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CableLabs, without much fanfare, released two video-on-demand specifications on Sept. 27 as part of an effort to help operators deploy VOD services more rapidly.

The first, the 1.1 version of CableLabs' video-on-demand content specification, covers elements such as metadata formatting and video encoding thresholds. The new spec follows the 1.0 version that CableLabs released earlier this year, but adds details that allow content providers to make incremental changes to VOD metadata or to fix metadata errors without having to retransmit the entire content package.

"There's now a way to get those updates into the field without having to [resend] the whole movie again," said Ralph Brown, vice president and chief software architect at CableLabs.

The second spec marks the 1.1 version of CableLabs' Asset Distribution Interface (ADI) for VOD. At a high level, the spec provides a unified method for how VOD assets, including movies, are pitched and caught between the content aggregator and the cable operator's headend.

N2 Broadband Principal Architect Darryl DeFreese said his company's equipment and software currently complies with the 1.0 VOD specs. "But 1.1 has been adopted, and we're working on supporting that," he added.

Brown said CableLabs is presently working on 2.0 specifications for video-on-demand. As one example, CableLabs' 2.0 spec work involves an XML schema for metadata and how the specifications could be applied to applications beyond movies-on-demand.

Overall, the new specs will "make it easier and faster for cable operators to roll out [interactive] applications," DeFreese said, noting that they'll also create a multiple-vendor environment for cable operators.

That could be good news for server companies such as Broadbus, MidStream Technologies and Silicon Graphics, which are trying to usurp marketshare from VOD incumbents Concurrent Computer Corp., SeaChange International and nCUBE Corp.

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