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Video software

TV Middleware Rising to Top

TV middleware is hot again.

After stagnating through 2010 and 2011, the middleware market grew 11 percent to reach US$1.3 billion in 2012. According to ABI Research, the bulk of that growth came from developments in "guide software, metadata, and technologies underlying DVR and Video on Demand."

The middleware growth trend is hardly surprising given the cable industry's current obsession with next-generation program guides and multi-screen video services. On the guide front, ABI says Rovi Corp., TiVo Inc. and ActiveVideo Networks Inc. are among the most successful players, although the companies have different strengths.

From a historical perspective, Rovi has the advantage of a well-established customer base, partly driven by the GuideWorks joint venture with Comcast Corp. that broke up in 2010. TiVo, however, has made significant progress in recent years as cable companies have finally opened up to leveraging third-party user interfaces. (See Rovi Exits Comcast JV and TiVo Basks in Cable Glow.)

ActiveVideo plays a slightly different role in that its technology is focused on enabling HTML5 guides on legacy QAM set-tops. The company has licensed its CloudTV platform to both Cisco Systems Inc. and Arris Group Inc., and has public deployments with Cablevision Systems Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and Comcast. (See ActiveVideo Reaches Roku and ActiveVideo Tightens Its Cable Ties.)

ABI suggests that the three top guide vendors could make good acquisition targets. The largest cable technology providers, however, already have major guide acquisitions under their belts. Motorola bought Dreampark before being swallowed up by Arris, which also claims the original Digeo Moxi software in its portfolio. Cisco, meanwhile, completed its acquisition of NDS just last year. (See Arris Shows Off New Mojo, Arris Video Gear Gets More Moxi, and Cisco Clinches $5B NDS Deal.)

On the consumer electronics front, Samsung Corp. just picked up Boxee last week, largely for the latter’s user interface. (See Samsung Swallows Boxee.)

As for where the middleware market is headed, the Comcast-enabled reference design kit (RDK) should spark further growth in 2013 and beyond. More than 80 companies now license the RDK software stack for hybrid QAM/IP and IP-only set-top boxes and home gateways.Access Co. Ltd., which produces video-oriented software for mobile devices and digital TVs, became the latest vendor to license the software earlier this week.

— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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