RCDb’s Web TV Coming-Out Party

Armed with a roster of new partnerships and demos, Related Content Database Inc. (RCDb) is using The Cable Show this week as a coming out party for its cable-specific servers and the Web-like services they enable. (See The Cable Show 2010: News Roundup and Cable Show 2010: The Hot List.)

The four-year-old company built its business in Internet-connected Blu-ray players, which RCDb president Herve Utheza says was a powerful proposition for Hollywood studios. But the company is looking to expand into where the majority of the eyeballs are today: the cable industry.

RCDb’s servers run at the cable headend and on any device capable of supporting either Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) or tru2way. Once the platform is established and integrated, then comes the fun stuff -- Web apps and services.

“We work with Web services and content partners to expose and integrate their APIs, whether public or private, and make it available in our transmission software in environments that were never meant to be running the Web,” Utheza says.

The TV, in particular, wasn’t meant to run the Web, because it lacks a browser, he notes. RCDb’s Web service and metadata software platform make up for that by drawing on the cloud for content and simplifying it for the bigger screen. RCDb is already integrated with a number of tru2Way-enabed cable set-top boxes, although it had yet to announce any operator partners. (See RCDb Hooks Up With Tru2way.)

RCDb's partner parade
Among its bevy of announcements aimed at changing that, RCDb has scored a partnership with Jinni Media Ltd. to provide movie recommendations based on “emotional relevance to the consumers’ individual tastes,” and a partnership with Strategy & Technology Ltd. (S&T) to bring still-to-be-defined interactive Web services to cable's tru2way and EBIF platforms. (See Jinni Locks In Its A Round .)

RCDb has also joined forces with Alticast Corp. to deliver video-on-demand (VoD) features -- including real-time movie, actor, and soundtrack information -- specifically to Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)’s tru2way platform. (See Alticast, Rovi Demo IP-Enabled Tru2way.)

Along the same lines, RCDb teamed with Gracenote , a music and movie information database, to integrate its actor and movie information into the scenes as they change.

The company is also showing a number of demos at this year’s show that go beyond on-demand movies, including Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Maps running in a Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC) tru2way set-top box sans Web browser. The integration is enabled through a partnership with the device maker to incorporate RCDb servers into its line of STBs as another way to reach the cable operator market.

“Here we have the best of two worlds: the cable environment now capable of talking to the API of Web service companies,” Utheza says of the partnership.

The business model and distribution of each app is ultimately up to the operator partner, but RCDb has, once again, partnered to make payment easier for consumers, too. Through a tie-up with PayPal , consumers can make transactions with their TV remote controls, directly on their TVs. The cable operator can choose which apps it will run and when -- during a show, on a different screen, or after a program is complete.

Web meets living room
RCDb’s announcements, some more exciting than others, demonstrate the potential of bridging Web-based technologies to the big screen. Once the company has proven its platform’s viability to the cable operators, Utheza says, the company plans to continue to build on the services it offers and let the cable operators pick and choose which they want to distribute.

It’s not alone in this quest, however. RCDb is one of several pitching its cloud-based, device-agnostic wares to cable and IPTV service providers. It competes against a group of startups and old hands that include ZillionTV Corp. , ActiveVideo , TellyTopia Inc. and Clearleap , and, to a lesser extent, consumer-facing alternatives like Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Wal-Mart-owned VUDU Inc. (See TellyTopia's Cable Pitch: Embrace OTT Video , Wal-Mart Shells Out for VUDU, Cablevision Adds ActiveVideo Apps, and Clearleap Ties Web TV With EBIF.)

Most of these companies are in a similar boat with impressive demos, but few announced customers. That could start to change following a year where operators have been forced to respond to competition and the threat of cord-cutting. Bringing the world of the Web to the living room is ranking high on their to-do lists, and a choice of partners and apps that take the onus off them is a good place to start.

“The challenge is if you want to bring into the cable world the innovation that the Web has been getting us accustomed to on the PC side, it needs to be translated in a manner that’s appropriate for deployment on a cable plant,” Utheza says. “We’re trying to look at it from a holistic perspective -- understanding it’s a technology business, but it’s a technology business there to improve content monetization.”

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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