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SeaChange intros ReStart TV; gets social

Mon, 05/12/2008 - 8:40am
Brian Santo

SeaChange International is bringing the social networking phenomenon to TV with its new Affinity application, which runs on its Axiom On Demand platform. Separately, the company plans to announce at the Cable Show next week a service called ReStart TV that mimics the StartOver service introduced and trademarked by Time Warner Cable.

The Affinity application is comprised of customized web portals where subscribers set preferences, write recommendations, rate content and share recommendations with other subscribers; and, at the operator’s site, a software application that adds personalized on-demand content navigation to television’s existing on-demand guide.

Affinity can then correlate between the recommendations that subscribers get, and content in on-demand servers. Affinity has a web interface, which can be branded either by SeaChange or by TV operators, that lets subscribers use their mobile phone or PC to find content.

Affinity offers automated recommendations and also allows subscribers to share recommendations, searches, ratings and commentaries with friends and family via the web portal, or SeaChange-developed applications for Facebook and other social networks.

Netflix has shared data that demonstrates that recommendations drive a large percentage of viewing, noted Alan Hoff, SeaChange’s senior director of on-demand solutions. Cable operators can use that technique to help customers cut through the clutter on program menus he described as arcane.

A potential problem is that subscribers will come to rely largely on recommendations, at the expense of using the operator’s program guide.

Hoff agreed there is a risk, but he said that operators can use Affinity to stack the deck, so to speak, by downplaying the frequency that results from other sources come up. That peril should also be minimized in subsequent releases of Affinity, which will be able to tap in to other databases and find content on the web, but present it within the context of the service provider’s menu system.

Axiom on Demand is being used by Cablevision, Comcast, Cox, Rogers Cable, Virgin Media and other cable and IPTV companies.

Affinity will debut at the Cable Show in New Orleans, and will be available to operators later this year.

SeaChange announced the 5.0 version of Axiom on Demand that would support Affinity, ReStart TV, and other applications.

Axiom On Demand 5.0 will offer “even more comprehensive management and advertising capabilities, one-of-a-kind subscriber applications and a jumpstart on television’s inevitable future in Content Delivery Networks and IP networking,” said Yvette Kanouff, SeaChange’s Chief Strategy Officer.

ReStart TV lets viewers rewind, pause and re-start programs from the beginning – less than 10 seconds into a broadcast airing. It integrates with major electronic program guides and most any digital set-top box, even giving new returns to operators with low-end set-top models, the company said.

SeaChange moved last year to open systems, and the software is now decoupled from the hardware. Hoff said SeaChange has already ported the ReStart TV application to systems provided by Motorola/Broadbus and Concurrent MediaHawk, and the company is currently working with Cisco.

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