News summary for 10/10/07
NBC Universal snaps up Oxygen channel
By Brian Santo
Oxygen joins a stable of channels owned by NBC Universal that includes the USA Network, CNBC, Sci-Fi, Bravo and MSNBC. The reason for the acquisition is clear: NBC Universal derives about 50 percent of its profit from its cable channels.
Oxygen reaches about 74 million. By that measure, NBC Universal is calculated to have paid less per subscriber than many had anticipated Oxygen to be worth – certainly less per subscriber than it had paid to buy Bravo.
NBC Universal said it plans to sell two of its Spanish-language television stations, including KWHY-TV Channel 22 in Los Angeles and another in Puerto Rico, to help finance the deal.
WildBlue moves to target business market
By Traci Patterson
WildBlue Enterprise Solutions  has upgraded its dish offering, and the company is collaborating on new digs for the satellite broadband Internet market and a new high-performance VPN network.
Later this month, WildBlue will offer an optional, larger satellite dish to its business customers who subscribe to its enterprise products. The .98 meter dish is designed to improve network availability on WildBlue’s broadband Internet service for business and government customers with Ka-band, spot beam satellites.
WildBlue offers business-class broadband connectivity via satellite technology for small-, medium- and large-size businesses and government agencies. The company works with a network of national value-added resellers (VARs) throughout the U.S.
The company is also collaborating with UDcast  - a provider of solutions enabling IP-over-broadcast media - to jointly develop products, services and markets for the enhanced delivery of broadband Internet via satellite to the small- and medium-size business sector.
WildBlue has approved UDcast’s UDgateway as an accelerated VPN solution for enterprise users of its satellite broadband Internet service. The UDgateway is designed to securely enhance IP network capabilities over satellite links and to bring broadband functionalities to satellite broadband connections.
"Satellite IP broadband is an ideal solution for many businesses in rural areas, as it enables them to bridge the digital divide, allowing for such things as high-speed connectivity, business continuity, [and] emergency and crisis communications regardless of location," said Antoine Clerget, VP of engineering and co-founder of UDcast.
Additionally, WildBlue, XipLink  and Trispen Technologies  are working on a technical and commercial solution to provide a new integrated VPN network for small- to medium-size businesses. The secure VPN network will allow for accelerated communications and optimized bandwidth via satellite, and it will be available through WildBlue’s VARs.
The network will use the XipLink acceleration appliance, WildBlue’s satellite equipment and Trispen’s VPN (IPsec) software.
Ascent aids Weather Channel with HDTV transition
By Mike Robuck
Ascent Media, a subsidiary of Discovery Holding Company , recently completed the first of two phases to aid in the creation of The Weather Channel’s HDTV service. The first phase, which helped The Weather Channel’s HD network to launch this month, consisted of broadcast system design and the creation of an HD network origination space.
The first phase made it possible for the network to launch two native HD long-form series, “Epic Conditions,” and Weatherventures,” as well as new HD graphics for the “Local on the 8s” programming.
The second phase of the HD project will be completed over the next several months and will include the creation of new file-based production facilities, new control rooms, and a transition to new studio facilities that are designed for HD production.
The entire project with Ascent, including initial consulting, design, construction and integration, is on an 18-month timeline.
“The ability to render the weather in high-definition introduces a whole new dimension to our programming lineup and brings new value to our affiliates,” said Ross Kalber, vice president of engineering and IT operations for The Weather Channel, in a statement. “By combining Ascent Media’s consulting, design and technical skills and HDTV expertise with our own background as the leading provider of weather programming and information, we are able now to offer viewers the most compelling view yet of the power of nature.”
While satellite, cable and telco providers are adding HD channels as fast as their capacity will allow them, HDTV sets are continuing to soar off of store shelves. According to the Consumer Electronics Association  (CEA), 2007 sales of display technologies are projected to reach $26 billion. The CEA forecasts that more than 30 million digital televisions will ship by the end of the year.
SCTE’s standards program flourishes with ANSI
By Mike Robuck
The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’  (SCTE) standards program is anticipating approval of several of its standards submissions by the American National Standards Institute  (ANSI).
SCTE is expecting approval for its SCTE 18 2007 standard submission that covers emergency alert messaging, as well as approval for other recent submissions. The SCTE’s standards program has climbed the ranks of ANSI’s accredited Standard Developing Organizations (SDOs) from 79th in 1998 to 15th last month among the current membership of 207 ANSI-accredited SDOs.
ANSI facilitates the development of American National Standards (ANS) by accrediting the procedures of SDOs. These groups work cooperatively to develop voluntary national consensus standards. Accreditation by ANSI signifies that the procedures used by the standards body in connection with the development of American National Standards meet the institute’s essential requirements for openness, balance, consensus and due process.
To date, ANSI has approved 175 SCTE standards since the SCTE standards program became ANSI-accredited in 1995. In both 2002 and 2006, the SCTE program received more than 50 standards approvals by ANSI.
The SCTE standards program is comprised of 143 members, the program’s high-water mark, each of which pays an annual standards membership fee to participate in the standards development process. The membership consists of MSOs, hardware manufacturers and consumer electronics manufacturers.
“Embracing the standards process is more critical today than ever before, particularly as we expand further into new markets and retail,” said Charlie Kennamer, chairman of the SCTE Engineering Committee and vice president, engineering, standards, and industry affairs with Comcast , in a statement. “Our accreditation with ANSI and our increasingly strong position within that organization lend vital credibility to the remarkable efforts of our many member volunteers.”
The program develops standards for a wide-range of cable-related products and technologies, from F-connectors to topics such as protocols for high-speed data access over cable and digital program insertion.
Broadband Briefs for 10/10/07
* SMC adds Gigabit switch for SMB Ethernet
By Brian Santo
SMC Networks  has added a new switch to its EZ line for SOHO, SMB and enterprise applications. The EZ Switch 10/100/1000 8-port Gigabit Smart Switch with Power over Ethernet (PoE) is a 1RU 8-port Smart Managed switch designed for Gigabit Ethernet via copper connectivity to desktops.
PoE support reduces network installation costs and complexities by enabling the switch to provide power through the Category 5 cable connections. A Web-based management user interface makes setup and management fast and easy, according to SMC. The switches are available at suggested price of $299.99.