Tuesday, March 3, 2009, 9:01 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
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.