Google Factor: 85

In baseball, the relationship and communication between the pitcher and catcher, or lack thereof, can help determine a lot of things. A slider in the designated spot can result in a strikeout, while a fastball, when a curveball was signaled, can result in Mr. Spalding being sent over the left field fence.

In the delivery of top-flight digital content, the relationship is a bit different, but the end results can be just as important. If the pitcher throws a movie in pristine digital condition without the proper encryption, that title could be intercepted and distributed throughout the world over the Internet. That's a potential nightmare movie studios would do anything in their power to avoid.

Atlanta, Ga.-based start-up N2 Broadband recently entered the fold to help studio heads sleep better and to provide a spark for the overall video-on-demand sector. N2 Broadband hopes to do this via its newly-minted "MediaPath" distribution system, a collection of equipment and software that, in pitcher-catcher fashion, securely sends and captures media assets, including digital video, over land-based and satellite links. Under this arrangement, films and other encrypted content is delivered to cable headends, and then decrypted before its final delivery to the VOD server.

Gizmos and gadgets aside, we're told that such a system saves both time and money, because VOD and pay-per-view titles were typically delivered through the mail on linear digital tape.

Though still a fledging company, N2 Broadband already has drummed up some business–In Demand and Warner Bros. Technical Operations, which distributes Warner Bros. content, already have inked deals to deploy MediaPath.

Further, N2 Broadband has successfully integrated its system with VOD servers from three key vendors: Concurrent Computer Corp., nCUBE Corp and SeaChange International. The company also is an active participant in Time Warner Cable's Interactive Services Architecture, the MSO's initiative to create common back office elements for new services and applications.

Time Warner Cable, an In Demand customer, is already outfitting systems with N2 Broadband's catcher's gear, and it's expected that In Demand's other cable partners, including AT&T Broadband, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Charter Communications, will eventually do the same.

Others to watch:

TVN Entertainment Corp.: Coming off a five-year VOD content distribution deal with Adelphia Communications Corp., TVN's Digital Content Express packages and delivers content via satellite. In relation to this, TVN is also attempting to make itself into a content aggregator and build relationships with studios.

Global Crossing Ltd.: Its recently completed 100,000 route-mile media and entertainment "extranet" can deliver and store games, music, television shows and big-time Hollywood films. That network, which includes tenants like DirecTV, reaches five continents and more than 200 cities.

Qwest Digital Media: Headed by former Cox Communications Inc. executive David Woodrow, Qwest Digital Media operates digital content hosting, streaming and "digital cinema" elements for Webcasting and VOD.