• 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.

    In a demo last week in NYC, ActiveVideo showcased what makes its approach so powerful. Using as an example Comcast's next-generation X1 interface (which Comcast ties to its new high-end X1 set-top box), ActiveVideo displayed it running on a range of five different devices including an older digital set-top box, a Roku and an LG SmartTV. X1's graphics were richly displayed and highly responsive to user interactivity. Importantly, the experience was identical across devices, meaning that operators' multi-device experiences would be completely unified.

    ActiveVideo makes all this happen by doing the heavy processing in the cloud, then delivering the data via an MPEG stream to a lightweight "nano" client that can be run by various devices. The two key risks in this approach are whether CloudTV can scale as the number of concurrent users grows and whether it causes pay-TV operator's network costs to balloon. Addressing these concerns, ActiveVideo also announced last week advancements in rendering, multiplexing and dual-stream delivery that substantially reduce required bandwidth. ActiveVideo also pointed to a case study by ACG Research showing that total cost of ownership for deploying CloudTV H5 would be 83% lower than traditional set-top box approaches.  

    All of this matters because pay-TV operators are facing unprecedented threats from over-the-top alternatives, requiring them to innovate their user experiences. But since legacy set-top box and delivery technologies are expensive to upgrade, cost-effective transition technologies are essential. That's exactly what CloudTV H5 is - a platform that delivers on the benefits of cloud processing while avoiding the need to replace millions of set-top boxes and embracing new CE devices. As CloudTV H5 is deployed, pay-TV subscribers will begin to see archaic guides replaced by more web and app-like experiences.