December 04, 2007

Peer 2 Peer

A Qwest for video
Qwest is continuing its quest to provide video services, at least in areas outlying its Denver headquarters.

Qwest has sat on the bench while its telco brethren, namely Verizon and AT&T, have taken to the field to compete with cable operators for the hearts and wallets of video subscribers; but that could change.

According to a Rocky Mountain News story on Saturday, Qwest is hoping that changes to some city councils in Denver suburbs, via newly elected councilors, will improve its chances of winning video franchises in the area. Qwest is also pursuing statewide support for a video franchise that is similar to the ones that have been granted to Verizon.

Richard Notebaert
Former Qwest CEO
Richard Notebaert

Former Qwest CEO Richard Notebaert stayed firmly on the fence when asked about the company's plans for offering video services, saying at one point that Qwest would consider it if it's something that its customers wanted, but then again battling accounting scandals can take precedence over offering new services.

Qwest does offer video services to customers in two Denver suburbs, as well as its ChoiceTV service – which is VDSL-based and passes roughly 500,000 homes – in the Phoenix area. It has also partnered with DirecTV on a reseller model that gives customers a shot at a triple-play package.

According to the news story, Qwest's new CEO, Edward Meuller, announced recently that the company would spend $300 million to extend its fiber into neighborhoods, but the company hasn't said if it's considering a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) video service, such as Verizon's, or an AT&T-like fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) rollout of video.

Qwest does have a pretty robust fiber-optic backbone throughout most of its 14-state region in the western U.S., but a FTTC deployment would be less costly for a company that is just starting to get back on its financial feet again, and going the IPTV route over the Internet would mean Qwest could avoid the franchising hassles.

Edward Meuller
Qwest CEO
Edward Meuller

So while Qwest is pursuing video franchises and upgrading its fiber, the message is still mixed from the top, which is probably confusing to subscribers, investors and analysts.

Like Verizon and AT&T, Qwest can't just sit idle while losing its voice customers to cable VoIP offerings; but unlike the first two, Qwest has had issues including, the accounting charges and the conviction of former CEO Joe Nacchio earlier this year. And Qwest isn't in a position to throw money at a service that may not pay off for several years.

Verizon has the fat fiber pipe, aggressive HD rollouts and a converged platform to tout, while AT&T is working on deploying whole-room DVRs and photo-sharing services next year; but Qwest has yet to toe the starting line.

And Qwest also has to consider how it will differentiate itself from strong cable competition from the likes of Comcast. Qwest will have to make a move into the video space at some point, but maybe it will start in places where the competition isn't already keen instead of trying to cherry pick the affluent neighborhoods.

  — Michael Robuck, Senior Editor, CED

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TiVo supporting OpenCable on DVRs, Comcast to push TiVo DVRs
TiVo CEO Tom Rogers touted his company's burgeoning relationship with the cable industry on two fronts: TiVo has thrown its support behind cable's OpenCable Application Platform specification, and Comcast will aggressively sell TiVo's DVR service to its customers.

During its third-quarter earnings call, TiVo said it would support cable's OpenCable Platform middleware application on its DVRs. Once cable systems have OpenCable fully deployed, which is not slated to happen for at least a few more years, TiVo's DVRs will be able to function in OpenCable's two-way architecture.

Series3 HD DVR
TiVo Series3 HD DVR

TiVo also outlined the agreement with the NCTA, CableLabs and other vendors in its earnings statement that will provide an external USB adapter for TiVo customers to access switched digital video (SDV) channels.

And in other related news, TiVo is claiming victory in the latest round of its battle with EchoStar Communications after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) sided with the DVR pioneer.

EchoStar sued TiVo in 2004 and requested that the patent office re-examine the patent TiVo holds on "time warp" technology, which allows DVR users to pause live TV. The function also allows viewers to watch one program while recording another.

SeaChange chalks up Q3 gain, expects Q4 profit
SeaChange International announced record earnings in its third quarter, leading to a $3.3 million profit. The company said trends in on-demand products and services are expected to remain favorable and that SeaChange expects to report a profit for the fourth quarter, as well.

SeaChange reported revenues of $49 million, $6.7 million higher than revenues of $42.3 million in the third quarter of 2006. The $3.3 million net income compares with a loss of $1.2 million in Q3 '06. The company is still operating at a net loss through the first nine months of its fiscal year.

SeaChange experienced revenue growth in VOD and ad insertion hardware and software. The company said that continued strength from North American cable customers drove much of the increase in VOD systems revenue between this year's second and third quarters, as well as increased order activity from customers in South Korea and India.

Imagine hires 3 execs in preparation for upcoming commercial launch
Imagine Communications has appointed two senior engineering executives and a senior sales executive in preparation for the company's bandwidth-saving commercial product launch later this year.

Fifteen-year software development and R&D veteran Zeev Prokopets has been appointed to VP of R&D and GM in Israel, Yves Boudreau has been named director of systems engineering and Jeff Delazaro has been appointed to regional VP of sales.

Imagine's new technology will allow service providers to deliver the highest video quality at any given bit rate, offering bandwidth efficiencies with no video quality degradation, the company said. Imagine claims it is the industry's first end-to-end video QoS offering, enabling the rapid deployment of advanced digital video services such as HDTV, VOD, nPVR, mobile, ad insertion and more.

75 percent of U.S. Internet users watched video online in September
Nearly 75 percent of U.S. Internet users (about 136 million) watched an online video – either a You Tubestreaming video or a progressive download – in September, making for an average of three hours of online video per person and a total of more than nine billion videos viewed, according to comScore's Video Metrix report for the month.

Google Sites, which includes YouTube, topped the month's rankings with the most unique video viewers and the most videos viewed – 2.6 billion, of which 2.5 billion occurred at YouTube (27.6 percent market share). Fox Interactive Media gathered 387 million views (4.2 percent), followed by Yahoo Sites with 381 million (4.1 percent) and Viacom Digital with 304 million (3.3 percent).

Netflix, NBCU strike online "Heroes" deal
Netflix Inc. and NBC Universal have announced an agreement, through which current episodes of the network's primetime series "Heroes" can be watched online by Netflix subscribers the day after the show airs.

Netflix also offers prior season episodes of other NBC series, including "30 Rock," "Friday Night Lights" and "The Office." For these shows, Netflix subscribers will have the option to watch them via DVD or on their PCs at

Disney Channel On-DemandTWC San Antonio adds Disney Channel on-Demand
Time Warner Cable San Antonio has added the Disney Channel on-Demand to its digital lineup. Through Dec. 11, the VOD channel will be offered free of charge to TWC customers. Afterward, the channel will be available for an additional $3.99 per month.

Push it

SCTE revving up on addressable ad standards
The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) said it has begun defining the final three of seven new technical standards associated with the delivery of addressable advertising.

Though none of these proposed standards have been ratified, at least one MSO, which the SCTE did not identify, is planning to trial the DVS 629 system for VOD applications within the next month, before the end of 2007.

The work is not associated with Project Canoe, which is also looking at addressable advertising via CableLabs, though the SCTE effort may end up being congruent with the goals of Canoe.

TiVo signs Carat up for audience research, partners with Nero
TiVo has signed an agreement with CaratCarat for a comprehensive audience research agreement.

Carat, a global media communications network, will use TiVo's research services to help its clients understand the impact of DVRs on viewing behavior, especially fast-forwarding through commercials.

TiVo also announced that it has partnered with Nero to integrate its TV user experience with Nero's PC software. Under the agreement, Nero will develop a software product that will bring TiVo features to the personal computer.

Two-way talk

Cablevision launches newly designed weather channel
Weather junkies in Cablevision's tri-state footprint will be able to get their weather fix from a newly designed interactive channel that Cablevision developed with News 12 Networks.

The channel is available to Cablevision's digital cable customers and features more than 550 traffic cameras capturing current conditions throughout the tri-state area, an "other regions" tab allowing users to get local news outside of their immediate area, and live dual Doppler coverage for an accurate view of local weather. According to Cablevision and News 12, the channel is also easier to navigate due to a more functional design.

NBC Universal, TiVo hook up on interactive ads
NBC Universal and TiVo have entered into a multi-year strategic partnership. As part of the agreement, NBCU's 14 TV networks and 10 NBC owned-and-operated TV stations will be able to sell TiVo's interactive tags in combination with other NBC products, as well as subscribe to TiVo's TiVoStop/Watch second-by-second commercial rating service.

"This is a watershed moment for advertisers, broadcast and cable television and TiVo," said TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers. "We have been working tirelessly to help the media industry better understand and solve the significant strategic challenges they face in the age of the DVR."

The interactive tags will allow viewers to click on an icon when watching a commercial, to obtain more information about that advertiser, and then return to the exact place they exited viewing. Tags also provide advertisers with an effective way to reach live, time-shifted or fast-forwarding viewers and to achieve deeper engagement through the opt-in requests for more information.

TiVo hooks up with Google, Photobucket for HD photo sharing
TiVo has partnered up with Google and Photobucket on a service that will allow TiVo DVR users to share their photographs with each other.

TiVo will work with online photo-sharing companies Picasa Web Albums, which is owned by Google, and Photobucket for photos that will be displayed on TiVo's Series3 HD DVRs. The photo-sharing service will be offered at no additional charge as part of TiVo's existing service subscription fee.

Last year, Time Warner Cable launched a photo-sharing service in its Oceanic system for customers who subscribe to its digital and broadband services. TWC used Simple Star to enable the free service.

Study: Viewers want their interactive program guides
Gemstar-TV Guide and Comcast Spotlight have released the results of a national study that evaluated the level of engagement viewers have with their interactive program guides (IPGs).

The study, by Lieberman Research Worldwide, found that 80 percent of the viewers considered their IPGs a necessity for TV viewing. The survey, which Gemstar and Comcast Spotlight said was the first of its kind in the last five years, also found that three-quarters of the viewers use their IPGs from the moment they turn on their TVs.

With an ever-increasing number of channels and VOD offerings, IPGs allow viewers to find or drill down to the content they want to watch.

ICTV relocates headquarters to San Jose
ICTVICTV has relocated its corporate headquarters to downtown San Jose, Calif., making the city the development and business hub of ICTV's ActiveVideo Distribution Network. ICTV's corporate, administrative, sales, marketing and engineering positions will also be located in San Jose.

AT&T adds features to U-verse in Houston
AT&T will be adding services and features to its U-verse TV product in Connecticut and the Houston area. The features include an information bar for the TV screen that includes customizable weather, stock, sports and traffic information; TV; and AT&T Yahoo! Games.

Heard on the 'Net

• Disney CEO Iger: VOD is too complicated, according to Adweek.

• Ad targeting improves on Web sites, according to the Associated Press.

• Verizon's open network is seen as a boon for mobile advertising, according to Advertising Age.

Company: Limelight Networks
Headquarters: Tempe, Ariz.
CEO: Jeff Lunsford

Claim to fame: Limelight is a high-performance content delivery network for digital media, providing scalable, global delivery solutions for on-demand systems and the live Internet distribution of video, music, games, software and social media.

Recent news of note: In October, Limelight unveiled LimelightHD, which delivers HD media and digital content over the Internet. The service allows media and entertainment companies, global consumer brands, game publishers and social media sites to deliver HD-quality movies, TV shows, video clips and games directly to a user's Internet-connected TV, game console and PC.