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Evolution, Rovi join forces on adding feature-rich guide to DTAs

Thu, 08/02/2012 - 2:20pm
Mike Robuck

Digital transport adapter (DTA) vendor Evolution Digital is working in tandem with Rovi on adding the latter’s electronic programming guide into its SD and HD DTAs.

Evolution Digital is the first announced customer for the Rovi DTA Guide that was introduced last year at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Atlanta.

As part of its all-digital conversion project, Comcast has championed the use of the low-cost DTAs to reclaim bandwidth that can subsequently be used for additional services, such as DOCSIS 3.0, or more features, such as adding more HD channels.

With the conversion from analog to digital, the first wave of SD DTAs allowed subscribers that had analog TVs to continue viewing their cable operator’s programming. While analog TVs have pretty much followed the dinosaurs into extinction in the United States, customers are now buying low-cost HDTV sets with HDMI inputs, which can work in tandem with HD DTAs.

The one-way DTAs work well as a low-cost option for second, third and fourth TVs in a home, and they also provide some operational efficiencies in terms of reducing truck rolls when a customer disconnects and reconnects a video service.

Smaller cable operators can also use DTAs to provide a stripped-down HD offering that doesn’t include amenities such as pay-per-view or VOD. Lastly, DTAs can also be used to provide service to hotels that don’t want to invest in more expensive equipment or infrastructure, which is what BendBroadband recently announced it was doing with HD uDTAs from Evolution.

“We’ve always been major proponents of putting more functionality on the DTA,” said Evolution President Brent Smith. “It’s one thing when you have 40 or 50 channels and you can zap through them, but it’s another thing, especially with HD, with potentially hundreds of channels. People’s expectations are, ‘I want to know what’s on, when it’s on,’ and so forth.

“We discussed this with Rovi and explained what we were doing and why we think it’s a good idea for DTAs. They were enthusiastic about it, and they have plans to have a full Rovi program guide embedded into our DTAs.”

Currently, Evolution has a “now and next” user interface (UI) embedded on its SD DTAs and HD uDTAs. The current UI allows viewers to go through channels to see what’s on now and what’s on next with basic descriptions of the programming.

The Rovi DTA Guide, which will come in HD and SD flavors, brings many more digital-like features to viewers’ living rooms. It has parental controls and supports both English and Spanish languages, and it also features a “now and next” function.

“It’s a very elegant guide that provides 24 hours of listings data,” said Sharon Metz, Rovi’s vice president of vertical marketing for service providers. “It enables the consumer to see what’s on the full, generally digital lineup, typically about 77 to 80 channels, and provides descriptive information on the programs.

“What’s unique about the guide is that you have the full-feature grid and descriptive information on programming, but you also have a now/next banner that lets you browse while you watch TV and lets you see what’s on. It’s really a great opportunity to extend the interactive program guide experience into homes that wouldn’t normally have that kind of capability.”

In addition to the now and next UI, Evolution also provides an electronic program guide server that operators use to deliver the guide data to the DTAs. When the Rovi DTA Guide becomes available, operators that have a relationship with Rovi can send software updates to the DTAs in customers’ homes to download and launch the new Rovi DTA Guide on Evolution’s DTAs. The Rovi DTA Guide uses technology that is similar to EBIF.

Rovi isn’t saying when the guide will be commercially available, but it plans on demonstrating it at next week’s CableLabs Summer Conference in Keystone, Colo.

In Rovi’s press release from Expo last year, it said that an SD version of the DTA guide would first be launched in Latin America, which is a good fit due to the larger number of analog TV subscribers in some regions.

As far as other DTA vendors, which includes Pace, Motorola, Cisco and Technicolor, Metz said there was some integration work to be done, but the flexibly of the guide would support multiple vendors.

“The expectation that we have is that everyone wants to have a guide on a DTA product, and we’re making that possible for our customers,” Rovi’s Metz said. “As we look at our historical information on how consumers value the guide experience, their passion to be able to quickly find out what’s on the TV and tune quickly from the guide and things like that, we think this is a great way to extend additional value into subscribers’ homes that never had digital service.”

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