With more than 23,000 dedicated streams, Concurrent lays claim to what's being billed as the largest deployment of 'Start Over'

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

January 28, 2008

5 Min Read
Bright House Starts Over in Tampa

Bright House Networks has tapped Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR) to power what is being billed as the world's largest deployment of "Start Over," an advanced video-on-demand (VOD) app that enables customers to restart select TV programs that are already in progress. (See Bright House Intros 'Start Over'.)

Under a deal announced Monday, Bright House is introducing the service in its Tampa Bay market, and supporting it with more than 23,000 dedicated video streams.

In a deal inked in 2003, Bright House owner Advance/Newhouse formally took over direct control of several systems, including the one in Tampa Bay, from Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), the MSO that developed Start Over and originally launched the application in 2005 in its Columbia, S.C., system.

Bright House is basing the Start Over deployment in Tampa Bay on Concurrent's MediaHawk 4500 platform, which features a redundant, auto-failover streaming mechanism. The operator also uses Concurrent's gear and software there to support its traditional VOD service.

In an interesting twist to the architecture, Bright House is partitioning the streaming capability of its Start Over application from the regular VOD system in the market, which is handling about 30,000 streams, according to Jim Brickmeier, VP of products and programs for Concurrent's on-demand unit.

The Start Over portion of the deployment is also running on Concurrent's' MediaCache 1000, a quick-ingest, Flash-based server approach that is starting to catch on among other VOD server vendors, including SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC). (See A Flashy Approach to VOD.)

"Most systems don't segregate Start Over from VOD and SVOD [subscription VOD] as part of their strategy," says Brickmeier, noting that Bright House elected to do so in support of a next-gen network build-out strategy.

Brickmeier declined to provide per-stream costs for the new Start Over deployment, but noted that some operators are finding it more expensive to expand older VOD platforms than to buy new, state-of-the-art VOD systems that double capacity and create opportunities for advanced, ingest-heavy applications like Start Over.

In addition to Bright House in Tampa Bay, Concurrent's gear is also tied to Time Warner Cable Start Over deployments in Greensboro, N.C., Columbia, S.C., and the Hawaii-based Oceanic cable system. Bright House is also running some Start Over tests with Concurrent in Orlando, Fla.

A Bright House spokeswoman had no comment about additional test and deployment activity for Start Over in other markets. "We've been very happy with the results in Tampa," she said.

Bright House counts 2.4 million subs and is primary cable operator in Tampa and Orlando/central Florida. It also owns and operates smaller systems serving portions of Bakersfield, Calif., Birmingham, Ala., Detroit, and Indianapolis.

At 23,000 dedicated streams, the Bright House deployment is considered the largest for Start Over. That's roughly three to four times the next largest Start Over system Concurrent supports today, Brickmeier says. As a comparison, Time Warner Cable's Oceanic unit is running 14,000 streams for both Start Over and regular VOD.

Because of the general popularity of Start Over, cable engineers have to fashion the systems differently that a traditional VOD system. While the rule-of-thumb streaming contention rate for regular VOD (pay-per-view movies, subscription fare, and "free" on-demand content) is anywhere from 7 percent to as high as 10 percent, operators tend to plan for peak usage that's at least double that, Brickmeier says.

To Page 2

Business update
Monday's Start Over deployment follows a string of customer and product-related announcements from Concurrent, whose stock is subject to delisting from Nasdaq after the minimum bid price fell below $1.00 for 30 consecutive business days. The company also saw VOD revenues for its fiscal second quarter drop about 5 percent. (See Concurrent VOD Revenues Dip 5% , Videotron Plans VOD Upgrade , and Concurrent Bows 'StorageMaster'.)

On the earnings call Friday afternoon (Jan. 25) with reporters and analysts, Concurrent president and CEO Gary Trimm tried to alleviate investor concerns on both fronts.

Regarding the delisting notice, Trimm pointed out that cable stocks "are dramatically depressed across the sector," but added that operators are basing future plans on high-definition VOD, advanced advertising, and other initiatives that are in Concurrent's technology wheelhouse.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), for example, announced plans earlier this month to offer north of 1,000 HD "choices" by the end of 2008 (versus about 250 HD choices today) as part of its "Project Infinity" initiative. Comcast has also confirmed that it expects to begin rolling out a Start Over service of its own sometime in early 2009. (See Comcast Launches 'Project Infinity' and Comcast Feels Like Starting Over .)

Trimm said Concurrent expects to avoid delisting and has until June 23 to state its case. "This notice in no way reflects the excellent financial health and future of the company," he claimed, adding that Concurrent has $23 million in cash, and shareholder equity of $48 million, well above the Nasdaq's $5 million threshold.

As for the dip in VOD revenues, Trimm expects those numbers to improve in the second half of the company's fiscal year, driven by "sizable" orders.

He said Concurrent's recent win with Cox Communications Inc. in Arizona was worth about $8 million. The Bright House deployment looks to bring in "several million dollars," Trimm said. "The size of the projects are bigger, there are more of them. Therefore, I think we can look at a much more robust environment in '08." (See Cox Closes VOD Gap .)

The company also hopes to make some hay with advanced advertising, led by its Everstream division and its collection of ad campaign, audience measurement, and reporting software. Concurrent acquired Everstream Holdings Inc. in August 2005. (See Concurrent Acquires Everstream.)

In addition to seeking revenue-driving deployments with cable operators, Concurrent is also vetting other ways to monetize Everstream's patent portfolio.

Following an evaluation process, "we obtained interest from other parties that could have a long-term, higher benefit for the company than a simple sale" of the patents, Trimm said.

The Everstream patents in question are good through 2017, Trimm added.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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