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Mobile Video

Azuki Pitches Simplified TV Everywhere to MSOs

After helping some major programmers get their TV Everywhere services off the ground, Azuki Systems is now taking its act to cable MSOs and other service providers.

Azuki hopes to do that using a mix of centralized processors to package and prepare the video and software clients that would handle playback on an array of smartphones, PCs, tablets and specialized devices from the likes of Roku Inc. and Boxee .

Instead of transcoding video into multiple formats for all of those target devices from a central location, Azuki's architecture calls for MSOs to package and deliver protected adaptive bit rate streams in one format -- Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s HTTP Live Streaming -- and rely on the client software to convert, or "normalize," those streams into formats that an end device can handle. Azuki claims that its Media Platform appliance, which is made to hook into an operator's legacy content media system, is equipped to handle this process for both live and on-demand programming.

"We think it's more cost-effective to put the intelligence on the client" rather than leaning on the content delivery network (CDN) to do all the transcoding, notes Azuki VP of Engineering Rob Hickey.

Azuki intends to help MSOs deliver TV Everywhere fare over their managed networks as well as via over-the-top, unmanaged networks to customers who are on the go. On the latter, Azuki will employ a budding federated CDN model that can help the client on the end device pick a partner CDN that happens to have the speediest connection.

Azuki has already scored high-profile deals with premium programmers HBO and Showtime Networks Inc. It currently has more than 12 service providers, including cable and IPTV firms, under contract or running TV Everywhere trials, says Azuki President and CEO John Clancy, but he declined to name them. (See Azuki Secures Showtime's iPad App and HBO GO Goes Mobile With Azuki.)

Azuku, a four-year-old startup with almost 60 employees, has raised about US$19 million so far.

Why this matters
If Azuki's one-stream-to-many-devices strategy is successful, it could make TV Everywhere a simpler process for small- and mid-sized MSOs that don't have the IT wherewithal to install video silos for each kind of connected TV, game console, tablet or smartphone platform they'd like to target. "A lot of people can get to Apple. Big deal," Clancy says.

On the competitive front, Azuki will find itself fighting for share with the usual crop of video transcoding and appliance vendors, including RGB Networks Inc. , Harmonic Inc. (Nasdaq: HLIT) and Envivio Inc. (NASDAQ: ENVI), as well as much larger product/service integrators such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU).

For more
Read more about TV Everywhere deployments and the evolving product ecosystem.



— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable



joanengebretson 12/5/2012 | 5:44:46 PM
re: Azuki Pitches Simplified TV Everywhere to MSOs

Azuki's idea of using just a single video stream in the core and handling transcoding at the edge sounds like a good one in terms of bandwidth efficiency. The tradeoff, of course, is that handling transcoding closer to the edge means that capability has to be maintained in more locations than if it were handled centrally.


Thanks to Jeff for bringing this issue to light. It will be an interesting one to track.

CCobden 12/5/2012 | 5:44:43 PM
re: Azuki Pitches Simplified TV Everywhere to MSOs

joanengebretson, thank you for your comment about Azuki Systems.  For clarification, Azuki is not proposing transcoding at the edge, per se. What we are suggesting is that the intelligent client allows for a common transcode ABR format to be used across all screens. The translation of that single ABR format into the appropriate format for a particular platform can be done more efficiently at the client. This results in better bandwidth efficiency at the core (due to reduced formats) and reduced complexity at the network edge (no edge logic is needed for trans-formatting a single ABR format into multiple ABR formats). Moreover, delivering a single ABR format to the end user allows the service provider to optimize their entire network, not just the core, by reducing the amount of data that would need to be cached in the last mile delivery. It should be noted that a service provider could indeed decide to transcode at the edge, per your comment.  Whether this would save bandwidth or not would depend on the number of bitrate profiles they want to support. In practice, the aggregate bandwidth of the resultant profiles would not be significantly larger than the input used to create the profiles. The extra bandwidth typically comes in sending those profiles in multiple ABR formats, which is why the single ABR format is preferred.

joanengebretson 12/5/2012 | 5:44:42 PM
re: Azuki Pitches Simplified TV Everywhere to MSOs

Thanks for the clarification. Sounds like you've put a lot of thought into the offering.

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