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Entone, LG Blend OTT With Live TV

Alan Breznick

Breaking into the consumer electronics market, Entone Inc. is teaming up with LG Electronics to offer a new streaming media player that can support both Internet video and live TV services.

The new streaming media player, a small, hockey puck-sized set-top box produced by LG, will integrate LG's Netcast media streaming platform with Entone's FusionTV software application. Known as the LG SP530 Media Player, the box is designed to deliver such leading OTT video services as Netflix, VUDU, Hulu and YouTube, as well as over-the-air (OTA) or operator-branded pay TV services, to broadband users.

LG will promote a standalone version of the media player at the retail level, positioning it against similar streaming media set-tops from Roku Inc. , Boxee /a>, Apple Inc. and others. But, Entone will market the more integrated version of the player to small and mid-sized ISPs, cable operators and other pay TV providers, promoting it as a way to offer "broadband TV" services to their high-speed data customers.

"There's real pent-up demand from ISPs that want to bring [a managed] video service into their broadband offerings," says Entone CEO Steve McKay. "It's where we see the most demand for this."

In another "deployment scenario" that McKay sketched out in an interview, Entone will integrate the SP530 with a new hybrid media gateway from its Magi line of gateway devices. With the new gateway, an eight-tuner set-top box equipped with video transcoding capabilities and a CableCARD slot, the combined solution will enable pay TV providers to deliver both OTT video and full-fledged live TV services to their video subscribers.

Entone will market this version of the LG media player as well to Tier II and Tier III cable and telco TV providers seeking to upgrade to IP video and/or expand their vendor options. Both the SP530 and the new gateway are expected to be generally available by the fall.

McKay said he expects the first, simpler version of the media player to be the more popular one, at least initially, because of the strong demand for broadband video offerings among ISPs that offer no video services now. But he sees appeal for the latter model as well as pay TV providers, under growing pressure from OTT players, seek ways to integrate Internet video services into their broader TV offerings and manage the delivery of those services.

"You can't fend it [OTT video] off; this is happening," he notes. "So you might as well find ways to partner with device companies."

Entone will show off both versions of the new streaming media player at NCTC's Independent Show, which is aimed at smaller pay TV providers, in San Diego next week.

The move marks an interesting shift in strategy for Entone, which has mainly focused on pay TV market set-tops before. "It's not the first time we've ported it [our software] to other set-tops," McKay says. "But it's the first time we've ported it to other consumer electronics devices."

He indicates that the LG deal could be only the beginning of such CE partnerships for Entone. For instance, he's hopeful of partnering with LG on other IP-connected devices as well, including smart TVs and media tablets.

"I think this is the first of its type, but it certainly won't be the last," he says. "It's a harbinger of what's to come."

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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