In another tight embrace of the cloud, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s video publishing unit has launched a cloud-based management system for live, linear TV channels, on-demand, and other video content beamed to multiple video devices.
thePlatform Inc. -- which works with such major cable, telco, and satellite TV providers as Comcast, Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), and Sky New Zealand -- announced its new "Virtual TV Framework" on Thursday. Designed as an upgrade to thePlatform's flagship mpx publishing system, it offers centralized management of a pay TV provider's entire roster of video services, including over-the-top (OTT) video, through a web console.
Officials at thePlatform said they are introducing the new virtual architecture because of higher consumer expectations for multi-screen services, the commoditization of the content delivery network (CDN) market, the maturation of the cloud, and the surging popularity of OTT services. Although many video providers already offer some type of multi-screen service to subscribers, these services often deliver just fragmented parts of the provider's entire TV portfolio, such as a portion of the linear TV lineup or limited VOD programming. And most providers still don't offer any OTT content yet.
"There's a sense of urgency in the market," says Marty Roberts, senior vice president of sales and marketing for thePlatform. "OTT competitors are already working in this space."
The move by the Comcast unit comes as TV Everywhere services are showing signs of gaining traction with consumers after several years of fits and starts. In announcing upgrades to its own video publishing system for multi-screen services earlier this week, for instance, Adobe Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ADBE) reported that 16 percent of US homes now watch pay TV content online, double the number that did so last December. (See Adobe Boosts TVE Platform.)
"Consumers expect their TV [programming] on every device," Roberts says. As a result, he notes, "a lot of operators are trying to figure out how to roll out new services."
Besides providing cloud-based management of pure video services, thePlatform's new Virtual TV Framework also offers centralized management of related elements of the video viewing experience, such as discovery, personalization, targeted advertising, commerce, content protection, and multi-screen user interfaces (UIs). In addition, the system is designed to enable providers to run "cross-promotional commerce" features across various devices, including such unique video bundles as holiday specials and trilogies.
thePlatform also announced a half dozen partners for its new Virtual TV Framework capabilities. The initial set of nine integrated vendors includes: Accedo for device UIs, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) for systems integration, Think Analytics for recommendations, BlackArrow Inc. and FreeWheel Media Inc. for advertising, Adobe and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) for content protection, and Rovi Corp. and Tribune Media Services Inc. for electronic programming guide (EPG) data.
While these vendor integrations are pre-baked into the new cloud management system, thePlatform officials say service providers can pick and choose among the different elements, at least to some degree.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading