Interactive TV News Round-Up (III): Microsoft, Nagra (OpenTV), Jazztel, Nuance, Gracenote

--Report: Microsoft's Plans to Launch Online Pay-TV Service "On Hold"
--Nagra Launches OTT Solution for Spain's Jazztel
--Nuance Launches Dragon TV Voice-Control Platform
--Nuance, Gracenote in 10-Year Partnership for Voice-Driven "Interactive Music and Video Experiences"

Due to the large volume of news being generated by this week's 2012 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary format. We anticipate that it will take us several days to process all the news from the show: so if your company has sent us a press release or briefed us on an announcement, and you don't yet see your news covered in this issue, please bear with us.

  • Microsoft has put on holds talks with media companies about launching an online pay-TV service, Reuters reported Wednesday. The company had been engaged in "intensive" talks with programmers for over a year and planned to launch the service in the next few months, but abandoned its plans after discovering that the licensing costs were too high for its business model, Reuters stated. "They built Microsoft TV, they demoed it for us, they asked for rate cards but then said 'ooh ah, that's expensive," a programming executive told Reuters. Microsoft is now instead focused on working with programmers to enable "TV Everywhere" services on its Xbox Live platform (see, for example, the article on the company's new deal with News Corp. that was published on itvt.com, January 10th), Reuters said. In other Microsoft news: During its CES keynote earlier this week, Microsoft revealed that it will shortly be bringing Comcast's Xfinity TV service to the Xbox 360.
  • Nagra announced earlier this week that it has launched an OTT solution for Spanish ISP, Jazztel, that incorporates its OpenTV middleware. The solution is based on a platform that the company has previously implemented at PRISA TV for its Canal+ YOMVI service and Internet brand. "In a Spanish-market first, the new offer allows Jazztel subscribers to access the best content available in that market today including Canal+ premium on-demand (VOD) and high-definition (HD) content, as well as live TV services currently available on the PRISA TV platform," Nagra states in its press materials. "The new services are commercially available under the 'Jazzbox' name...For an additional monthly fee of Euro 10.95, Jazztel and PRISA TV customers are able to access the Canal+ YOMVI services via an IP set-top box (Jazzbox), including Canal+1 live TV channel and subscription VOD. Customers also have access to a pay-per-view premium transactional VOD service. The Jazzbox comes pre-integrated with Nagra's DRM solution, Nagra Media Persistent Rights Management (PRM), and powered by Nagra's OpenTV middleware. The flexibility of the OpenTV middleware has enabled Jazztel and PRISA TV to rapidly develop its own custom user interface for the Jazzbox service. The Jazzbox accesses the PRISA TV Canal+ YOMVI platform based on the Nagra Media Service Delivery Platform which securely delivers PRISA TV services over-the-top to a range of devices."
  • At CES earlier this week, Nuance Communications launched Dragon TV, a voice-control platform targeted at TV and set-top box manufacturers and at service operators. "Leveraging Nuance's voice and natural language understanding capabilities, Dragon TV creates the 'lean-back experience' consumers demand, with the ability to easily find content by speaking channel numbers, station names, show and movie names," the company states in its press materials. "People can even search for content by actor and genre, and stay connected via Twitter, Facebook and Skype...The broad spectrum of channels and media options available today are already nearly impossible to navigate with traditional TV remotes. Consumers have more options and media than they are even aware of, and still can't find 'what's on.' Dragon TV changes all of that, giving OEM's and service operators the ability to deliver TV's, set-top boxes and applications that let consumers find and experience content with Nuance's leading voice technologies. Further, Nuance's natural language understanding technologies allow consumers to say virtually anything to quickly and easily discover shows, movies and more. For instance, people can say: 'Go to PBS'; 'What's on Bravo at 9 p.m. tonight?'; 'When is Ellen on?' 'Watch Dexter on DVR'; 'Find comedies with Vince Vaughn'; 'Play David Guetta on Music Choice.' Dragon TV also makes it even easier to stay connected from the couch by leveraging the unique messaging and social media capabilities that today's digital TV OEM's and operators offer, such as email, messaging, Twitter, Facebook and Skype. For instance, people can say: 'Send message to Julie, "'Old School' is on TBS again this weekend--super excited"'; 'Send update to Facebook, "Anyone else looking forward to 'Celebrity Wife Swap'?"'; 'Call John via Skype' and be talking in no time. Dragon TV is incredibly flexible, and can be integrated across embedded, connected and hybrid modes, allowing OEM's and service operators to take advantage of the content available on the device and in the cloud. Dragon TV features include: 1) Seamless Application Control: Digital home devices are now integrating applications for email, social networking and interactive communication. Dragon TV offers a straightforward and simple method of input to drive adoption. 2) Discovering: A wealth of information is now available over TV, including program guide listings, personal media and Web content. Dragon TV delivers an integrated, universal search solution allowing users to access content with ease. 3) Messaging: From social networking to email, the availability of messaging applications on TV continues to grow. With Dragon TV users are empowered to interact and communicate via an integrated text and speech solution. 4) Accessibility: Governments and standards bodies are now mandating accessible solutions for TV. Leveraging Nuance's core speech technologies and natural language understanding, Dragon TV makes TV accessible to everyone. 5) Complex Acoustics: With Nuance's Far-Talk technology, Dragon TV is able to break through the interferences of multiple acoustic sources and focus on what's important for interpreting commands--the user's voice."
  • In other Nuance news: The company has announced a 10-year strategic partnership with Gracenote "to accelerate voice innovations and next-generation solutions for interactive music and video experiences on phones, tablets, in cars, on smart TV's, and in the cloud--all across a broad range of content providers. The partnership brings together the leading innovators for voice and digital media metadata respectively, whose technologies today are used by the biggest names in the mobile, consumer electronics and automotive industries," the companies' press materials continue. "Nuance's leading voice and natural language understanding technologies will leverage Gracenote's MediaVOCS database of phonetic transcriptions of artist names, albums and music genres, as well as movie and TV metadata. The first solution with the combined technologies will be made available via Nuance later this year--VoCon Music Premium. VoCon Music Premium will deliver an unmatched voice experience where consumers can simply speak the name of almost any artist, song, or album, and instantly get results--even for the most difficult artist names for systems to recognize, such as Ke$ha, AC/DC and 311...Nuance and Gracenote will also focus their partnership on developing compelling next-generation media experiences that take advantage of the vast media resources and content available to consumers--specifically content in the cloud. Nuance and Gracenote will collaborate to bring voice technologies to market that drive effortless media discovery and navigation of media libraries containing millions of songs, movies, shows, and artist and actor content. Ultimately, OEM's and electronics manufacturers will have more flexibility in differentiating their music and video offerings, while providing consumers with the fastest and easiest ways to find and experience the media they want, when they want it--no matter where they are or what they are doing."
North America