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Rogers VC Splashes Cash on ITV Startup

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Welcome to the cable news roundup, T.G.I.F. edition.

  • Interactive television startup Cognitive Networks Inc. has a new name, a new CEO and US$2.5 million in the bank thanks to an initial round of funding from Rogers Venture Partners, the V.C. arm of Canada's Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI). Cognitive, formerly known as TV Interactive Systems, is now headed up by industry vet Michael Collette, the former CEO of PhyFlex Networks (now part of Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN)), Ucentric Systems (sold to Motorola Inc. in 2005), and an exec late of OpenTV and ICTV Inc. (now ActiveVideo ). Cognitive, founded in 2008 "over beers" (the Rogers investment is worth 58,207 cases of Moosehead, in case you were wondering), has developed an automatic content recognition (ACR) platform for smart TVs that can be used to support interactive advertising and other types of personalized iTV apps that synch up with video programming. Shazam Entertainment Ltd. and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)-backed zeebox also use ACR. (See Motorola Buys Ucentric Systems and Comcast, HBO Back Zeebox.)

    Collette's on board to lead the development and rollout of the company's product, raise capital, build staff and ramp up operations. A Cognitive spokesman says the company has "commercial relationships with a couple of the largest TV OEMs" that have not yet been announced. It expects to have "a few million active users" by the first quarter of 2013, and 5 million to 7 million active users by the end of 2013.

  • Canada's Espial Group Inc. is set to acquire the outstanding shares of U.K.-based ANT plc in a deal valued at £5 million (US$8 million). Espial says it already has the okay from holders of 47 percent of ANT's outstanding shares, and expects to seal up the deal in the first quarter of 2013. ANT, like Espial, makes embedded software for set-tops and connected TVs, including some products that use HTML5. ANT's customers include Coship Electronics Co. Ltd. , Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Humax Co. Ltd. , Samsung Corp. and Technicolor (Euronext Paris: TCH; NYSE: TCH).

  • Redbox Instant by Verizon will start at $6 per month and debut on Android, iOS devices, some Samsung Corp. TVs and Blu-Ray players, and the Xbox 360 as early as December 17, reports GigaOM. The Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)/Redbox Automated Retail LLC venture, which will cross swords with Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) but will start with a smaller content library, will also offer an $8 tier that includes four Redbox credits that can be redeemed for DVD rentals, and will let users buy and rent newer titles, the report adds. (See Verizon/Redbox Combo Set for Q4 Breakout .)

  • Netflix could face additional video streaming competition south of the border if América Móvil S.A. de C.V. and Carlos Slim move ahead with a purported plan to launch an online movie and TV service, reports Bloomberg, noting that the billionaire intends to offer the service via its DLA Inc. unit, which already markets broadband video services in Argentina and Uruguay. Slim & Co., though, still need Mexican regulators to lift a ban preventing América Móvil from offering streaming video.

  • Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) has added a voicemail-to-text transcription feature for its home phone service, a capability that has also been recently introduced by Comcast. Offered through TW Cable's VoiceZone portal, its version lets customers send those messages (transcribed into English or Spanish) to as many as five mobile phone numbers and email addresses. The latest bell and whistle comes as cable operators try to juice up flattening voice subscription growth. TW Cable ended the third quarter with 4.99 million voice subscribers. (See TW Cable Misses Q3 Targets .)

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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