Interactive TV News Round-Up (VIII): Revision3, Roku, Rovi (FourthWall Media), S3 Group, Samsung, ScreenReach, SeaChange International (icueTV), On Demand Group, Showtime Networks
[itvt]'s daily news coverage went on hiatus October 18th in order to allow our editorial staff to work full time on TVOT NYC Intensive. This issue contains a round-up of some of the major interactive TV-related news stories that have broken since then. Due to the volume of news we are covering in this issue, our summaries of each item are somewhat more abbreviated than usual (note: extensive background information on most of the companies and technologies covered in this issue can be found by using itvt.com's search functionality). We apologize for any inconvenience to our readers.
- "Internet television network" Revision3 has announced that it is bringing its full line-up of 20-plus shows to the living-room television (through such OTT platforms as Google TV, Yahoo! Connected TV, Windows Media Center, Apple TV, Boxee and Roku) via a new TV-optimized Web site (tv.revision3.com) or by using platform-specific applications.
- Roku has announced that its hardware and software platform is available to license, and that it has secured its first licensee for the platform: Netgear, which is selling the recently launched Roku XD streaming player under its own brand in such retail stores as Best Buy, Fry's and Radio Shack. In other Roku news: 1) The company has announced the winners of its first Channel Developer Contest. 2) The company has rolled out version 2.8 of its software, which features an updated interface and a redesigned Channel Store. 3) The company claims to be on track to ship around a million set-top boxes this year. 4) The company has announced that it will offer Hulu's premium service, Hulu Plus; and has also announced the 100th channel on its platform--Crackle. (Note: PlayOn was also available on Roku for a short time but has now been disallowed).
- Earlier this fall, Rovi announced that it has teamed with FourthWall Media to integrate EBIF applications and widgets onto its Passport Guide (now) and i-Guide (soon) EPG's. "In collaboration with FourthWall Media, Rovi is launching a standards-based ETV/EBIF solution comprised of an EBIF user agent and ETV platform server to facilitate the integration of a variety of third-party applications with the guide, and a starter kit of FourthWall applications that includes Yellow Pages on TV, eBay on TV, News, Weather, Sports and Finance," the company states in its press materials, adding that Blue Ridge Communications has licensed and is the first to deploy the joint solution. In other Rovi news: 1) The company says that Bolivian pay-TV operator, COTAS, has deployed the Passport Guide under a multi-year licensing agreement. 2) The company says it has signed a multi-year agreement under which Australian pay-TV provider, Telstra, has licensed its EPG patent portfolio for use in its T-Box service. 3) The company says that its G-Guide EPG and Connected Platform media networking solution have been incorporated into Tokyo-based Buffalo's new digital TV tuner, the DTV-X900. 4) The company has filed a federal patent-infringement lawsuit against Toshiba and lodged a related complaint with the US International Trade Commission alleging that various of the Japanese CE manufacturer's TV's and DVR's infringe on three of its US patents for EPG's and parental controls.
- S3 Group has announced that South African pay-TV operator, MultiChoice, and Indian pay-TV operator, Tata Sky, have licensed its StormTest Development Center solution for set-top box validation testing. According to S3, StormTest is "an automated set-top box (STB) test and analysis system that has been proven to greatly reduce the need for time-consuming, expensive and error-prone manual testing and replace it with a more accurate and cost-effective alternative. It consists of a suite of hardware and client/server software test infrastructure," the company says, "and has been designed to meet the needs of developers or testers of STB's and the applications which run on them."
- Samsung has announced that over a million applications globally have now been downloaded from Samsung Apps, the app store for its connected TV devices which it launched less than a year ago. The company also says that there are now over 200 applications in the store. In addition, as [itvt] was going to press, a Samsung representative contacted us to let us know that the company has opened public voting on interactive TV apps submitted for its "Free the TV Developer Challenge." The deadline for casting a vote is 5:00PM Eastern on December 16th. More information is available here.
- ScreenReach has launched a social/interactive TV iPhone app called Screach. "Here's how it works," Martin Bryan writes in TheNextWeb. "Imagine you're watching a TV talent show like 'America's Got Talent' or 'The X Factor.' The TV show announces a Screach code. You open the app on your phone, enter the code and the app becomes a voting panel. You can now vote for your favorite act and then see in real time how the rest of the audience around the country is voting." A demo video is embedded above.
- SeaChange International has made a number of interactive TV-related announcements over the past few weeks: 1) The company has announced that it has been tapped by Virgin Media to power the latter's online and mobile TV player. According to the company, Virgin is using a SeaChange video delivery system and managed service infrastructure, as well as content management services from its subsidiary, the On Demand Group. 2) At the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, the company unveiled SeaChange Adrenalin, which it bills as "a fourth-generation video backoffice that's been architected using an open service oriented architecture (SOA) to deliver a consistent video experience that avails tens of millions of video assets to millions of devices across multiple networks." According to the company, the platform is scalable to millions of mobile, PC and set-top viewers and enables an incremental upgrade path for customers of its Axiom On Demand platform. 3) The company has teamed with dynamic advertising specialist, BlackArrow, to offer a targeted advertising solution for multichannel video operators in North America. "The two companies are integrating SeaChange's AdPulse On Demand advanced advertising technology and Adrenalin fourth-generation video backoffice with BlackArrow's Advanced Advertising System to offer the most widely available, pre-packaged, and comprehensive solution for dynamic VOD advertising," SeaChange states in its press materials. According to the company, key benefits of the joint solution include: "a) Pre-integrated technology to minimize deployment risk for operators. b) Faster time-to-market for revenue-generating advanced advertising products. c) Streamlining of costly and time-consuming technology selection and integration cycles. d) Scalable, standards-based solution designed to support emerging and existing advanced advertising industry requirements." 4) The company has announced that it is integrating its Watch & Buy VOD tcommerce application with icueTV's tcommerce platform. "The integration will allow cable operators to leverage existing VOD infrastructures to give consumers the immediate ability to purchase movies and related merchandise," the company states in its press materials. "Using SeaChange's Watch & Buy application, DVD versions of on-demand streamed movies can be purchased on-screen and shipped to the viewer's home, or digital versions can be downloaded to a personal computer or mobile device." Said SeaChange's general manager of advanced platforms, Anthony Landamia: "The integration between SeaChange and icueTV opens the way for television operators to launch TV commerce by directly integrating a fulfillment solution with our VODlink applications platform, which is already deployed in millions of homes around the world. Activating this new service is a simple, transparent upgrade to the latest VODlink release, allowing MSO's access to immediate, upside revenue opportunities. Watch & Buy is a free upgrade for SeaChange's active VODlink customers and will extend tcommerce capabilities beyond the set-top box and across mobile and PC devices in the very near future." 5) The company has promoted Steven Davi to SVP of advanced technology and head of the office of the CTO. SeaChange has also just released financial results for its fiscal third quarter.
- Meanwhile, SeaChange's VOD content subsidiary, On Demand Group has announced deals to 1) launch video streaming on Inview Technology's Neelix platform; and 2) launch transactional and subscription VOD on Serbia Broadband's pay-TV platform.
- Showtime Networks has launched its Showtime Preview Application. According to the company, the app--which is available initially on Verizon FiOS TV--allows viewers to "sample on-demand free episodes of the network's series, learn more about Showtime Sports programming and movies, and is enabled for remote control subscription ordering in real time." Showtime has also launched Showtime Anytime, its implementation of the "TV Everywhere" programming distribution model. The service will initially be available to Comcast customers who are authenticated Showtime subscribers.