Cable Catchup

10:30 AM -- There's plenty to catch up on in the world of cable before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) meets this morning to vote on a proceeding aimed at codifying network neutrality rules…

  • Comcast, Rogers close in on Web TV: Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) CEO Brian Roberts caused a stir at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco this week, showing a demo of "On Demand Online" (ODOL), a Web TV product that will be offered for free to the MSO's video subs by year's end. (See Comcast Nears 'TV Everywhere' Launch.)

    Although ODOL (evidently just the working title) is part of a broader "TV Everywhere" strategy, the service initially will be restricted to customer home PCs.

    Comcast has not announced a formal launch date, but the MSO's blog notes that the company recently increased its tech trial from 5,000 to 7,000 users, and that 24 networks are so far on board with the effort.

    In other MSO-related TV Everywhere news, Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) SVP David Purdy told attendees at the B&C/Multichannel News OnScreen Media Summit in New York Wednesday that the Canadian cable operator expects to launch its own Web TV service on Nov. 17 with 15 programming partners. And chalk up another win for Comcast-owned media publishing entity thePlatform Inc. Rogers told folks at the confab that it has picked that company to manage the service, which will be offered to the MSO's 2.3 million subs.

  • Disney's unlocking Keychest: Don't look now, but all this "TV Everywhere" business could soon be mired in a battle regarding which technology will supply the rights that allow a TV show or movie to be played out on different devices.

    According to The Wall Street Journal, Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS)'s close to launching "Keychest," the code-name for such a technology. The idea: Consumers pay once for a Keychest-enabled video title stored in the "cloud," and allowing viewing to an array of devices, including PCs, TVs, and mobile devices.

    Keychest, reportedly to be unveiled sometime next month, could butt heads with the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), which counts Comcast among its backers.

  • BigBand's IPTV pals BigBand Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: BBND) is making progress with its cable IPTV platform, vIP PASS, not with new deployments, but with its first pre-integrated product partners. (See BigBand Lays Cable IPTV Groundwork and Koreans Take Cable IPTV for a Spin .)

    Joining the team are new partners for Docsis 3.0 chips -- Texas Instruments Inc. (NYSE: TXN); cable modem/gateways -- Netgear Inc. (Nasdaq: NTGR), Mplus Technology Co., Hitron Technologies Inc. , and SerComm Corp. ; and digital rights management -- Widevine Technologies Inc. (See BigBand IDs IPTV Partners .)

    The strategy is a familiar one for BigBand. In 2006, when BigBand still sold "core" cable modem termination systems (CMTSs), it announced a Docsis 3.0 integration that teamed a wideband modem from Netgear with BigBand's Cuda CMTS and BME (Broadband Multimedia-Service Edge) products. (See BigBand Terminates CMTS.)

  • Changes up top at ZillionTV: ZillionTV Corp. , a company that's looking to launch an ad-supported, over-the-top, IP-fueled video service, confirmed that Mitch Berman has stepped down as CEO but will stay on as executive chairman.

    ZillionTV, which recently laid off about one third of its staff and has delayed a commercial launch until sometime in 2010, said Jack Lawrence has taken over the CEO role. Lawrence, most recently the head of North American ops for Hong Kong-based toymaker Corgi International, also served at datacasting specialist Dotcast.

    Although the changes again put a big question mark on ZillionTV's future, the company's intent is to distribute its content in partnership with ISPs and through a complementary direct-to-consumer model that would see ZillionTV's software embedded in TVs and other broadband-enabled devices.

  • So much for brand equity: BIAP Systems Inc. , a developer of interactive television and Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) apps, has changed its name to FourthWall Media. Why? "We focus on breaking through the 'fourth wall' – that invisible barrier standing between a TV audience, and programmers and advertisers," the company explains. (See BIAP Becomes FourthWall Media, BIAP Building Mavs EBIF 'Widget', and TWC, BIAP Sign EBIF Deal.)

    Oh, so that's what that was.

  • German wideband: Unitymedia GmbH is the latest European MSO to jump on the Docsis 3.0 train with the coming launch of a wideband tier that offers 120 Mbit/s downstream (and an unbonded 5-Mbit/s upstream). Unitymedia says it will introduce the tier, dubbed Unity3play 120,000, in Cologne and Aachen on November 2, giving it a weapon to wield against area VDSL competition. (See Unitymedia Unveils 120M Broadband.)

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

    Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to TelcoTV 2009, the telecom industry’s premier event for the exploration of a comprehensive entertainment convergence strategy, to be staged in Orlando, Fla., November 10-12. For more information, or to register, click here.

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