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Drake Heats Up Digital Strategy

Jeff Baumgartner

8:00 AM -- As expected, R.L. Drake LLC shed a bit more light on its broader cable strategy Monday by unveiling "Digital Freedom," a digital video delivery platform that's based on MPEG-4 and uses a downloadable conditional access system (DCAS) from the Beyond Broadband Technology LLC (BBT) cable consortium. (See Drake Breaks for 'Digital Freedom' .)

The integrated system combines Drake's new hi-def-capable HDDS24 set-top, a headend made up of Drake-made transcoders, plus modulators, the "BBTPlus" DCAS, and a headend controller made by InterTECH Corp., a company that's run by BBT president and CEO Bill Bauer. Avail Media Inc. has signed on as the programming partner.

DCAS inside

Jeffrey Huppertz, Drake's recently named president and CEO, says Drake will market Digital Freedom's requisite hardware and programming components to MSOs. BBT, however, will be largely responsible for handling the DCAS element. (See R.L. Drake CEO: We'll Be Agile .)

But "Drake is the primary sales organization for this," Huppertz insistz.

Although Drake claims Digital Freedom is suitable for MSOs of "any size," the system will likely be of most interest to smaller operators and compete head-to-head in that sector with integrators and suppliers such as Evolution Broadband LLC and Transparent Video Systems Inc. (TVS) . (See Evolution Thinks Small and TVS Makes All-Digital Pitch .)

Huppertz says multiple field trials of the new system should be underway by April, noting that Drake has purchase orders for Digital Freedom "well into the double digits." One operator, Cable Nebraska/Cable USA, already has an earlier version installed in its Ainsworth, Neb., system. (See BBT Notches First Install .)

Drake is giving its first public demo of Digital Freedom at this week's Cable Show in Washington.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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