Zenverge Eyes More Streams for More Screens
Zenverge Inc., a chipmaker that specializes in video transcoding, is getting ready to take in-home video streaming via gateways and set-tops to the next level.
The company's current-generation transcoding chips can support up to four individual HD video streams and device/bit-rate profiles at the same time, but the next version will target at least six streams, company execs tell Light Reading Cable.
A six-channel transcoding chip "is a natural spot for us," says Tony Masterson, Zenverge's CTO. "We can go even higher than that."
Zenverge isn't saying exactly when it will launch those new products, but the company expects to announce details about its roadmap "over the next few months," Masterson adds.
Zenverge's technology is gaining traction with the cable guys as they continue to piece together IP video migration strategies for the home. Many MSOs are in pursuit of hybrid QAM/IP gateways that can convert the incoming QAM video stream into multiple IP video streams that can then be distributed to smart TVs, tablets, smartphones and other IP devices that are hanging off the home network. In addition to straight streaming, Zenverge's silicon also has the ability to transfer recorded content to other devices, a technique sometimes called "slideloading." (See Morega Tackles Video Portability.)
The gateway approach can help operators offset some big capital costs, because only the primary device needs to contain a CableCARD, a module and interface that adds more than $40 to the cost of a set-top. While today's four-stream solution appears to be enough at the moment for most customers, a six-stream version offers a good technical target, since today's widely deployed multi-stream CableCARDs can support up to six individual streams. (See Charter Bemoans CableCARD Costs.)
Zenverge's four-stream system has already racked up some wins. Among them, TiVo Inc. uses Zenverge silicon in its new TiVo Stream transcoding sidecar, and Arris Group Inc. has picked it for a new class of "headless" video gateway that's based on Comcast Corp.'s Reference Design Kit and can be deployed in out-of-sight places like a basement or a closet (that device is considered headless because it doesn't handle the video rendering tasks that a "headed" gateway/set-top would). Zenverge is also targeting headed gateways and advanced HD-DVRs that tack on the transcoding piece. (See Comcast All-Service Gateways Go 'Headless' and Suddenlink Activates TiVo Stream.)
Zenverge's co-processor approach will compete with companies like Broadcom Corp., which is integrating the transcoding piece on its own.
Zenvege's current four-stream chips already out-muscle some early single-stream transcoding devices, such as the Motorola Mobility LLC-made Televation, a product that includes a CableCARD. Comcast markets that device under the AnyPlay brand. Motorola's working on a multi-stream version of Televation, according to FierceCable. (See Comcast Uses TV Streamer to Pump Mobile Bundles and Comcast Beams Live TV to the iPad.)
Gateway versus cloud
Although cable's also starting to deliver some live TV programming directly from the cloud (primarily in the form of national cable channels), the home gateway will remain a key part of the industry's strategy for five to ten years, Masterson predicts. A big reason for that, he adds, is because cable has already spent billions on a QAM infrastructure and still has millions of QAM-only set-tops in the field that it's not going to just walk away from. He also holds that QAM remains the most efficient way to deliver local TV broadcast feeds and PEG (public, education and government) access channels to customer homes. Transcoding all of those different versions for each local market represents a cumbersome and complicated task that many MSOs don't want to tackle yet. And that's the kind of trend Zenverge hopes will hold up as operators start to accelerate the gateway model. Zenverge, a privately held company founded in 2006, doesn't reveal financial data, but the company believes it will become profitable within 12 months. Zenverge recently closed a $20.5 million "D" round led by set-top chipmaker Entropic Communications Inc. Verizon Ventures, the VC arm of Verizon Communications Inc., announced it had invested (the amount was undisclosed) in Zenverge last August. Motorola participated in Zenverge's $30 million "C" round in early 2010. (See Entropic Buys Into Video Transcoding.) — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable