Video services

ActiveVideo Tightens Its Cable Ties

ActiveVideo Networks is reaching higher into the cloud for IP video services and applications as it gets more active with cable operators.

The company unveiled new technical upgrades Thursday that it claims will make its cloud-based IP video platform more affordable, scalable and appealing to MSOs and other pay-TV providers.

The idea behind the upgrades is to deliver a wide range of TV services as cloud-based applications to providers, as well as feed common, consistent user interfaces to a growing line-up of legacy and IP-based set-top boxes and other devices.

At the same time, ActiveVideo announced new or expanded distribution deals with several prime cable operators, including Charter Communications and Cablevision Systems in the U.S. and Sumitomo in the Asia/Pacific region.

In addition, the vendor said it is conducting service trials with at least two other, undisclosed operators, one in North America and the other in Europe.

During several days of flashy presentations to press and analysts in New York earlier this week, ActiveVideo executives showed off the technical upgrades to their CloudTV H5 platform. One major upgrade is designed to let providers render UIs and animation more smoothly while cutting their bandwidth requirements by up to 50 percent.

ActiveVideo officials are seeking to help cable operators deliver a consistent experience across any device, whether it's a legacy digital cable set-top box, a high-end Comcast X1-enabled set-top, a low-end IP-enabled Roku box or a large-screen connected TV. Rather than make cable operators craft different versions of their UIs for every single device, operating system and rendering engine, as operators must do now, company technologists aim to avoid this operational nightmare by enabling UIs to be written just once, in HTML5, and then delivered to each device from the cloud.

In another major upgrade to its platform, ActiveVideo unveiled a "smart multiplexing" feature designed to boost the number of CloudTV sessions that can be delivered over an MSO's legacy QAM-based network or an IP network with adaptive bit rate technology. Company officials said the enhancement will produce a 25 percent throughput improvement over the QAM-based networks.

ActiveVideo also introduced a suite of micro "Nano" software clients for cable set-tops and other managed devices, as well as unmanaged IP-connected retail devices. Company officials said these thin clients, based on an ultra-light code base, will work with the CloudTV platform to deliver consistent user experiences on any connected device.

On the customer deployment side, Charter represents a big victory for ActiveVideo. The fourth-largest U.S. MSO plans to use ActiveVideo's cloud-based platform to carry out its new cloud-based UI strategy. Charter, which has tested the platform in the lab, intends to launch a market trial in the near future.

ActiveVideo did not reveal what new things it will be doing for Cablevision. The New York MSO has already been working with the vendor to bring interactive TV apps to cable set-top boxes.

ActiveVideo also didn't specify exactly what it will be doing for Sumitomo. But company officials are clearly hoping that Sumitomo, which owns a big chunk of Japan's biggest MSO, J:COM, will help them crack at least the large Japanese cable market.

Other prime ActiveVideo cable customers include large Dutch MSO Ziggo and Comcast, which is testing a VoD interface with ActiveVideo in Chattanooga, Tenn. ActiveVideo said its software client is now deployed on more than 10 million devices, including consumer electronics boxes sold at retail.

ActiveVideo will be demonstrating the upgrades to its CloudTV platform at the upcoming Cable Show in Washington, D.C.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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