In what could be a major breakthrough for pay-TV providers, ActiveVideo Networks says it's prepared to turn the industry's dream of a virtual set-top box into reality.
ActiveVideo -- a Silicon Valley video tech firm that specializes in delivering cloud-based TV guides, advanced video services and interactive advertising to set-tops and other video devices – announced today that it is teaming with Intel to offer a new, low-cost architecture for virtual set-tops. Using new high-density servers equipped with Intel's new Quick Sync Video (QSV) media processing technology, ActiveVideo says it can slash virtual set-top data center capex to as low as $1 per subscriber, far below the $40 to $60 per-sub cost for a new IP set-top, and even further below the roughly $200 per-sub cost for a traditional digital set-top.
If that cost analysis proves out, it would make it much easier and cheaper for cable operators, telcos and other pay-TV providers to deploy much smaller devices, such as HTML5 streaming sticks, in subscribers' homes. In turn, that would enable providers to greatly reduce their capex and installation costs, as well as cut their equipment inventory requirements.
Sachin Sathaye, VP of strategy and product marketing for ActiveVideo, said the concept behind virtual set-tops is really just an extension of network functions virtualization (NFV) technology. "We believe the set-top box is actually the last node of the network," he said. "So we believe that virtualizing set-top box functions is key."
ActiveVideo claims that it can realize such dramatic cost savings with the new version of its Cloud TV platform because the new servers outfitted with Intel QSV technology can deliver a 40% improvement in per-session performance price. It says this big boost is due partly to a fourfold increase in session density. As a result, one data center track can support the delivery of cloud-based user guides to 1 million virtual set-tops, as opposed to the 15 to 20 tracks that it now takes to do the same task.
Another key driver of the promised cost savings, ActiveVideo says, is a tenfold increase in real-time video transcoding sessions that adapt premium online video to any set-top box. With that huge increase, operators could also deliver far more online video sessions to subscribers for the same cost as today.
ActiveVideo, which will show off the latest enhancements to its Cloud TV platform at the IBC show in Amsterdam starting later this week, is promoting the new technological advancements to its existing cable and telco customers in both Europe and North America, as well as new prospects. Its current client list includes such major players as Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN) and Ziggo B.V. in Europe, and Charter Communications Inc. , Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) in the US. (See ActiveVideo Storms Europe.)
But company officials are focusing more heavily on the European front right now, because pay-TV providers there are especially interested in offering online video to their subscribers. "Europe is very hot on bringing the online experience to every set-top box," Sathaye said. "We are seeing so much activity in Europe."
With the new technology expected to be available soon and in production by the end of the year, ActiveVideo officials say they're seeing strong early demand from pay-TV providers. In fact, they say two Tier 1 operators are already deploying it, although they declined to name them.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading