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Cable ITV Watch: Mixed Signals for 3DTV

Jeff Baumgartner
1/29/2010

Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC)'s going all-in on 3DTV as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) puts out some feeler bets.

Also this week in the world of broadband content and ITV: TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) gives an investor some wiggle room, Roku Inc. 's thinking IPO, and Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR) adds a big MSO to its customer collection.

  • Count Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts among a growing group of 3DTV skeptics. Although the MSO already offers some 3D-VoD fare that requires Olde Style anaglyphic specs and could be doing more with 3DTV in due time, he's not so sure consumers will be interested in watching such content hours on end, or offering up the extra cash required to buy sets with advanced 3D capabilities built in.

    "The question is, are you going to want to sit there and wear glasses four hours a day to watch TV? I don't think so," Roberts said during a Q&A session at a Congressional Internet Caucus event this week in Washington, DC. He added that he expects the near-term draw for 3D to involve "big events, like an Avatar," referring to the James Cameron blockbuster.

    Still, Comcast is offering some mixed message on the topic, making it hard to tell how much support the MSO will give to 3D. Derek Harrar, Comcast's SVP and GM of video services, reportedly said the MSO "will have more 3D content than anyone else as it becomes available."

    As for DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV)'s 3DTV plans, Comcast's Harrar groused: "They have launched vapor; they have not launched anything." (See DirecTV Won't Give Cable Access to 3D Nets.)

  • Even with 3DTV consumer adoption unproven, that's not stopping Samsung from starting the mass production of 3D-capable LED and LCD TVs. He hopes to get volumes ramped up so consumers can buy them at palatable prices. TV makers hope 3D will kick-start the market, but are faced with the challenge that millions of consumers have already shelled out big bucks to buy HD sets... and 3DTV content will be in short supply for some time.

  • TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) offered a "limited exemption" to BlackRock Inc. that permits the investment firm to own up to 16.99 percent of the DVR company's common shares without triggering any poison-pill provisions. The decision keeps BlackRock as a "designated holder," rather than as an "acquiring person," which, under TiVo's rules, comes into play if anyone holds more than 14.99 percent of common shares.

    But don't read too much into this BlackRock thing. This is all believed to stem from BlackRock's 2009 purchase of Barclays Global Investors. The addition of Barclays put BlackRock's ownership of TiVo just above the 15 percent threshold. However, the limited exemption gives BlackRock some flexibility to buy more TiVo stock without triggering a poison pill, used to discourage hostile takeovers.

  • Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR)'s cross-platform strategy got a lift this week after revealing on its second-quarter earnings call that Charter Communications Inc. had signed on to use the vendor's advanced advertising and data collection systems for the MSO's video-on-demand, linear TV, DVR, and interactive TV platforms. Concurrent didn't disclose financial terms, but said it's a multi-year deal. (See Concurrent Posts Q2 and Concurrent Upgrades for Mobile & PC VoD.)

    Concurrent added that data component to its product stable through its 2005 purchase of Everstream Holdings Inc. (See Concurrent Acquires Everstream.)

  • Roku Inc. CEO Anthony Wood told Bloomberg that the company has sold 500,000 of its broadband-fed set-tops, and might pursue an initial public offering in 2011.

    Also in the plans: adding at least 100 content partners this year. It launched 10 "channels" late last year. (See Roku 'Store' Opens With 10 Channels .)

    Other recent ITV-related items:

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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