Motorola to handle HD encoding chores for Starz
By Mike Robuck
Motorola’s technology encrypts and modulates HD signals within a single integrated transmission system.
Starz will be launching Starz Comedy, Starz Edge and Starz Kids & Family by using Motorola’s modular uplink system that will support Starz’s planned migration to MPEG-4 compression.
Motorola’s MPEG-4 AVC technology handles both 1920 x 1080I and 1280 x 720P resolutions at approximately half the bandwidth required with similar MPEG-2 coded signals.
A key feature of the enhanced content delivery chain is Motorola’s new DSR4410MD multi-program demodulator/decryptor. The one rack-unit product receives DVB-S2 modulated signals and decrypts up to 64 services from a single MPEG-2 transport stream. Motorola said testing with Starz signals has shown reliable transmission at 77.5 Mbps using a 36 MHz, C-Band transponder, which translates into four-to-five MPEG-2 HD streams or as many as 10 MPEG-4/AVC HD streams.
"We were very pleased with the quality and efficiency offered by Motorola’s new modular uplink system," said Ray Milius, senior vice president, programming operations for Starz Entertainment, in a statement. "Both the MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 HD encoders interfaced seamlessly with the access control and transmission system in use today, so adding current and future HD services is very straightforward.”
Cable operators look forward to optimizing the bandwidth savings that MPEG-4 offers, but they also face the issue of the legacy MPEG-2 boxes that are currently deployed in the field. With broadcasters such as Starz and HBO moving to HD MPEG-4, cable operators are expected to start taking delivery of MPEG-4 enabled set-top boxes next year.
SeaChange reports lower revenue, increase in orders
By Traci Patterson
SeaChange International Inc. reported slightly lower revenues in Q2 2008 and a net loss of $8 million, up from a net loss of $1 million in the year-ago quarter, but it showed increased sales of its VOD systems to North American cable operators.
Total revenues for the quarter were $44.2 million, down from $45.8 million a year ago.
Total broadband segment revenues, which include revenues from the company’s VOD and ad-insertion departments, were $22.9 million - down from $24.1 million a year ago.
VOD systems revenue nearly doubled, from $5.4 million in the first quarter to $12.4 million in the second quarter, primarily due to increased order activity from North American cable customers. VOD systems revenue growth was offset by a $1.5 million decrease in ad-insertion revenue, driven primarily by lower revenue from North American cable customers.
The company’s broadcast segment generated $3.7 million in revenue, representing a $1.8 million sequential increase.
Total services segment revenue was $17.6 million, which was slightly lower than the $17.9 million of revenue in the first quarter.
“We continue to target profitability for the second half of this year based on continued order strength in VOD systems, selected Axiom Software deployments with non-SeaChange VOD servers, increased software subscription revenue and the benefits from the second quarter cost reduction actions,” said Bill Styslinger, president and CEO of SeaChange.
The quarter’s net loss included $6 million of expenses, including severance charges and impairment charges related to capitalized software licenses, the company said.
NDS aims to reduce STB, DVR energy consumption
By Traci Patterson
NDS, a technology solutions provider for digital pay-TV, is aiming to reduce its carbon footprint and help digital TV subscribers reduce their energy usage by decreasing the power consumption of STBs and DVRs.
NDS has set out initiatives for this goal, which is in line with the global energy program of News Corp., NDS’ parent company. News Corp. has launched measures to reduce its impact on climate change and engage others regarding the issue.
The first initiative is an auto standby solution developed to automatically switch inactive devices into standby mode overnight. The standby consumption of a STB has been estimated to be 10 Watts, the company said.
“Currently, an HD DVR can use as much power as a domestic refrigerator, and we want to address this,” said James Field, director of technology and new initiatives at NDS.
The company’s R&D team is working with STB manufacturers and platform operators to develop more solutions that can reduce STB power consumption.
Charter joins Comcast in denying BTN a cable channel
By Traci Patterson
Charter Communications Inc., in a move similar to Comcast Corp.’s, has revealed the Big Ten football games the operator will carry - on existing cable channels such as ESPN, ABC, Versus and NBC - but has denied Big Ten Network (BTN) the expanded basic cable channel it desires.
Both BTN and the NFL Network want their programming to be carried on Charter’s expanded basic tier, which would result in increased costs for all of Charter’s 5.4 million video subscribers.
“We already offer the best of the Big Ten match-ups to our customers and would welcome the opportunity to deliver even more from the Big Ten Conference on our sports tier for the most avid fans,” said Cathy Fogler, VP and GM of video for Charter. “While there are some Charter customers who are avid football fans and would like to have the Big Ten Network and NFL Network, we don't believe it is appropriate for all customers to be impacted by the costs of these networks.”
Charter will provide more than 250 college match-ups and approximately 100 NFL games during the 2007 football season, as well as football on-demand.
Comcast opted not to give BTN an expanded basic cable channel (see story).
Insight Communications will carry BTN on its Classic service in Columbus, Ohio, and Evansville, Ind., and on its digital platform in all of its Kentucky systems.
BTN is also available to AT&T’s U-verse customers with the U100 programming package (or anything above), which starts at $44 per month.
IPTV box startup claims a customer
By Brian Santo
Startup AccessKey IP claims to have signed a letter of intent (LOI) to help develop an advanced IPTV set-top box with a company it would identify only as “a significant U.S.-based organization in the IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) sector.”
The vendor has designed what it calls a set-top that others might consider more akin to a gateway box.
AccessKey IP’s unidentified customer will contribute $1.5 million in development funding.
AccessKey IP plans to complete development and begin initial deliveries of the STB technology in early 2008, according to company President Rich Lauer.
George Stevens, chairman and CEO of AccessKey IP, said, “While AccessKey IP obviously doesn't have the market presence of industry giants like Motorola or Cisco, we are actually more capable of delivering highly engineered, high value-add solutions for specific customer requirements. In reality, the IPTV market is so large even a small piece can make our firm enormously successful.”
Broadband Briefs for 08/31/2007
* Capella, v.1 Labs team up on customer support solutions
By CED staff
Capella Telecommunications and v.1 Labs reached an accord that allows Capella to distribute and support v.1 Lab’s customer support portfolio. According to the agreement, Capella will immediately provide a distribution channel and support for all v.1 Labs software solutions, including TASI, Front Line and IP Diagnostic Center.
“The customer care solutions from v.1 Labs will enable Canadian cable companies to significantly reduce costs, and Capella is pleased to partner with v.1 Labs to expand the Canadian market for their software solutions,” said Norm Slater, president of Capella Telecommunications, in a statement.
V.1 Labs provides a range of software applications including three solutions (Front Line, TASI, and IP Diagnostic Centre) for cable operators offering telephony and high-speed Internet. The company’s diagnostic and installation tools are designed to reduce operational expenditures, in part by reducing inbound call volumes and allowing customer care representatives to reduce the call handling times associated with solving problems within the customer premises.
* da Vinci fills marketing post
By Brian Santo
JDSU subsidiary da Vinci Systems has appointed Dean Lyon as its director of marketing. Lyon has more than 20 years of experience in film and commercial production. He will be responsible for brand and product management and direction, advertising and marketing, and internal and external communications. He spent the last seven years in New Zealand where he founded several companies including Studio of the Future and CineGlue.
* Telenet expands its DataMiner platform
By Brian Santo
Skyline Communications said Belgian cable operator Telenet replaced Skyline’s old network management system, called Phasor, with the company’s new product, called DataMiner. The system provides return path monitoring. Telenet is using it across its entire HFC network infrastructure, including the recently-acquired UPC Belgium network.
The new system provides alarming, long-term trending, e-mail and SMS notification, professional time and event based reporting, mobile access with PDA or smart phone, and other features.