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Monsoon Pitches MSO-Managed TV Place-Shifting

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

Monsoon Multimedia Inc. intends to take the cable industry by storm by selling them Slingbox-esque devices that are fitted with a policy management system that lets MSOs apply a range of restrictions and policies and decide which channels are even eligible for place-shifting.

Monsoon, maker of a line of place-shifting boxes under the Vulkano brand, is giving MSOs access to a set of management knobs and dials using a rights restrictions engine called the Multi-Screen Policy Management Solution (MPMS).

Some elements that can be toggled on and off at the MSO's discretion include the ability to keep streaming restricted to the reach of the home network or allow users to stream from the device remotely; the ability to record programs (some Vulkano devices come with internal storage); and the ability for customers to transfer recorded shows to an iPad, PC or another type of mobile viewing device. The MPMS also lets MSOs pick and choose which channels can be place-shifted at all, based on what rights the operator has with a given programmer or cable network.

"Think of it as additional metadata related to a piece of content," says Monsoon EVP Paul Friedman.

Monsoon believes this kind of "restriction table" will be attractive to MSOs that are interested in adding a live TV component to their TV Everywhere strategies but are wary of nagging rights issues. "MSOs are concerned about their more restrictive agreements with content owners," Friedman says. "Now they don't have to wait until they have a deal with all the content owners before they roll this out."

Under that model, an MSO, for example, could allow unfettered place-shifting access to CNN, if they have the rights to do so, while letting users stream ESPN only over the subscriber's home network.

Going after MSOs is new ground for Monsoon, which has been selling its line of Vulkano boxes direct to consumers without any content access restrictions. The privately held, seven-year-old company isn't disclosing how many units it's sold.

Monsoon has yet to strike any service-provider deals, but Friedman says it's demonstrated it with "one of the larger MSOs" and is in talks with others. In addition to selling Vulkano boxes outfitted with MPMS, Monsoon is also interested in licensing scenarios that would let MSOs embed the technology in cable set-tops.

Why this matters
MSOs are eager to add live TV to the TV Everywhere lineup, but concerns about rights issues remain paramount. While place-shifting devices, such as the Slingbox, haven't been challenged in court, existing contracts between MSOs and programmers may be subject to rights and access restrictions that devices sold at retail aren't. Monsoon hopes to clear that up by giving MSOs the ability to manage those place-shifting policies and adjust them as they negotiate for and obtain such rights from the individual programmers. (See Why Is Sling Getting a Free Pass? and Q&A: Sling Media Founder Blake Krikorian .)

But Monsoon will have plenty of company. EchoStar Corp. LLC (Nasdaq: SATS) is already pitching MSOs on standalone Slingboxes and a new line of "Sling-Loaded" set-tops, and has considered offering similar policy management capabilities that would let MSOs decide which channels are suitable for place-shifting. Motorola Mobility LLC and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), meanwhile, co-developed Televation, a video transcoding device that initially will limit place-shifting to within the customer's home. (See Moto, Comcast Team on In-Home TV Streamer .)

For more
Catch up on how cable's been playing around with place-shifting.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:51:18 PM
re: Monsoon Pitches MSO-Managed TV Place-Shifting

I understand that MSOs are concerned about rights issues and the need to apply policies if, for example, their contract with a given programmer won't allow place-shifting, but this could be pretty confusing for the customer to understand if they can only access some channels and not others, and have some channels restricted to in-home streaming, while they can stream others whether they happen to be in their houses or located in Hong Kong.

We'll have to see how this plays out and find out how customers react when/if Monsoon gets some deals going, but if I'm a cable sub and I want a place-shifting option, I'll probably choose to buy a restrictions-free box from EchoStar, Monsoon, et al, from retail.  TWC's Slingbox promo in NYC also sidesteps these issues because it centres on products sold at retail, with the MSO subsidizing the cost if the sub signs up for the wideband service.  JB

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:51:16 PM
re: Monsoon Pitches MSO-Managed TV Place-Shifting

So security and/or digital rights come from this MPMS engine? Is Monsoon using anything more familar or standard, maybe for in-home wireless transmission (which appears to be one of their calling cards).

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:51:11 PM
re: Monsoon Pitches MSO-Managed TV Place-Shifting

apparently it involves some metadata system that would help govern where those transcoded streams are allowed to go and decide if  a stream is eligible to be created in the first place. But I'd assume that would be managed centrally somewhere and the policies would have to be pushed down to the device and updated as specific programming rights are gained or lost. JB

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