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Video software

TV Apps Teams Face Cable Conundrum

SAN FRANCISCO -- TV of Tomorrow 2009 -- So, you've developed an application that complies with the CableLabs -specified Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) platform: Consider the easy part done.

Now get ready for the hard part -- integrating it with a wide range of headends and set-top hardware and software configurations that pepper the U.S. cable landscape.

That was a common theme here Tuesday as panelists discussed the emerging market for EBIF, a platform that promises to deliver a raft of relatively simple interactive applications to the entire universe of digital set-tops, including older models that have limited memory and processing power. (See Comcast, TWC Plan for EBIF.)

"I think writing the application itself is probably the easiest part," said Rebecca Rusk Lim, senior director of advanced services at Starz Entertainment LLC , a premium programmer that's developing EBIF apps in-house.

Getting those apps tested and deployed with MSOs remain stiff challenges, she said. And there's no uniform way to do that, at least not yet.

"There's not a clear route" for deployment and testing with multiple cable operators, agreed Walden Miller, VP of services at enableTV Inc. , a company that has developed its own independent test lab for developers and programmers looking to develop EBIF and tru2way applications. (See Vidiom Founders Launch iTV Startup .)

On top of that, there are numerous EBIF set-top client/player permutations on the market today, a situation that may require developers to do multiple integrations.

"There's no level playing field there. You need to have the consistency [among EBIF players], and that's what the industry needs to move toward," said Jaspal Bhasin, COO and a founding partner of itaas Inc. , a company that heads up a developer program for EBIF and tru2way. (See Time Warner Cable, Itaas Ink ITV Accord .)

But several efforts are well underway to help EBIF developers overcome these hurdles.

Companies such as Ensequence Inc. , enableTV, and itaas have all built test tools and independent labs to help developers fit their EBIF applications into myriad cable headend and set-top environments.

But a much larger project is underway at the Comcast Media Center (CMC) . The CMC, in tandem with a broad set of partners, has created HITS AxIS, a centralized platform that aims to bring the promise of EBIF and tru2way to small and mid-sized MSOs. A handful of operators have already signed on as beta sites. (See CMC Preps Partners for Enhanced TV .)

In addition to creating an ITV "service bureau" for MSOs, HITS AxIS also aims to develop an "on-boarding" process for third-party developers that enables them to hook into different cable systems, said Joshua Seiden, the Comcast Media Center's senior director of engineering and product development.

Although testing and integrating EBIF apps for all sorts of cable network and set-top environments remains a huge challenge, the solution to that problem needs to be as simple as possible. "It has to work with the creatives," noted Dalen Harrison, the CEO of Ensequence, referring to the minds who will be creating these applications. The EBIF market won't grow and prosper "if every project is an engineering project," he warned.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

Michael Harris 12/5/2012 | 4:09:32 PM
re: TV Apps Teams Face Cable Conundrum
"So, you've developed an application that complies with the CableLabs -specified Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF) platform: Consider the easy part done.

Now get ready for the hard part -- integrating it with a wide range of headends and set-top hardware and software configurations that pepper the U.S. cable landscape."


It's nice to see that a decade after the first "OpenCable" specifications were released we're much closer to "write once, run anywhere."
cable ITV apps.

The CableLabs 20th anniversary website(
http://www.cablelabs.com/anniv... walks us down memory lane:


July 1998: The first OpenCable vendor conference is held at the Westin Hotel in downtown Denver. Intent is to facilitate information sharing and collaboration amongst all in the food chain of digital video devices - including makers of component electronics, test equipment, TVs, and set-top boxes."

September 2000: OpenCable's second 2000 milestone was its September resolution on advanced set-top software, known as "OCAP" (OpenCable Application Platform). OCAP separated the set-top software environment into two pieces, and specified vendor authors for each to develop written specifications. The advantages of OCAP and its two layers were envisioned as beneficial to software developers, cable MSOs and cable subscribers. For programmers, it means a content authoring environment that is "write once, run anywhere."




Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:09:30 PM
re: TV Apps Teams Face Cable Conundrum At the TV of Tommorrow Show this week, some folks in the know were kind enough to remind me of the motivational origins of EBIF (which, don't forget, ain't tru2way)...work on EBIF got underway about the time Rupert Murdoch got his mitts on DirecTV and there was widespread fear (panic?) in the cable industry that he'd bring his BSkyB "Red Button" approach to the U.S. and smack domestic cable upside the skull.

That didn't happen so EBIF worked mosied along but no one was all that hot and bothered about getting it deployed asap.

Then Verizon FiOS TV adopted EBIF and (surprise!) cable's big guys are now getting ready to do EBIF in a big way...motivation, motivation, motiviation...

Oh, and it might kick-start that local ad market with some interactivity later this year, too.

After writing about this kind of stuff (ocap, itv, etv, etc.) , I'm sorta excited to see some of this stuff actually happen with some serious scale. Will cable subs actually like it? We'll see. Jeff
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