Telecom Italia Tunes In Cisco for Web TV
Borrowing a page from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and its Fancast service, Telecom Italia is using the "Internet Streaming" flavor of Cisco's CDS to power its Web portal, dubbed Yalp!, and deliver about 40,000 video titles on-demand. Taking things a step further, Telecom Italia is also using Yalp! and Cisco's Flash-capable CDS to pipe in about 20 channels from its linear television lineup of about 80 channels.
Launched in May, the Web-based Yalp! service complements Telecom Italia's primary IPTV platform, which got off the ground a couple of years ago and is based on middleware and other components from Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). (See TI Launches Yalp TV and Telecom Italia Rejects Microsoft IPTV.)
Telecom Italia hopes its new Web-based video offering will allow it to expand its brand and give it an edge against competitors such as Fastweb SpA (Milan: FWB).
Thanks to a geo-location-based IP system, Telecom Italia is using an ad-supported model to offer Yalp!'s content for free to any broadband user in Italy, irrespective of whether they take service from Telecom Italia or one of its competitors, notes Pankaj Gupta, senior manager of marketing for video solutions at Cisco. On top of that, Yalp! enlists a preference engine that enables users to create so-called "virtual channels" that can be shared.
"We think it's a very pioneering effort that personalizes the delivery of services to [multiple] end-screens," adds Murali Nemani, Cisco's director of video solutions marketing.
Adding to Arroyo
Telecom Italia is making this happen with Cisco's CDS, the development of which can be traced to Cisco's $92 million acquisition of video server startup Arroyo Video Solutions in August 2006. (See Cisco Snatches VOD Vendor Arroyo.) In addition to "traditional" VOD delivered to the TV, Cisco has also outfitted the CDS to ingest and distribute video sources from the Internet.
The version of Cisco's CDS in place with Telecom Italia natively embeds the Adobe Flash Media Server 3, giving the service provider a network-centric approach to content distribution and access to a format that doesn't gobble up an exorbitant amount of bandwidth to deliver a decent-looking video stream.
That larger CDS platform is also designed to make key decisions that govern content load balancing on the broadband network, reducing the potential for bottlenecks that can cause jitter, lag, and other variables that can hinder video quality.
"If [the service provider] delivers the same broadcast content online, we should honor the same viewer experience" customers get with the primary IPTV service, Murali explains, adding that there's no reason why Telecom Italia can't use the newly installed platform to deliver video to TVs and mobile devices, as well.
Cisco's CDS with Internet Streaming "offers us greater control of our delivery infrastructure so that we can cost-effectively create differentiated services that span across multiple screens," said Telecom Italia VP of network development and innovation Sandro Dionisi, in a statement.
Because no local copy is stored on the device it's distributed to, such as the PC, Flash tends to get high marks from studios and other content owners. "From a DRM (digital rights management) standpoint, it's very clean," he adds. "This [CDS model] is the wave of the future to us, in terms of how we are going to the marketplace."
To 'Project Infinity' and beyond?
Murali notes that another "major" North American operator is also using Cisco's CDS to deliver a massive library of VOD-based content.
In earlier court filings, Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) revealed the role the Arroyo servers are playing in the MSO's ambitious (and controversial) "remote storage" digital video recorder. (See Inside Cablevision's 'RS-DVR' and Court Resurrects Cablevision's Network DVR .) However, industry sources have also placed Cisco close to the development of "Project Infinity," a Comcast project that's slated to offer more than 6,000 movies, with more than half of those titles in hi-definition. (See Comcast Launches 'Project Infinity'.)
In fact, Sam Schwartz, the EVP of Comcast Interactive Media, the division that runs Fancast, was quoted in an announcement last fall that touted the Cisco-Adobe combination, calling Cisco's CDS "an important milestone in the evolution toward a consistent content delivery architecture for both highly secure and advertising-enabled media across Internet, mobile and traditional platforms."
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News