Video services

Cablevision Tunes Up With ActiveVideo

Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) is in the process of installing an interactive platform from ActiveVideo that will let the MSO stitch a range of Web-like applications into its digital video platform, Cable Digital News has learned.

According to multiple industry sources, ActiveVideo's ability to scale to millions of boxes has checked out at Cablevision, giving the MSO enough confidence to deploy it system-wide and to begin commercial availability sometime this summer. Cablevision, which touts a digital penetration rate of 92 percent, serves about 2.84 million digital video subs in parts of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. (See Cablevision Growing, But Slowing .)

ActiveVideo's claim to fame is an interactive platform that's akin to the cloud computing concept. Its architecture places most of the processing and other heavy lifting at the headend, enabling cable's entire spectrum of set-top boxes, including older "thin-client" boxes, to run any app in the ActiveVideo arsenal, including those that pipe in video from the Web. Those boxes only need to load and run a small ActiveVideo software client that communicates with the headend-based servers. (See ActiveVideo Buys Into European iTV .)

The bulk of Cablevision's digital boxes are made by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO). However, the company is close to deploying a downloadable conditional access system scheme that will allow other vendors to join the mix. (See Cablevision Scores Set-Top Waiver Extension and Cablevision Holds Firm .)

There's no clear word about which of the supplier's "Web-infused TV" applications will grace Cablevision's initial launch of ActiveVideo, though one source says the vendor is aiding Cablevision in the development of a next-gen interactive program guide. ActiveVideo, which competes with Clearleap , has already signed up several application partners, including a few such as Blip.tv that can bring Web-sourced video to the TV. It's also developing games and other applications (on its own and with partners) for the CableLabs -specified Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) platform. (See ActiveVideo Lands Blip.tv Content, ActiveVideo Triggers EBIF Play, and Clearleap Brings Blip.tv & Others to Cable .)

Whatever applications Cablevision opts for, the MSO will certainly use them to raise the competitive ante with its satellite TV foes and with FiOS TV from Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ).

Big score
Scoring Cablevision is a huge coup for ActiveVideo, a company (formerly known as ICTV Inc.) that has had trouble gaining traction during its almost 20-year history. In fact, Cablevision, sources say, is now ActiveVideo's largest customer. (See ICTV Becomes ActiveVideo, New and Improved?, and It... Lives! )

And it's been clear that the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor was on the verge of a big deal. In May, president and CEO Jeff Miller said the company was on track to have its platform in front of 5 million homes by year's end. At the time, it had 1.4 million homes enabled, thanks to deployments with PCCW Ltd. (NYSE: PCW; Hong Kong: 0008) of Hong Kong (previously ActiveVideo's largest installation); the Oceanic division of Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) in Hawaii; and Grande Communications . With the addition of Cablevision, ActiveVideo gets pretty close to that mark. (See TWC Activates ActiveVideo and ActiveVideo Buys Into European iTV .)

Deploying ActiveVideo will add to an already busy summer ahead for Cablevision on the video front. The MSO and a handful of other majors are on the hook to have their digital headends wired up for tru2way by July 1. Cablevision is also expected to debut its ambitious RS-DVR service, as well. (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU, Summer Debut for Cablevision Network DVR, Cablevision Girds for Remote DVRs.)

ActiveVideo and Cablevision officials declined to comment for this story.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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