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News summary for 11/29/07

Thu, 11/29/2007 - 8:30am
CED staff

TiVo supporting OpenCable on DVRs, Comcast to push TiVo DVRs 
By Mike Robuck

TiVo CEO Tom Rogers touted his company’s burgeoning relationship with the cable industry on two fronts: TiVo has thrown its support behind cable’s OpenCable Application Platform specification, and Comcast will aggressively sell TiVo’s DVR service to its customers.

During its third-quarter earnings call yesterday, TiVo said it would support cable’s OpenCable Platform middleware application on its DVRs. Once cable systems have OpenCable fully deployed, which is not slated to happen for at least a few more years, TiVo’s DVRs will be able to function in OpenCable’s two-way architecture.

“…TiVo and the cable industry have come to an agreement on a blueprint for a retail TiVo DVR using the cable industry’s OpenCable Application Platform that will have full two-way cable service functionality,” Rogers said in a prepared statement. “While the technical specifications are still being worked out, such a set-top box will mean TiVo subscribers will be able to get full access to cable VOD and other two-way cable services. This could also mean that a standalone TiVo offering could fully substitute for a cable operator set-top box.”

Rogers said the agreement between the cable industry and TiVo was communicated Wednesday to the FCC through an ex parte filing by TiVo. TiVo said it is working with the cable industry on making adjustments to the OpenCable Platform.

In the FCC filing, TiVo said the OpenCable applications were preferable to the Consumer Electronics Association’s Digital Ready Plus initiative for standardizing access to two-way devices.

Rogers also said that Comcast’s TiVo offering is now available in some non-employee homes, and that “full marketing efforts will begin shortly in the greater Boston area.” Comcast, which has been working with TiVo for several years on a product that would use TiVo’s interface in Comcast homes, will “aggressively market it at a $2.95 (per month) upcharge,” according to Rogers.

Cox has previously said that it expects to have a TiVo-based offering sometime next year.

TiVo also outlined the agreement with the National Cable & Telecommunications AssociationCableLabs and other vendors in its earnings statement that will provide an external USB adapter for TiVo customers to access switched digital video (SDV) channels.

Yassini opens $10M broadband research facility
By Traci Patterson

Rouzbeh Yassini - inventor of the cable modem, author of “Planet Broadband” and CED’s Person of the Year in 1999 - has created an independent facility dedicated to broadband research.

The industry vet, who is currently the CEO of YAS Broadband Ventures, designed the Yassini Broadband Knowledge Center, which utilizes IP technology for all communications services.

The $10 million laboratory is located in Boston and features a hands-on learning environment tightly focused on targeted and interactive advertising, bandwidth expansion, content and in-home applications.

Yassini is also funding four annual grants, at $50,000 each, to enable post-graduate student investigators to participate in a nine-month research study program.

“Even though we have made tremendous strides in broadband utilization over the past 10 years, we’ve only scratched the surface of what broadband technology can do to improve the quality of life worldwide,” Yassini said. “By combining a state-of-the-art venue, an experienced staff and well-funded research, I believe we can attract the right talent from around the world to increase the power of broadband to enhance communication, learning, innovation and understanding across all cultures and civilizations.”

The activities planned for the center are new technology research and innovation, an executive scholar and broadband policy center, a broadband “Think Tank” and weekly educational tours.

Yassini founded LANcity, a maker of cable modems, in 1991. He sold LANcity to Bay Networks in 1996. From there, he led the development of the CableLabs cable modem specification and interoperability program (DOCSIS).

Cable stocks on the rise after FCC decision 
By Mike Robuck

Cable stocks were on the upswing yesterday after FCC commissioners voted against Chairman Kevin Martin’s proposal to give the FCC more power to regulate the cable industry.

FCC commissioners voted against Martin’s plan to use the “70/70” rule, which would have allowed Martin to push through some of his pet projects, such as the a la carte service model.

The 70/70 rule dates back to the Communications Act of 1984. Under the 70/70 rule, if the FCC finds that cable service is available to 70 percent of households, and that 70 percent of those homes subscribe, then the FCC can "promulgate any additional rule necessary to provide diversity of information sources."

Comcast’s stock went up to $19.97 on Wednesday and closed at $22.47 before dropping to $21.47 late this morning. Time Warner Cable’s stock increased to $25.55 on Wednesday and was trading at $25.91 at mid-morning today. Charter and Cablevision also saw increases in their stock prices on Wednesday.

TWC expands business phone service, promotes Witmer to EVP
By Traci Patterson

Time Warner Cable’s business class phone service is now available to the MSO’s customers in the New York cities of Brooklyn, Hudson Valley, Manhattan, Mt. Vernon, Queens and Staten Island, and also in Bergen County, N.J. TWC added the service in the Buffalo, N.Y. area last month.

The service, offered to small- and medium-size businesses in the operator’s New York footprint, includes unlimited local and long-distance calling in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico for a flat rate. Service features include hunting, inbound and outbound call restrictions, and three-way call transfer.

Business class phone can be bundled with a business customer’s existing data and video services to provide a discounted single source and single invoice for all business communications needs.

TWC has also promoted Melinda Witmer to EVP and chief programming officer, where she will continue to lead TWC’s programming acquisition team. Most recently, Witmer served as SVP and chief programming officer.

Before her role as SVP, Witmer served in TWC’s law department as VP and chief counsel for programming. Prior to joining TWC, Witmer served as VP and senior counsel at HBO.

Espial, Avail partner on IPTV solution
By Traci Patterson

Espial Group Inc. and Avail Media have signed a sales agreement and entered into a strategic partnership to provide an integrated, turnkey IPTV solution.

Under the terms of the deal, Avail Media will resell Espial's Evo IPTV Service Platform to small- and mid-sized operators in the North American market. Nine North American service providers have already selected Espial's platform as their middleware, pre-integrated with Avail Media's managed video content services.

The companies also intend to jointly develop and share revenues for a range of new IPTV applications that will use the strengths of their respective technologies.

Espial's platform includes the carrier-grade Evo Server, the Evo Client middleware, the standards-based Evo Future-Proof Framework, and various applications including Evo EPG, Evo VOD, Evo Browser and Evo DVR.

Broadband Briefs for 11/29/07

* Comcast names Finnegan VP of intellectual property strategy
By Mike Robuck

Comcast announced today that James J. Finnegan has joined the company as VP of intellectual property strategy. Prior to joining Comcast, Finnegan spent 17 years with AT&T and Alcatel-Lucent as a contributor to their intellectual property business.

* Cablevision adds Korean channel to iO TV lineup
By Traci Patterson

Cablevision has added The Korean Channel (TKC) to its international programming, available on iO TV, which now features approximately 60 channels from around the world.

The channel will be available across Cablevision’s service area to all subscribers of the iO International Korean Package ($14.95 per month), which currently includes MKTV and MBC.

* Cox’s Osteen wins SCTE Foundation grant
By Mike Robuck

The SCTE Foundation announced today that Cox Communications’ Rick Osteen was awarded a grant of $3,000 to help cover the cost of a graduate course he needs to complete for a Master’s degree in systems engineering. Osteen, who joined the SCTE two years ago, is manager of network systems deployment at Cox in West Warwick, R.I.

* Verizon expands FiOS services in N.Y., Fla.
By Traci Patterson

Verizon has been awarded a cable franchise in the Long Island, N.Y. village The Branch. The vote brings the total number of New York communities that have approved franchises for Verizon to 75.

Also, nearly 3,500 households surrounding Bell Shoals Road in Tampa, Fla., now have access to Verizon’s FiOS Internet and TV services, as well as its voice service. The triple-play bundles are delivered over Verizon's all-fiber network.

* AT&T adds U-Verse features in Connecticut
By Traci Patterson

AT&T’s customers in Connecticut now have access to new TV features: AT&T U-bar, which brings customizable weather, stock, sports and traffic information to the TV screen; Yellowpages.com TV, a new way to search for local businesses and other information on the TV; and AT&T Yahoo! Games, which are also available on the TV screen. The telco recently added the same features to its U-verse service in the Detroit and Houston areas.

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