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Clearleap, Roku Shop Web Video Combo to Cable

Clearleap and Roku Inc. are pitching MSOs a product aimed at fending off video competition from players like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), using an IP-based content distribution platform and set-tops capable of delivering both Internet-sourced video and traditional pay-per-view content to cable subscribers.

That partnership, announced today, will team Clearleap’s cloud-based video platform with Roku set-tops and tailor the package for cable operators. Clearleap CEO Braxton Jarratt says the product could be used by MSOs to target consumers who are relying on over-the-top, Internet-fed video from sources such as Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN). It would also allow existing Roku subscribers access to free and pay on-demand content from cable operators that strike deals directly with the firms. (See Roku 'Store' Opens With 10 Channels and Clearleap Brings Blip.tv & Others to Cable .)

As envisioned, the Clearleap-Roku combo could also be used in cable homes to deliver premium content to a second or third television set, or in smaller markets as an operator's primary VoD product, Jarratt says. Roku customers who already use its $80 Roku box to access content from Netflix, Amazon, Pandora Media Inc. , and other providers would have access to free and pay content from cable operators by using Clearleap’s cloud-based Universal Video Platform.

Roku and Clearleap are positioning their joint offering as a way cable operators can compete against Internet video products like Apple TV and Google’s upcoming Google TV product. (See Google TV Comes Out, the World Tunes In ).

Jarratt, a former Cox Communications Inc. executive, says Clearleap and Roku could also give cable operators a product that could appease consumers who are willing to cut the cord on their cable TV subscriptions to instead rely on Internet video content delivered to broadband-connected TVs and other consumer electronics devices. (See Comcast CEO Dismisses Cord-Cutting Trend and Boxee CEO: MSOs Should 'Go Over-the-Top').

“Roku is one of 20 million [Internet-connected] boxes that are already in customer homes, and being used to watch TV and movies. It is happening whether cable likes it or not. And rather than just say goodbye to those customers, a lot of operators are thinking, 'Maybe I can co-op this model and offer a more complete set of content and give people want they want.' ”

Jarratt says the Clearleap/Roku-managed IP VoD product will be trialed by “multiple” cable operators within six months, and that it will get a limited commercial deployment by the end of the year. He declined to name which operators will give the product a test run.

Founded in 2007, Clearleap says that six cable MSOs have deployed its Web-based platform to handle ad insertion for linear and on-demand programming. It has only named four of those cable customers publicly: Mediacom Communications Corp. , Bresnan Communications LLC (soon to be part of Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC)), Atlantic Broadband, and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) (for its Houston system). (See Clearleap Lands Mediacom Deal and Clearleap Jumps on First Win.)

Roku spokesman Brian Jacquet says some telcos have tested the company’s Roku box, but it doesn’t have any distribution deals with cable operators.

While Clearleap and Roku are marketing their combo to cable operators, the companies will also look to strike separate deals with MSOs, Jarratt says. “We’re partners in this. We sell our services and our technology directly to operators and programmers, and then Roku sells their boxes directly. Money does not change hands between Roku and Clearleap.”

— Steve Donohue, Special to Light Reading Cable

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