xOD Capsule Newsletter
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Nov. 15, 2005
It’s the end of the [TV] world as we know it
But, with apologies to REM, does everyone feel fine?
After Apple recently introduced its video iPod with a content deal with Disney/ABC in-tow, it was growing clear that the future of the standard linear way in which people consume television programs was again in jeopardy – someday, perhaps well down the road.
The same thing was said with the VCR, and was said again (and continues to be said) with the emergence of the digital video recorder. But things are really beginning to take shape now, since some major broadcasters gave broadband distribution the vote. Consider the other big announcements that have occurred in the last two weeks:
Time Warner Cable launched its much-anticipated “Start Over” service in Irmo, S.C., with rights to restart some shows (those with copyright clearance) from about 60 networks.
Comcast, the nation’s largest cable operator, hooked up with CBS to begin offering four network hits (“CSI”, “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race”) all on-demand for 99 cents per show beginning next year. Presumably to pacify broadcast affiliates that might complain, Comcast will offer it in markets served by CBS’s owned-and-operated stations.
DirecTV inked a deal with NBC Universal to “push” some shows from the flagship?NBC?and from SCI FI, Bravo and USA Networks, to DVRs, and then offer them up for 99 cents a title.
The big argument for all of these moves is this: Consumers essentially can do this already for “free” if they have a DVR and remember to set the recordings. Taking the broadcast flag out of the picture for a moment, I’m sure there will be some conspiracy theorists out there who believe the operators and networks will collude so that the DVR will somehow “forget” to record some shows, but I’ll leave that to the nutcases to argue.
The bigger picture is this: The networks are starting to get it. They realize the world is going to change with or without their help, perhaps even if some of their affiliates complain loudly about some primetime shows going on sale for less than a buck. And it’s no surprise that the networks would like to create a business model off this shift before it’s too late.
It also sets “a pay-per-view precedent for ‘free TV’,” Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. VP and Senior Analyst Craig Moffett wrote, in a research note. Although all of the major broadcasters are testing the waters with Internet distribution of some of their most prized, primetime posessions, the dam isn’t broken yet. But it has sprung a small leak.
?Jeff Baumgartner, Editor
What the studios have to say about VOD
Although the technology of video-on-demand is as important as ever, content remains king, and remains the key driver for VOD.
So what’s happening on the latter to draw more viewers to the on-demand platform and to satiate the studios and content products that are fueling it?
That was a key question last week at the TelcoTV show in San Diego, which featured a panel of key executives from Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox, NBC Universal Cable, and Warner Home Video On Demand. They offered a raft of suggestions and best practices that operators could use to get the most bang for their VOD bucks.
For most, that starts with the user interface.
Audrey Schneggenburger, the VP of marketing, worldwide PPV & VOID at 20th Century Fox, stressed the importance of promoting titles with movie posters and jacket art – rather than boring text.
The user interface “is your best marketing tool,” she said.
“The GUI (graphical user interface) is your store front,” added Michelle Edelman, VP of marketing for Warner Home Video on Demand.
Schneggenburger also emphasized the need for simple navigation. For example, minimizing the number of “clicks” it takes to get to the VOD screen and to the order screen is a big plus, she said.
Content suppliers have also been dabbling in more advanced promotional campaigns to push the VOD envelope.
Paramount Pictures, explained company Director of Marketing Kristie MacDonald, is using a “rent with your remote” message to promote films such as “Alfie” and “The Honeymooners.”
In a VOD case study, NBC Universal leveraged local and ad sales to push the on-demand release of “In Good Company,” which starred Dennis Quaid and Topher Grace. Further, CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo did not stump for the film directly, but tied in on-demand business tips to support the effort. NBC Universal’s VOD affiliates were offered the ability to order and obtain the materials — including three tag-able TV spots — via the Web.
Among the results, about 70 systems representing 16 million subscribers signed up, according to NBC Universal Vice President of Marketing, On Demand Stacy Melle. She said the effort produced a return on investment of 20-to-1.
One of the biggest challenges VOD faces is competing with earlier DVD and theatrical windows. As the “third window,” VOD has the added difficulty of attracting viewers who may have already seen the film in the theater or the DVD. According to Edelman of Warner Home Video, about 8.3 percent of consumers bought a ticket to see “Batman Begins.” So far, just north of 2 percent have purchased the DVD. The projections for VOD? Just 1 percent.
So, how to get more people to buy “Batman Begins” on VOD? One possible solution: offer them extra content usually relegated to DVD. Warner Home Video on Demand came to that conclusion after a study found that 20 percent of viewers would buy a VOD title if it included bonus materials. But just not any bonus materials will do. They had to be something that wasn’t available via the other windows.
Warner Home Video aims to do just that starting next month with its “Movies that Pop” campaign, and with titles like “Batman Begins” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
In a demonstration last week, those “extras” looked very much like VH1’s “Pop Up Video” concept, whereby snippets and trivia about the movie “pop” on-screen in sync with the scene being shown.
TVN watermarks VOD library
TVN Entertainment is offering a “forensic tracking” system for its VOD library after striking a deal with encryption and content protection specialist Widevine Technologies.
Under the deal, TVN will use Widevine’s Mensor technology to watermark its entire VOD content library. Those digital watermarks will trace content along the distribution chain, into the set-top, and into portable media devices. In addition to tracking down thieves, the system can also ensure studios that use of their content is in line with licensing agreements.
“With digital forensics, content owners can easily track where, when and to what device their content is distributed,” said Widevine CEO Brian Baker.
By the same token, TVN believes the system will give studios further confidence that its distribution is secure and can deter theft. TVN presently distributes more than 2,500 hours of on-demand programming to MSOs and telcos such as Adelphia Communications, Charter Communications, Comcast and Verizon, among others.
“Widevine Mensor enables us to continue acquiring premium content for our growing list of VOD affiliates, including cable, telco, broadband and wireless video distribution partners,” said TVN Chief Technology Officer Dom Stasi.
Comcast plays with new VOD gaming channel
Comcast Corp. is aiming for gaming, launching what is being billed as the first video-on-demand channel devoted to the gaming lifestyle.
The Players Network, fielded by Network Inc., debuted this month on the MSO’s On Demand platform. It offers a lineup of new and original programming, including talk shows, poker seminars and features that profile some of poker and entertainment’s biggest celebrities.
“Whether you are looking to learn tips from the pros before heading to Vegas or want more in-depth information about the hottest gaming destinations, your favorite poker players, and anything gaming-related, fans now have a dedicated channel to turn to and the best part is, they can watch whatever program they want whenever they want to watch it,” said Michael Berk, President of Programming, Players Network, in a release.
Included in the programming lineup are episodes of “Doyle’s Room,” starring poker legend Doyle Brunson, talk shows hosted by sports and gambling experts Wayne Allyn Root, Larry Grossman and Nolan Dalla, and other gambling related features.
Kasenna bows high-end video server
Kasenna Inc. has introduced a new server clustering platform targeted to “metro-scale” deployments of voice, video and data services.
Kasenna claims its new cluster can power a 500,000-subscriber deployment from a single video head office via streams encoded in MPEG-4.
The servers, powered by the company’s MediaBase 8.1 version software, also use a hybrid RAM/disk streaming system, and are capable of achieving 135 Gbps in streaming capacity – enough for 57,600 MPEG-4 streams at 2.3 Mbps per stream, or 36,000 MPEG-2 streams at 3.75 Mbps, the company said.
Kasenna is coupling the platform with its patent-pending Streaming Clustering technology, which uses special algorithms to pre-cache content and calculate load averaging, and to “guarantee” load balancing among the clusters.
Kasenna isn’t the only VOD vendor to introduce a new video server or version as of late. Last week, both Broadbus Technologies and Entone came forth with new product announcements. For its part, Broadbus bowed the 3.0 version of its “B-1” server. Entone, meanwhile, introduced a new platform powered by its StreamLiner XL software and Hewlett-Packerd’s off-the-shelf “Integrity” server hardware.
Yahoo! offers remote TiVo recording capabilities
Yahoo! Inc. has inked a deal that will enable Web surfers to schedule their TiVo Inc. digital video recorders remotely.
The agreement will allow Yahoo! TV users to request, using TiVo’s scheduling technology, recordings on Series2 DVRs. Users with a TiVo Series2 and a standard Yahoo! user ID can use the service immediately.
“Beginning today, we’re giving Yahoo! users – whether they’re at the office or away from home – the ability to easily schedule recordings for later viewing,” said TiVo CEO Tom Rogers, in a statement.
It’s not the first time TiVo has offered remote recording capabilities. Back in 2003, TiVo forged a similar agreement with America Online.
Cable is also keen on the idea. In the recently inked mobility agreement between Sprint, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Advance/Newhouse, remote DVR recordings was one of the future capabilities discussed.
Gotuit lands indie content for VOD
Gotuit Media Corp. has inked an agreement with indie record label KOCH Records to add a lineup of new artists to its video-on-demand service. Under the agreement, Gotuit Media will add music videos and live concert footage from KOCH artists to its Music On Demand product marketed to cable and other multichannel operators in the U.S.
KOCH has a stable of artists including Ringo Starr, Jim Jones, Scarface, Marcus Miller, Junkie XL, Richard Butler, M-1 and Tha Alkaholiks.
More from TelcoTV…
Here’s a quick rundown of VOD product news from last week’s TelcoTV show in San Diego:
IMAKE launched an “always-on” network operations monitoring system called IMAKE 24/7. It will support a range of on-demand and IPTV services for cable operators and telcos via a professionally-staffed center in Bethesda, Md.
Arroyo Video Solutions entered the IPTV game with a video-on-demand platform based on the bandwidth-saving H.264 codec. The company said its new IPTV-optimized VOD platform is in a trial with a “major” but unnamed U.S.-based telco. The vendor claimed its platform can support more than 3,000 streams per rack unit at 2 Mbps.
Packet Vision marked its U.S. entrance with a “proof of concept” demo of a personalized advertising platform outfitted for IPTV networks. The company is coming to market with a 19-inch, rack-mounted “pizza box” platform that contains a media server, splicer, playout router and management system. The box, set for commercial launch in early 2006, can support up to 200 IPTV customers and up to 200 input channels, the company claimed.
Integra5 Communications landed another customer for its messaging and communications technology products, announcing that Foothills Telephone Cooperative, of Staffordsville, Ky., will deploy its TV Caller ID and TV Voicemail Message Waiting applications. Foothills, which provides phone, high-speed data and cable TV services to more than 15,000 customers in Lawrence and Magoffin counties, will deploy Integra5’s TV messaging applications via its fiber-to-the-home network. Plans are to introduce the Integra5-driven services beginning in early 2006.
We are making changes and additions (including international deployments) to our
Web-based “living” deployment chart. If you have a new deployment to report for the VOD Scorecard and the Web-based deployment chart, please contact CED Editor
Issue Contents »
CEO: Fred Ellis
Claim to fame: Provides encryption and digital rights management technology for IP-based broadband media, targeting satellite, cable, telcos and other service providers.
Recent news of note:
Partnered with SkyStream to create a “push” video-on-demand system that teams SkyStream’s content delivery platform with SecureMedia’s Encryptonite conditional access and digital rights management systems. Rather than leveraging a two-way broadband network, the so-called “push” VOD platform distributes popular movies and titles to set-top hard drives during off-peak hours for later playback
(Entertainment Advertising Technology Television)
San Francisco, Calif.
CEO: Dewey Reid
Company claim to fame:
The ImageGuide, a next-gen, graphics-centric video-on-demand navigation systems for the television and PC environments. The system also supports short- and longer-form advertising.
Recent news of note:
EAT.TV’s technology got off the ground on the Web, supporting Living.com, a portal to on-demand fare from networks such as HGTV, Food Network, DIY, and Fine Living.
SCTE Live Learning Event
Move to IPTV via
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Location: The Web
“Cable & Television
Dec. 7-8, 2005
Registration is free
Location: On the Web
Jan. 5-8, 2006
Las Vegas, Nev.
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April 9-11, 2006
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June 20-23, 2006
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