• thePlatform Unveils Support for Numerous Over-the-Top Devices

    thePlatform is announcing this morning that it has integrated with numerous "over-the-top" consumer electronics devices, enabling its content customers to more easily deliver online video to them. Devices cited are boxee, Roku, TiVo, Vudu (which includes connected TVs and Blu-ray players from LG, Mitsubishi, Samsung, Toshiba and Vizio), DivX devices, Syabas (popbox), FlingoTV and others to come (including Google TV when ready). I caught up with Marty Roberts, thePlatform's VP of Sales and Marketing yesterday to learn more.

    Marty explained the impetus was thePlatform's content customers telling the company they want to generate more video views and have easy access to the range of OTT devices coming to market. While conceding that the universe of all these devices combined is still probably in the low single-digit millions, thePlatform and its content customers are betting on future growth. The move is significant as it underscores the mindshare that direct access to TVs via broadband and connected devices has gained in the content community.

    thePlatform has been able to work with these devices' APIs where available, leveraging media RSS feeds. When not available, it has done custom integrations. Marty said there are some unique differences between devices that they've had to work through, but the bulk of the time has been on testing each device. The effort has mirrored previous work publishing to third parties like YouTube or VCAST. thePlatform's recently released mpx Beta allows for "publishing profiles" to be created which have pre-configured selections for variables like transcoding, metadata, thumbnails, adaptive-bit rate delivery, etc.

    One set of important OTT devices thePlatform hasn't yet integrated with are gaming consoles. With millions of units already in viewers' homes, these offer the most short-term OTT potential for content providers. But Marty said the don't have open APIs and don't accept media RSS feeds, thereby requiring one-off solutions that will likely be customer-driven on a console by console basis (e.g the recent ESPN-Xbox deal).

    It is indeed early in the OTT race, and it's unclear how many of these devices will ultimately succeed. I found it somewhat ironic that thePlatform, which is owned by Comcast and which serves 5 of the top U.S. cable operators would be leading the charge on enabling these OTT devices. But Marty countered that it's another example of thePlatform continuing to operate as an independent entity within Comcast, focused on its own success. In fact, he added, Comcast believes it will benefit from this kind of work, as it seeks to understand how "lighter-weight" IP-based publishing models could work.

    There was skepticism when Comcast initially acquired thePlatform regarding how well it could serve customers whose goals didn't necessarily coincide with Comcast's. But these integrations appear to be further evidence that those concerns were overblown. And by making publishing to these devices even easier, thePlatform will no doubt be helping the still nascent OTT ecosystem gain further traction.

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    (Note: thePlatform is a VideoNuze sponsor)