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News summary for 12/12/07

Wed, 12/12/2007 - 8:57am
CED staff

Cox picks Concurrent for Arizona VOD deployment
By Mike Robuck

Concurrent announced today that Cox Communications will use Concurrent’s MediaHawk platform as part of its launch of an on-demand service in the cable operator’s Arizona market.

The deployment is slated to start in the first quarter of 2008 and will eventually encompass all of Cox’s digital customers in the state.

“Concurrent has proven to be a strong partner with Cox, providing high-quality, reliable on-demand solutions,” said Steve Necessary, VP of video product development for Cox, in a statement. “Our prior experience played a key role in our selection of its VOD platform for our Arizona operation.”
 
With the rollout of the Arizona system, Cox now has VOD enabled in every one of its major markets.

Concurrent’s servers now support more than 75 percent of Cox’s digital subscribers nationwide.

In other Concurrent-related news, the company said it has hired industry veterans Harry Alexander and Wesley Nardoni to its sales force. Both Alexander and Nardoni joined Concurrent’s sales force as North American regional account managers.

Martin pushes on cross-ownership; cable pushes back on MDU contracts
By Brian Santo

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has scheduled for Dec. 18 a vote on relaxing media cross-ownership rules. Scheduling the vote is an aggressive maneuver, given that members of Congress with oversight on the matter have been cautioning the FCC to reconsider approving the measure. The Republican majority on the Commission is expected to approve the plan, however.

Current rules prohibit ownership of a newspaper and a TV or radio station in the same market, unless the FCC grants a waiver. Martin’s proposal would open the top 20 U.S. markets to potential cross-ownership, with no waivers required.

At the same time, Martin is proposing to cap the size of cable operators to no more than a 30 percent share of all U.S. multichannel video subscribers.

Doing so seems entirely speculative. Only Comcast, by far the largest MSO, is anywhere near that mark. Given historical growth rates, Comcast might not reach that mark for three or more years – if it were to continue to grow its subscriber ranks. Comcast has begun to lose basic subscribers (as have other MSOs), and competition for video subscribers is only going to get more intense.

As a practical matter, the only purpose Martin’s proposal might serve would be to prevent Comcast from buying another large cable operator, or to prevent an unprecedented consolidation among other large MSOs.

Separately, the NCTA is vowing to fight part of the FCC’s October edict that cable companies cannot contract with owners of multi-dwelling units (MDUs) for exclusive rights to provide services to all tenants of the MDU. The NCTA threatened to go to court if the FCC does not stay its order.

The organization is not challenging the ban on new contracts of that nature, but it argues that it is unlawful for the FCC to invalidate existing contracts between cable operators and apartment buildings.

Nielsen to measure HBO’s SVOD services
By Traci Patterson

HBO will become the first company to receive TV ratings for its on-demand platform when The Nielsen Company begins measuring HBO’s subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services: HBO On-Demand and Cinemax On-Demand.

With Nielsen’s National People Meter VOD Audience Measurement service, HBO will be able to measure the number of households viewing its VOD offerings, as well as the demographics of the audiences that are viewing each program.
   
"Technology has changed the way people watch television, and as our customers increasingly use our On-Demand products to watch our shows on a timetable of their choosing, it is essential that we understand this growing shift in viewer behavior," said Jan Pasquale, SVP of research at HBO. "The knowledge gained from this service will enable us to drive additional consumer satisfaction by understanding the appeal of our programming to specific audiences and developing targeted offerings for the full range of our customer base."

According to Nielsen estimates, about 35.1 million households have access to VOD services. The company’s National People Meter VOD Audience Measurement service, which was introduced a year ago, utilizes patented technology to embed a code, or watermark, into a program to identify information for specific episodes.

Nielsen is also prepared to offer its clients NORA – a service that tracks transactional data, and which is based on data collected from cable operators.

AT&T pulls plug on video service from DirecTV
By Mike Robuck

During a call with analysts yesterday, AT&T said it will stop reselling satellite video services from DirecTV to its customers in the first quarter of 2008.

AT&T has reseller agreements with both DirecTV and EchoStar Communications, recently renamed Dish Network Corp., and is expected to pick between the two before the end of the year. Rumors have also abounded that AT&T would try to purchase Dish Network, but CEO Randall Stephenson told Reuters that the company wasn’t missing any large strategic pieces.

AT&T CFO Rick Linder told Reuters that the company hasn’t made a final decision between DirecTV and Dish Network, and that it could take until next year’s second quarter before a decision is reached.

While AT&T will stop offering the DirecTV service to its phone customers in the first quarter, its agreement with Dish Network runs until the end of next year.

Following AT&T’s announcement, DirecTV issued an e-mail statement that said AT&T’s decision would have minimal impact on its business, and that it could still pursue further business opportunities with AT&T once the EchoStar agreement expires.

AT&T’s decision to cut one of its satellite resellers may be an indication that the company is feeling more confident about its own video service. In September, AT&T said that it had more than 126,000 subscribers to its U-verse service. U-verse is available to 5.5 million homes currently, but AT&T said it expects it to be available to 30 million homes by the end of 2010.

TV converter boxes for digital transition hitting retail stores 
By Mike Robuck

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) said that more than 100 retailers – including Best BuyTarget and Wal-Mart – will start accepting coupons on Feb. 17 for converter boxes, which will allow analog TV owners to continue to receive signals once the transition to all-digital signals is complete on Feb. 17, 2009.

TV customers in the U.S. who rely on antennas to receive their TV signals will be allowed two $40 government-funded coupons to purchase converter boxes. The over-the-air customers, estimated to be between 13 million and 21 million across the nation, can contact the government starting Jan. 1 to receive their coupons.

The NTIA, which is a unit of the U.S. Commerce Department, is overseeing the $1.5 billion program that is slated to end March 31, 2009.

The converter boxes are expected to cost about $60 to $70 each. To date, LG ElectronicsDigital Stream TechnologyZenith and Magnavox have received the NTIA’s approval for their converter boxes, while other vendors expect approval in the coming weeks.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was criticized earlier this year for not doing enough to tell consumers about the impending switch to all-digital signals. Yesterday, the FCC issued a report in response to the Government Accountability Office’s claims that the FCC didn’t have a comprehensive strategy for the digital transition. The FCC has prompted the move to all-digital signals in order to free up spectrum space.

STMicroelectronics to acquire Genesis Microchip

By Traci Patterson

STMicroelectronics is set to acquire Genesis Microchip Inc. for approximately $336 million.

Through the acquisition, STMicroelectronics expects to expand its leadership in the $1.5 billion digital TV market. Genesis will enhance STMicroelectronics’ technological capabilities for the transition to fully digital solutions in this segment and strengthen its product and intellectual property portfolio, the company said.

“STMicroelectronics is a leader in digital consumer technologies, with a strong position in set-top box compression and decompression technologies and ‘front end’ processing technologies in digital TV,” said Philippe Lambinet, corporate VP and GM of STMicroelectronics’ home entertainment and displays group (which Genesis will become a part of).

He continued: “Genesis is a leader in ‘back-end’ image and video processing and digital interconnect technologies. The combined company will have the products, technology, IP and expertise to offer best-in-class integrated DTV processing solutions that our customers are increasingly demanding. We also believe that the Genesis DisplayPort technology brings expanded opportunities to the PC and home entertainment markets.”

Broadband Briefs for 12/12/07

* Cox Enterprises promotes Dyer to CFO
By Mike Robuck

Cox Enterprises announced that John Dyer was named EVP and will assume the role of CFO during the summer of next year. Dyer will replace Robert O’Leary as CFO. O’Leary will continue serving on Cox Enterprises’ board of directors.

Most recently, Dyer served as SVP and CFO at Cox Communications, a position he has held since 2005.

* JDSU adds module to test SNR in ROADM networks
By Brian Santo

JDSU has modified its in-band optical spectrum analyzer with a method for measuring the optical signal-to-noise ratio (OSNR) in Reconfigurable Optical Add/Drop Multiplexer (ROADM) networks. JDSU claims the capability is a first in the test industry.

JDSU engineered its OSA-320 module to test optical performance in the Agile Optical Network (AON), a dynamically reconfigurable DWDM network. In the AON, multiple ROADMs with different “filtering” technologies can be cascaded in a link, creating OSNR measurement problems for conventional OSA devices that employ out-of-band methods, the company said.

* Integra5’s i5 CSP chosen by Chilean telecom
By Traci Patterson

Integra5 has announced a partnership with American Telecommunication Holdings S.A. (ATI), a Chile-based provider of advanced telecommunications systems and services. ATI will deliver Integra5’s Converged Services Platform (i5 CSP) applications, including TV/PC Caller ID, SMS to TV, Customer Care Messaging to TV/PC and Voicemail through to TV.

The i5 CSP’s distributed, network-based architecture requires no truck rolls or new in-home hardware, and it scales to support millions of subscribers, the company said. The standards-based platform enables the delivery of real-time converged communications and content across voice, video, data and wireless services over IPTV, cable and hybrid networks. The platform also provides application-level personalization across multiple STBs, PCs and telephone lines within the home.

* Motorola ships 50-millionth SURFboard modem
By Brian Santo

Motorola said it has shipped its 50-millionth SURFboard modem, and it expects the line to continue to be a success. “We're excited about the opportunities we'll have around DOCSIS 3.0 in 2008,” said Alan Lefkof, VP of Motorola’s Broadband Solutions Group.

The company quoted Ovum, saying that current modem connections total 70 million worldwide, with an annual growth rate of approximately 10 percent through 2011. Ovum said it anticipates that revenues will keep pace and experience similar growth.

* AT&T’s U-verse receives new features in L.A.
By Traci Patterson

AT&T's U-verse customers in the Los Angeles area 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.

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