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Video services

Videotron Plans VOD Upgrade

Canadian MSO Vidéotron Telecom Ltd. plans to fuel an upgrade of its video-on-demand (VOD) platform using a new back-office system from Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR) that's designed to support new network-based digital video recording (nDVR) applications. (See Videotron Picks Concurrent.)

The deal marks the first shipment in North American for Concurrent's MediaHawk Back Office Software Suite (MHBOSS). Videotron said it will test the platform in the lab through February, with deployments expected sometime later in the year.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Concurrent might release more details on Friday morning (January 25), when it discusses results from its fiscal second quarter.

Although Concurrent is touting the selection of MHBOSS as a new contract win, Videotron, in fact, has used Concurrent's VOD software and servers from the start.

The latest deal, however, is based on a recrafted platform introduced last year that finally decouples Concurrent's servers from its software management elements. (See Concurrent Opens Its Back Office .)

That strategy is now pervasive across the sector. C-COR Inc., now part of Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), opened up its back office several years ago. SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC), another VOD equipment and software rival that happens to have a significant master agreement in place with Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), has embarked on a similar strategy. Tandberg Television , meanwhile, has integrated its OpenStream back office with servers from most of the sector players, but does not sell servers of its own. (See Comcast Boosts SeaChange Revenues.)

Concurrent has not formally announced any third-party server integration deals, but the MHBOSS system should allow Videotron to use servers from suppliers other than Concurrent. In making its selection of MHBOSS, Videotron said it was looking for an upgraded platform that provided more scale and was "based on open standards."

Concurrent said MHBOSS can work with the MediaHawk 4500, a RAM-centric, high-density server the company unveiled about a year ago. It's also compatible with the older MediaHawk 4000 line. (See Concurrent Adds VOD Server.)

As for new VOD capabilities, Videotron indicated that "time-shifted TV" is among the next-gen services it is presently considering. Concurrent's VOD system supports some deployments of "Start Over," an enhanced VOD service championed by Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) that allows customers to restart select shows (those with copyright clearance) that are already in progress. Comcast is also making plans to introduce such a service in early 2009. (See Comcast Feels Like Starting Over .)

Videotron delivers cable services to about 1.6 million subs in Québec. Roughly 720,000 of that total take the MSO's illico digital video service.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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