Video services

Bright House Starts Over in Tampa

Bright House Networks has tapped Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR) to power what is being billed as the world's largest deployment of "Start Over," an advanced video-on-demand (VOD) app that enables customers to restart select TV programs that are already in progress. (See Bright House Intros 'Start Over'.)

Under a deal announced Monday, Bright House is introducing the service in its Tampa Bay market, and supporting it with more than 23,000 dedicated video streams.

In a deal inked in 2003, Bright House owner Advance/Newhouse formally took over direct control of several systems, including the one in Tampa Bay, from Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), the MSO that developed Start Over and originally launched the application in 2005 in its Columbia, S.C., system.

Bright House is basing the Start Over deployment in Tampa Bay on Concurrent's MediaHawk 4500 platform, which features a redundant, auto-failover streaming mechanism. The operator also uses Concurrent's gear and software there to support its traditional VOD service.

In an interesting twist to the architecture, Bright House is partitioning the streaming capability of its Start Over application from the regular VOD system in the market, which is handling about 30,000 streams, according to Jim Brickmeier, VP of products and programs for Concurrent's on-demand unit.

The Start Over portion of the deployment is also running on Concurrent's' MediaCache 1000, a quick-ingest, Flash-based server approach that is starting to catch on among other VOD server vendors, including SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC). (See A Flashy Approach to VOD.)

"Most systems don't segregate Start Over from VOD and SVOD [subscription VOD] as part of their strategy," says Brickmeier, noting that Bright House elected to do so in support of a next-gen network build-out strategy.

Brickmeier declined to provide per-stream costs for the new Start Over deployment, but noted that some operators are finding it more expensive to expand older VOD platforms than to buy new, state-of-the-art VOD systems that double capacity and create opportunities for advanced, ingest-heavy applications like Start Over.

In addition to Bright House in Tampa Bay, Concurrent's gear is also tied to Time Warner Cable Start Over deployments in Greensboro, N.C., Columbia, S.C., and the Hawaii-based Oceanic cable system. Bright House is also running some Start Over tests with Concurrent in Orlando, Fla.

A Bright House spokeswoman had no comment about additional test and deployment activity for Start Over in other markets. "We've been very happy with the results in Tampa," she said.

Bright House counts 2.4 million subs and is primary cable operator in Tampa and Orlando/central Florida. It also owns and operates smaller systems serving portions of Bakersfield, Calif., Birmingham, Ala., Detroit, and Indianapolis.

At 23,000 dedicated streams, the Bright House deployment is considered the largest for Start Over. That's roughly three to four times the next largest Start Over system Concurrent supports today, Brickmeier says. As a comparison, Time Warner Cable's Oceanic unit is running 14,000 streams for both Start Over and regular VOD.

Because of the general popularity of Start Over, cable engineers have to fashion the systems differently that a traditional VOD system. While the rule-of-thumb streaming contention rate for regular VOD (pay-per-view movies, subscription fare, and "free" on-demand content) is anywhere from 7 percent to as high as 10 percent, operators tend to plan for peak usage that's at least double that, Brickmeier says.

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