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Saturday, December 20, 2014

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  • YouTube Scores Big TV Success in Hungary, Further Blurring Pay-TV/OTT Divide (Part 2)

    Two months ago I wrote about the initial success cable operator UPC Hungary had in offering YouTube to its subscribers via existing set-top boxes. Since its May introduction, about 50% of those who could access YouTube had already done so at least once, and more than 50% of them had become repeat users. Now, 2 months later, 80% of those who have access have tried YouTube, with 80% of them returning.

    The new data was revealed by Arpad Jordan, CTO of UPC Central and Eastern Europe at the OTT World Summit in London. YouTube access was rolled out in a first phase in May to around 250K HD set-top boxes. In September Jordan said that these first phase YouTube users were watching over a million minutes per day with average session lengths of 45 minutes.

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  • YouTube Scores Big TV Success in Hungary, Further Blurring Pay-TV/OTT Divide

    Here's more evidence that over-the-top video may be pay-TV's friend, not its foe, as conventional wisdom holds. As reported by Broadband TV News, YouTube is enjoying early and widespread success since its recent launch by pay-TV operator UPC Hungary to hundreds of thousands of subscribers there.

    Unveiled at the end of May as part of UPC Hungary's first phase rollout of multiple online apps, YouTube is already generating over a million minutes per day of viewing by UPC Hungary subscribers, the highest among the 20 different apps now available.

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  • How to Deliver Immersive HTML5 Video Ads to Any Set-Top Box [AD SUMMIT VIDEO]

    Watching online video on connected TVs is now completely mainstream, as evidenced by Hulu noting that 62% of its views are on connected TVs. This powerful trend makes delivering immersive HTML5 video ad experiences to connected TVs and pay-TV set-top boxes an imperative for advertisers to accomplish their reach and frequency goals.

    At the recent Video Ad Summit, Active Video demo'd how they're solving this problem, by rendering ads in the cloud and then delivering them - with full interactivity - to any type of set-top box. In the demo, ads from American Express and L'Oreal illustrate how it works. The Active Video presentation followed one by Quiznos, showcasing their "Toasty.TV" campaign, which would be a perfect fit for a living room experience.

    watch the demo

     
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  • Here's a Surprise: OTT and Pay-TV Could Wind Up As Best Friends

    The traditional narrative around online/over-the-top video is that it will incent cord-cutting and cord-nevering. But now, in a twist, instead of a looming battle between OTT and pay-TV, it could well be that we're on the brink of a new era of cooperation between the two, which could have profound implications for everyone in the video ecosystem.

    Stepping back for a moment, pay-TV operators have always been in the business of improving the delivery of available video and packaging it into bundles. Initially operators distributed broadcast channels and then in the 70's and 80's, with the advent of satellite delivery, operators began bundling "cable" channels as well (e.g. ESPN, MTV, CNN, USA, etc.).

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  • Cloud-Based Mosaic for TV Navigation Launched By Liberty Global in Puerto Rico

    Ever wonder what your friends and neighbors are watching on TV right now and whether you're missing something hot? Well, cable operator Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico is rolling out an HTML5 app to all of its 350K subscribers there, which will allow them to view a customizable mosaic of the most-watched TV networks at any moment, with 1-click access to tune in themselves.

    The "Social Content Navigator" app is a new guide concept that Liberty has created with ActiveVideo to enhance the value of cable-TV subscriptions and better compete with both satellite and OTT providers.

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  • ActiveVideo and BrightLine Bring Interactive Video Ads to Set-Top Boxes and Connected TV Devices

    In yet another sign of how online video and TV advertising are continuing to blur, this morning ActiveVideo and BrightLine have announced a partnership to enable set-top boxes and connected TV devices to deliver interactive video ads from the cloud without any additional technical or creative work. Using ActiveVideo's new "CloudTV AdCast," advertisers and agencies can seamlessly deliver HTML5 ads to set-top boxes and connected TV devices, vastly expanding the reach of their ads and increasing their ROI.

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  • ActiveVideo Lands Liberty Global for CloudTV Strategy

    ActiveVideo Networks has scored a big win, announcing that Liberty Global, the largest international cable operator with over 24 million subscribers, has chosen ActiveVideo's CloudTV software to enhance Liberty's rollout of Horizon TV, its next-gen video platform. Sachin Sathaye, ActiveVideo's VP of Strategy and Marketing, told me that Liberty will use CloudTV as a complement to Horizon for existing set-top boxes and connected TV devices (i.e. where new Horizon STBs aren't deployed). Services will include cloud DVR, VOD navigation and advanced apps. Timing for rollout hasn't been disclosed yet.

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  • VideoNuze Podcast #184 - The Cloud's Impact on Video Delivery

    I'm pleased to present the 184th edition of the VideoNuze podcast with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia. This week we discuss the cloud's impact on video delivery. First, I share thoughts on Comcast's X2 platform, unveiled this week, in which the cloud plays a central role.

    Colin notes that with Comcast's approach, there is still a fair amount of client-side processing happening, so it's not fully capitalizing on the cloud just yet. Colin draws a distinction between Comcast's approach and that of ActiveVideo Networks (which I recently wrote about), whose CloudTV moves all the processing to the cloud, allowing services to run on older set-top boxes and newer CE devices.

    It's still early days in the cloud's deployment with different models at work, but there's no question it's going to become a bigger part of the video delivery landscape.

    Listen in to learn more!

    Click here to listen to the podcast (19 minutes, 43 seconds)




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  • ActiveVideo Moves UI to the Cloud to Unify Guide Experiences

    If you've recently visited the guide provided by your pay-TV operator, chances are you were pretty underwhelmed. Never known for its usability, the typical guide increasingly looks like a relic from another age, as rich apps and online video services have continued to raise the bar on program discovery.

    One company looking to change all of this is ActiveVideo Networks, which leverages cloud-based processing to deliver sophisticated HTML5 experiences to even the most humble, low-end digital set-top boxes. The result is a pivotal change in bringing pay-TV providers' guides up to par, cost-effectively and with low operational impact. Late last week, ActiveVideo gained momentum for its approach, announcing that big U.S. cable operators Charter and Cablevision are using its "CloudTV H5" platform for cloud-based UI and interactive applications, respectively, and that Sumitomo will help roll out the platform in Japan and Asia.

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  • Cloud-Based Startup Portico Aims to Package Online Video Into TV Experiences

    Scan comScore's monthly rankings of top video properties and one of the interesting things you'll notice is that aside from maybe one or two TV networks' sites, those with the heaviest traffic (e.g. YouTube, Yahoo, AOL, VEVO, Facebook, etc.) specialize in short-form content.

    What this means is that unlike traditional TV - which features 30 and 60 minute programs (if not longer) - in online video many viewers' experiences consist of cobbling together numerous shorter clips, requiring them to repeatedly make a choice of what to watch next. The reality is that in online video there is little actual "programming" or "scheduling" that happens - where human beings actually create and curate a flow of programs designed to keep the viewer in place for longer (and more monetizable) periods of time.

    Recognizing this deficiency - and the proliferation of Internet-connected TVs - a new service launching today called Portico, from startup Net2TV, aims to package, or cluster by genre as "mosaics," certain online videos, to create a more TV-like experience for viewers. Portico's service, which is available initially on Philips SmartTVs in the U.S. presents mosaics featuring either a specific content provider, or multiple providers. In the former example, CBS Interactive's CHOW.com has its own mosaic, whereas the "Portico Tech" mosaic includes content from Discovery's Revision 3 and Bonnier's Popular Science.

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  • Comcast Refreshes VOD UI With ActiveVideo's Help

    If you've ever used video-on-demand from your pay-TV operator, you no doubt agree that trying to find and then navigate to what you'd like to watch feels like a Soviet-era experience. The problem is the set-top box's processing limitations have hamstrung pay-TV operators from delivering a more web-like VOD experience.

    The company looking to change all that is ActiveVideo Networks, and yesterday it got a big boost as Comcast, the largest pay-TV operator in the U.S., licensed ActiveVideo's CloudTV H5 platform for a trial in its Chattanooga, TN market. If the trial goes well and Comcast rolls CloudTV H5 out nationally, the VOD experience is going to dramatically improve for millions of viewers, in turn making it more competitive with web-based OTT VOD providers.

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  • 10 Online/Mobile Video Items from CES Worth Noting

    Happy Friday. Below are 10 interesting CES news items related to online and mobile video that hit my radar this week, but that I didn't have an opportunity to write about. There were many more cool things coming out of Las Vegas, and on so on Wed, January 19th TDG's Colin Dixon and I will present our next complimentary webinar, "Demystifying CES 2011" to review everything more fully. Mark your calendars, registration will be open shortly.

    Intel "Insider" Movie Service unveiled - Intel unexpectedly launched its own online movie service as part of its "Sandy Bridge" chip announcement. The world probably doesn't need another service, but when Intel soon enabled is "WiDi" wireless display to project content to HDTVs, Insider will get more attention.  

    EchoStar acquires Move Networks assets - an inglorious ending for early leader in adaptive bit rate (ABR) streaming. As CDN prices plummeted and ABR competition emerged, Move's service was over-priced and marginalized.

    Funai integrates ActiveVideo Networks into connected devices - The first integration of AVN's "CloudTV" into connected CE devices allows interactive streaming content to be delivered in standard MPEG format.

    Orb BR launches - Orb Networks launches "Orb BR," a disc that inserted into connected Blu-ray players or PS3 that allows viewers to access content from the full Internet. Cost? $19.95. Waiting to try one out, this could be a winner.

    Comcast and Time Warner Cable service coming directly to Sony and Samsung TVs - Hate that cable set top box? Soon Comcast subscribers will be able to buy a connected Samsung TV and access the full Xfinity TV channel lineup. Similarly, Time Warner Cable subscribers will be able to buy Sony connected TV buyers and see the full cable channel lineup. Who would have thought?

    Skype plans to acquire Qik mobile video service - Moving to bulk up its involvement with video, Skype plans to acquire Qik, which allows users to record and share video via mobile devices.

    Motorola and AT&T unveil Atrix 4G - Have a look at this video to see what the future of mobile devices look like - the power of a full computer in your pocket. Two very clever docks mean that users can easily view video on bigger screens as well as work with a full keyboard and mouse.

    Vudu to offer 3D movies - a first for online delivery, aggregator Vudu announced that it is currently offering 3D movies to certain Samsung connected devices, and will soon offer it to PS3, Vizio, LG, Mitsubishi, Toshiba and boxee.  

    Boxee gains access to CBS programs - Boxee broke some new ground by gaining access to CBS programs, something that neither Apple TV, Roku or Google TV currently have. No word on pricing yet.

    Yahoo adds feature to its Connected TV platform - Yahoo, one of the early entrants in the connected TV area, launches a feature call "broadcast interactivity" which allows further engagement with TV program content.

     
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  • Webinar Next Tuesday, Oct. 5th: Demystifying Mobile Video

    Next Tuesday, Oct. 5th, The Diffusion Group and VideoNuze will present the fifth complimentary webinar in our 2010 "Demystifying" series, with this session's focus on demystifying mobile video. The series is exclusively sponsored by ActiveVideo Networks.

    Once again, TDG's Colin Dixon and I will be hosting and moderating. Joining us will be Matt Smith, VP/Chief Systems Architect at Inlet Technologies, a leading provider of solutions for digital media preparation. Matt will share thoughts on how Inlet's media customers are beginning to exploit mobile video, along with their challenges and successes. Then we'll have moderated Q&A followed by plenty of time for audience Q&A.

    Mobile video is white hot right now and poised for huge growth ahead. The proliferation of video-capable smartphones (iPhone, Android, etc.) and more recently video-friendly tablets like the iPad (plus new entrants like the Dell Streak, Samsung Tab, etc.) are driving a sea-change in consumers' expectations about on-the-go video. In the midst of this we're seeing advertisers flock to mobile video. In fact, even using the term "mobile video" may be short-lived, as the lines between devices and the experiences they provide continue to blur.

    Click here to learn more and register about this complimentary webinar (Tues, Oct 5, 11am PT/ 2pm ET).
     
  • Webinar Highlights - Indie Online Video, Syndication and Brand Integration

    On Tuesday, VideoNuze and The Diffusion Group hosted their fourth webinar in a 2010 series of six sponsored by ActiveVideo Networks, with this one focusing on "Demystifying Independent Online Video and Syndication Models."

    The webinar featured informative and timely discussion/Q&A with Richard Bloom, SVP, Business Development for 5min, and Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3.  The focus of the discussion was on business models for success in independent online video with a specific lean towards syndication. Both Jim and Rich honed in on how syndication helps solve the difficulties with finding eyeballs and building audience in the fragmented broadband video landscape.

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  • Webinar Today: Independent Online Video and Syndication

    Please join The Diffusion Group and VideoNuze today at 11am PT/2pm ET when we will present the fourth complimentary webinar in our 2010 "Demystifying" series, with this session's focus on demystifying independent online video and syndication models. The series is exclusively sponsored by ActiveVideo Networks.

    TDG's Colin Dixon and I will be hosting and moderating the webinar, which will include guests Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3, and Rich Bloom, SVP of Business Development for 5Min.  Jim and Rich will each do short presentations and then we'll have moderated Q&A followed by plenty of time for audience Q&A.

    Jim and Rich will cover what's working for their companies and what's in store for the broader online video industry going forward. If you're an independent video producer, or part of an established media company looking to succeed in the online medium, this webinar is for you!

    Click here to learn more and register about this complimentary webinar

     
  • ActiveVideo Lights Up 2 Dozen Interactive Channels for Cablevision

    Cablevision, the 5th largest cable operator in the US and dominant provider in the NYC metro area, and ActiveVideo Networks, provider of "CloudTV" interactive solutions are announcing this morning that Cablevision is now delivering over 2 dozen interactive channels to its entire digital video subscriber base.  The offerings include hyper-local sports and news, advertising showcases and "Quick View" mosaic navigational channels. Plans are to roll out additional channels.

    For those not familiar with ActiveVideo Networks, its focus is enabling video service providers to bridge web-based content, including video, directly to the TV. ActiveVideo provides a content developer's kit (CDK) set of set of standards-based tools (Javascript, XHTML/DHTML) so customers can develop web-based content and deliver it to a digital set-top box as an MPEG stream. The CDK allows much faster development cycles plus lots of flexibility. As the name implies, content is delivered from the cloud, with a thin client in the digital set-top box.

    All of this is important because as convergence devices (e.g. game consoles, TiVo, Roku, Blu-ray devices, boxee, etc.) consumers' expectations are growing that they'll be able to get web content on their TVs. That's turning up the heat on service providers to make the TV experience more interactive and engaging.  Whereas "TV Everywhere" initiatives are about bringing TV content online, convergence efforts are about bringing web content to the TV, complete with interactivity and constant updates. Games are another important application and just last week ActiveVideo acquired TAG Networks, a gaming platform that will allow service providers to deliver casual games through their set-top boxes.

    I've seen various ActiveVideo implementations and they are remarkably web-like and responsive. The interface is similar to what you experience online. And using your remote control you're able to quickly navigate around. I expect that as the pressure mounts on incumbent service providers to deliver more web-like content to TVs, but with minimal client or network upgrades, the addition of CloudTV services will make more and more sense.

    What do you think? Post a comment now (no sign-in required).

    (Note - ActiveVideo Networks is a VideoNuze sponsor)
     
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  • ActiveVideo Networks Helping Blockbuster on Demand Deliver a Converged Experience

    Amid all of the attention Netflix has been receiving for embedding its streaming software in one consumer electronics device after another (the Wii just yesterday) and its recent Warner Bros. deal, it's been easy to overlook the fact that Blockbuster has been getting some online traction itself. One announcement at CES last week, by ActiveVideo Networks, caught my attention as it has the potential to leapfrog Blockbuster On Demand's user experience past Netflix's Watch Instantly.

    Much as I'm a big fan of Netflix's Watch Instantly streaming feature, one of its limitations is that the user experience is very segregated between computer and TV. You browse and search online for titles - just as you would for DVDs - and then when you've made your choices, they show up in your Instant Queue online and on your connected TV (via Roku, Blu-ray, Xbox or other device). While it's a perfectly functional approach, wouldn't it be nice if you could do the entire process of search, discovery, previewing, selection and viewing on the TV itself?

    That's the experience that ActiveVideo Networks' CloudTV will be helping Blockbuster on Demand deliver to its users. As ActiveVideo's CEO Jeff Miller explained to me yesterday, when deployed, the Blockbuster on Demand app (developed using ActiveVideo's JavaScript/HTML authoring kit), will give Blockbuster's users a web-like experience of search, discovery and previewing on their TVs, via connected devices. In addition, it will present viewing options - streaming, download-to-own and in-store rental (via an API it will even show current availability in selected stores).

    The requirements are that ActiveVideo's thin client has been integrated with the device, and that Blockbuster has its own deal with to distribute through the specific device manufacturer. Navigation is via the remote control using an on-screen keypad (see example screen shots below from last week's CES demos).

     

    To date, Blockbuster has announced CE device deals with Samsung, 2Wire, and through its deal with Sonic Solutions, the ecosystem of devices already working with Roxio CinemaNow, such as TiVo. For now, that's small in comparison to Netflix's constellation of device partners, but it's still early in the convergence game. Outside of CE devices - and in a case of somewhat strange bedfellows - Blockbuster is also focused on cable operators. It recently announced partnership deals with top 10 cable operators Suddenlink and Mediacom to enhance their VOD offerings.

    Similarly, ActiveVideo is also focused both on CE (currently through a partnership with middleware provider Videon Central) and on cable. It has deployed on set-top boxes with Cablevision and Oceanic Time Warner Cable in Hawaii, reaching an audience of 5 million homes. Content providers that have developed apps include Showtime, HSN and Fox, among others. No doubt ActiveVideo and Blockbuster will synch up their biz dev activities to proliferate the Blockbuster on Demand app as widely as possible.

    I have to admit that I haven't been paying too much attention to Blockbuster, as it has worked to re-position itself, aiming to close another 1,000 stores by the end of the year and installing more kiosks to compete with Redbox. Of course, it can ill afford to allow Netflix to get too far out in front of it in digital delivery as DVD rentals are poised to be supplanted by streaming down the road.

    But Blockbuster has an ubiquitous, if somewhat dated, brand that could be skillfully leveraged into the digital era, provided it has the right services in its arsenal. In this respect, the potential to bring a converged user experience between online and connected TVs is a meaningful differentiator. No initial joint customers have yet been announced by Blockbuster and ActiveVideo, though I expect that soon. And, as online video and TV continue to converge, ActiveVideo is likely to find itself in the middle of a lot of action. All of this is worth keeping an eye on.

    Update: Looks like I'm 1 step behind on Netflix's Xbox implementation. Apparently in Aug '09 it was updated to allow full browsing and search for the Watch Instantly catalog. I'm used to the Roku and Blu-ray experiences. Hat tip to Brian Fitzgerald for bringing to my attention.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

    (Note - ActiveVideo Networks is a VideoNuze sponsor)

     
  • ActiveVideo and Videon Central Team to Bring Video Apps to CE Devices

    Another building block for delivering video applications to the home through broadband connections is being announced this morning by ActiveVideo Networks and Videon Central. The companies are unveiling a partnership in which AVN's client software will be embedded in Videon's middleware stack used in millions of CE devices. I talked to AVN's SVP of Marketing Edgar Villalpando and Videon's VP of Business Development Michael Daulerio last week to learn more.

    For those not familiar with AVN, it is a cloud-based provider of interactive video applications, with customers like Showtime, Fox Reality, HSN and others. AVN initially focused on delivering apps to service providers' set-top boxes, but has also expanded into the Internet-connected CE space. Videon provides middleware to semiconductor and CE manufacturers, driving user interface and navigation in various devices. As an example, its middleware can be found in over 2M Blu-ray players from Samsung, LG, Insignia and others.

    As Edgar and Michael explained, the goal of the partnership is to enable content providers and others to deliver up-to-date video apps to the growing universe of connected-CE homes. In some ways this is comparable to what Intel and Yahoo are doing with the Widget Channel and other industry initiatives.

    To understand how this works, think of a consumer who rents The Dark Knight Blu-ray disc. The disc itself has additional content like Director's cuts, etc. The problem is that the disc's content is fixed, whereas there's always new Dark Knight-related content being produced (e.g. branded entertainment, product-tie ins, games, user-generated content, etc.). Simply using a bumper to promote the Dark Knight's URL on the disc is a start, but it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of specific promotion. Given the amount of money now involved in ancillary revenue streams, Warner Bros, the Dark Knight's distributor, is highly motivated to drive stronger engagement.

    Once implemented, a Blu-ray player with AVN/Videon that's connected to the web allows additional video apps and targeted advertising to be presented seamlessly. The idea of joining offline and online media is a powerful draw for content providers trying to build larger franchises around specific titles. The apps are built with AVN's tools that use web standards like JavaScript and HTML. And with cloud-based delivery, storage needs are minimal and content updates can be frequent. Of course, this is not just restricted to Blu-ray players; Michael explained that Videon's middleware is being included in Internet-enabled TVs and other devices as well.

    There is much speculation about how convergence between broadband and TVs is going to unfold. A big sticking point is how the convergence device gets into the home and who pays for it - consumer, content provider or both. From my perspective, building blocks like AVN-Videon are important because they open up new revenue opportunities for content providers and others to help offset the cost of the device. I expect these kinds of initiatives throughout the ecosystem will only accelerate, bringing the convergence era ever closer.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
  • Made-for-Broadband Video and VOD are Looking Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate

    Remember "two great tastes that taste great together," the slogan from the classic Reese's ads featuring the mixing of peanut butter and chocolate? Recent developments suggest that independently produced/made-for-broadband video and Video-on-Demand could be another Reese's-like combination, bringing together two disparate worlds that have attracted loyal audiences in an offering that could have significant consumer appeal.

    Consider, last week Multichannel News reported that Verizon plans to bring over 7 million broadband video clips from providers like blip.tv, Veoh and Dailymotion to its FiOS service, which users can browse with their set-top boxes. Also last week, AnySource Media, a software company that powers broadband-connected TVs, announced content deals with TheStreet.com, Break.com, Revision3 and Next New Networks, creating hundreds of "virtual VOD channels." And yesterday, Clearleap, a startup technology platform I recently profiled, announced its own deals with blip.tv, Revision3 and Next New Networks, providing content that cable operators can meld with their VOD offerings.

    This push among made-for-broadband producers, technology companies and incumbent video service providers is not coincidental. While they each have their own motivations, their alignment could signal a winning proposition for viewers.

    For the indie content producers, on-demand access on TVs augments their viewing experience and access to their programming. Given how difficult the environment has become for independents (Daisy had a good piece on this topic yesterday) on-demand access is a real differentiator. For cable operators and telcos, popular indie video gives them a targeted pitch to the tech-savvy, younger audiences who have become loyal fans of indie content. Down the road this group is probably most up-for-grabs for alternative "over-the-top" services, so focusing on defending them is smart. And for technology providers, a big market opportunity looms trying to connect the previously disparate worlds of broadband and VOD.

    In fact, in a conversation I had last week with Braxton Jarratt, CEO/founder of Clearleap, he explained that cable operators get all this. They're looking for quality "mid-tail" video from broadband producers, including clips and short-form programs. The company's technology is currently feeding broadband video to a couple hundred thousand cable VOD homes, with a backlog of "double digit" markets pending deployment. Braxton has a lot of content deals on Clearleap's docket, creating a menu for its cable customers to pick and choose from to incorporate into their VOD offerings. Clearleap also offers an ad insertion platform, so indie video can be monetized, not just offered as a value add.

    Meanwhile, VOD has long proven itself popular with viewers. Comcast recently announced it has delivered 11B views since it launched VOD. It has continued to augment its library and add more HD titles. While VOD hasn't really been a money-maker itself, it has become a strong part of the digital value proposition and a defensive move against other viewing alternatives. By incorporating popular broadband video into its VOD choices, its appeal is only strengthened.

    While the tectonic plates of "convergence" continue to shift, examples of broadband video making its way to the TV continue to happen. TiVo has been at this for a while with its "TiVoCast" service, along with technology providers like ActiveVideo Networks and others. The likelihood for independently-produced broadband video and VOD to get together seems poised to increase.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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  • Clearleap Bridges Broadband Video and Ads to TVs

    Summary:

    What: Clearleap has introduced a new technology platform for distributing broadband video content directly to TVs and an accompanying ad management system.

    For whom: Incumbent service providers (cable/telco) and new over-the-top entrants (device makers, aggregators, etc.), content providers and advertisers

    Benefits: For service providers, a flexible, cost-effective system for offering broadband content to their subscribers with minimal technology integration; for content providers a scalable system for distributing content across multiple providers and platforms; for advertisers a new method of targeting on-demand audiences.

    More innovation is coming to the ongoing quest to bring broadband content to TVs as Clearleap, an Atlanta-based startup, pulled back the curtain yesterday on its ambitious technology platform. Last fall, CEO/founder Braxton Jarratt gave me a glimpse into what the company was working on and yesterday he explained it more fully.

    Clearleap aims to do multiple things with its "clear|flow" and "clear|profit" products. For incumbent video service providers (cable and telco operators) and new "over-the-top" entrants (device makers, aggregators, etc.), Clearleap enables delivery of broadband and other video to the TV including integrating with existing Video-on-Demand infrastructure when present; for content providers, it improves the process of distributing of content across multiple providers and platforms; and for both service providers and content providers it offers an ad management solution that allows flexible ad insertion and business rules for ads running with Clearleap-delivered video.

    That's a mouthful, so to break it down a bit, here's my interpretation. First the delivery side. Obviously there's been a lot of discussion, particularly just since CES in January, of new entrants delivering broadband content to TVs, thereby presenting potential alternatives for consumers to "cut the cord" on existing cable and telco providers. One way for incumbent to combat this is for them to offer the best of the web (like TiVo has been doing with TiVoCast for a while now) in one seamless package delivered through the existing set-top box.

    To date incumbents haven't pursued this strategy much though. Braxton attributes this intransigence to lack of adequate technology, than to lack of interest. Braxton says Clearleap has a couple of small deployments active and other announcements pending. The key to success is allowing the incumbents to control the process of what content they acquire and to present it in context with other VOD offerings. clear|flow ingests video from content partners into Clearleap's data centers, transcodes it and properly formats it for target devices, adds metadata and business rules and then enables service providers to subscribe to whatever content they want. The video is either served from Clearleap's data centers or pushed to an incumbent's own hosting facility.

    On the other side of the coin, another goal of clear|flow is to become the glue that allows content providers who want to distribute across all these emerging platforms to do so with minimal work. Just upload your content, specify business rules and the service providers take it from there. Of course, there's a "chicken and egg" challenge here that content providers will only take an interest when there's sufficient distribution. Braxton recognizes this issue as well and said they've been encouraged by the willingness of certain "friendlies" to get involved, which he hopes will provide validation for others to come on board soon.

    Last, but not least, clear|profit allows ad avails to be created and properly divided between the content providers and service providers according to specified rules. Ad management and insertion has of course been the Achilles heel for existing VOD systems, rendering today's VOD a largely revenue-free pursuit for most service providers. Cost-effectively solving the ad insertion process for VOD alone would be a major win.

    Clearleap has an ambitious vision and ordinarily I'd say it feels like a lot for any startup to bite off. But Clearleap has a veteran executive team from N2 Broadband, which was a successful VOD software provider prior to its acquisition by Tandberg Television. The Clearleap team knows its way around cable data centers, has strong industry relationships and is benefitting from pressure incumbents feel to broaden their offerings - all no doubt key factors in helping the company raise money.

    Still, there's going to be plenty of competition. Others circling this space in one way or another include ActiveVideo Networks, AnySource Media, GridNetworks, Sezmi, TiVo and lots of others who all have their own approaches and systems for connecting content providers with incumbent and new service providers to bring broadband video to TVs. It's going to be an interesting space to watch as there is no shortage of energy aimed at merging broadband with the TV and vice versa.

    What do you think? Post a comment now.

     
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