Video services

Cox Closes VOD Gap

Cox Communications Inc. has teamed up with Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR) to introduce video-on-demand (VOD) in Arizona, marking the last major Cox market to get access to the advanced digital service.

Cox will introduce VOD in Scottsdale in January, extending it to Phoenix and other Arizona systems in the months to follow. The MSO is basing the deployment on Concurrent's MediaHawk 4500 platform and a mix of storage systems, including traditional spinning-disk servers and its new Flash-based MediaCache 1000 server. (See Concurrent Bows Flash Gear and A Flashy Approach to VOD.)

Concurrent says its servers support more than 75 percent of Cox's digital footprint and claims to have 1.2 million streams deployed worldwide.

Although greenfield cable VOD deployments in the U.S. are scarce now that the larger MSOs have deployed widely, the opportunities for vendors to land new cable deals is far from over, according to Tim Dodge, Concurrent's vice president of North American sales and marketing.

That's partly because VOD systems deployed about four years ago are growing long in the tooth and can't handle the demand of network-based DVRs, high-definition VOD, interactive advertising, and applications such as Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC)'s "Start Over," which allows users to restart select shows that are already in progress.

Several MSOs, including some of Concurrent's customers, are seeking proposals on next-generation on-demand systems, Dodge says. By way of example, Concurrent's 4500 platform sports 10 times the density of its 4000 system, which is still being sold in support of smaller deployments.

Many operators "are perfectly willing to change out gear," Dodge says. "There's been a huge amount of RFP activity in recent months. Almost every MSO is looking to wipe the slate clean… and look at the latest technologies that are available."

In an effort to expand their markets, Concurrent and SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC) have separated out their VOD back-office systems and integrated them with video pumps from other suppliers, a move that C-COR Corp. (Nasdaq: CCBL) enlisted several years ago and N2 Broadband (now part of Tandberg Television ) applied from the get-go. (See Concurrent Opens Its Back Office .)

Another new trend involves the deployments themselves. Particularly among larger systems, VOD installations and architectures are well removed from earlier, cookie-cutter forms. Some MSOs spend more on streams and ingest capacity, while others focus on systems that can store upwards of 10,000 hours of VOD content.

That has caused per-stream costs to fluctuate. Depending on the configuration, the cost per stream ranges from $60 to $150. "There's a huge amount of diversity from one deployment to another," Dodge says.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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