based company. Gemstar-TV Guide was built on TV Guide, which as recently as 1999 had as many as 12 million readers, a circulation that declined to 3.5 million by the end of last year. Meanwhile, the company has been moving into electronic program guides for a variety of platforms, including a recent push into the mobile device market.

In 2005, CEO Henry Yuen was found to have been inflating revenue between 1999 and 2002; he paid $22 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle the problem.

News Corp. has a 40.9 percent ownership stake in Gemstar-TV Guide, and holds four of nine seats on Gemstar-TV Guide's board. News Corp. has been taking multibillion-dollar write-offs for Gemstar in recent years.

Broadband Briefs for 7/10/07

* Cox names business services VP in VA 
Cox Communications Northern Virginia  announced J.D. Myers II is its new vice president of Cox Business Services. Myers will lead Cox's commercial sales efforts throughout Fairfax County and the Fredericksburg region. Myers had been vice president of sales for Cox Northern Virginia.

* Arris’ MAS interoperable with Cedar Point’s Safari C3
Arris’ Mobility Application Server (MAS) has completed interoperability testing with Cedar Point Communications’ Safari C3 Multimedia Switching System, allowing operators to deploy a fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) solution with the Safari C3 switching infrastructure.

Arris’ MAS supports a range of FMC deployment scenarios, enabling device, network and service convergence.

* Sigma Systems appoints channel development exec
Sigma Systems has appointed Gary Gibbs as VP of Channel Development. He will be responsible for recruiting new partners and building relationships with system integrators, network equipment providers, and software and application system vendors.
 
Gibbs previously served as VP of global channels and alliances at Intec.

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