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Cable Catchup

Jeff Baumgartner
8/31/2010

1:30 PM -- Among today's cable nuggets, Paul Allen is going after some heavy hitters; Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) boxes head south of the border; over-the-toppers protect against the latest Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) rumor; and Widevine Technologies Inc. swings another big deal.

  • Charter Communications Inc. founder Paul Allen has thrown the book at some big names, including Apple, Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Facebook , and eBay Inc. (Nasdaq: EBAY), over claims that they are violating patents that the Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) co-founder developed through a now-defunct Silicon Valley lab called Interval Research Corp. more than 10 years ago. A Stanford Law School professor isn't giving Allen much of a chance to win the case, telling The Wall Street Journal that "It sounds like a classic patent-troll case."

    Allen's claims cover three Internet-driven patents linked to e-commerce and Internet search capabilities.

  • Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is starting to play nice with third-party aggregators as it looks for new ways to promote its own video-on-demand (VoD) offerings. On that note, the Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) blog points out that the MSO is feeding its VoD listings to Clicker, a Web-based TV guide service, and offers some thoughts on the implications of the decision.

  • The Evolution Digital LLC-Conax AS set-top and security tandem is making some noise south of the border. Cablemás , a Mexican MSO with about 1 million subs, is pushing the digital needle with 200,000 standard- and high-definition Digital Terminal Adapter (DTA) boxes from Evolution outfitted with Conax's conditional access system.

    The deal is a big one for Evolution and Conax, which have been pitching their Digital Video Broadcasting platform to small and mid-sized US cable operators. (See Cracks Emerge in the Moto-Cisco Duopoly .)

  • Roku Inc. is cutting prices amid the expected arrival of the Boxee box and rumors that Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) is getting ready to launch its new "iTV" product. (See Telcos Should Watch Apple's iTV , Apple to Launch iTV, and Boxee Eyes Over-the-Top Live TV.)

  • Widevine Technologies Inc. is trying to break in big with the cable industry, but, in the meantime, it's still scoring deals at retail for its adaptive streaming and digital rights management products. (See Cable Adapting to Video's Streaming Future.)

    Best Buy Co. Inc. is the latest to sign on, picking Widevine as its "preferred provider" for DRM and adaptive streaming for its Insignia-branded TVs, Blu-ray players, and other media players. The retailer expects to be shipping Widevine-enabled devices, which will feed in over-the-top video services, in the third quarter of 2010. Widevine CEO Brian Barker says his company's software will enable those devices to support traditional DVD-like trick-play functions (fast-forward, rewind, etc.) and chaptering and bookmarking without buffering. (See Widevine Scores Best Buy Deal.)

  • Blockbuster Inc. , Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s latest partner, is preparing for a mid-September bankruptcy. (See Can Cable Save Blockbuster's Bacon? and Comcast Enters the DVD-by-Mail Game .)

  • ActiveVideo wants to show the world (or at least the folks who are converging on IBC next month in Amsterdam) that inherently one-way cable networks can indeed support two-way services like VoD using its "CloudTV" platform… without the expense of upgrading cable plant for upstream interactivity. Much of that approach relies on sending upstream commands to ActiveVideo's system via smartphones and other Web-connected devices.

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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