In three separate new product releases the software company first known for its market-leading DVD and CD security technologies has advanced the ball in terms of integrating the assets it gained through its January 2007 acquisition of Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) home networking firm Mediabolic and its December 2007 acquisition of the entertainment metadata and interactive program guide (IPG) firm Gemstar-TV Guide International.
Specifically, Macrovision has announced the availability of multi-room DVR capabilities are now built into its cable industry IPGs, including the in-house developed Passport Echo 3.5 and the product of a long-standing co-venture with Comcast, i-Guide A28. With planned availability on Motorola’s standardized MoCA-enabled set-top boxes, the multi-room DVR solutions will allow DVR-recorded content to be accessed throughout a home network.
“We’ve integrated multi-room DVR streaming from one device to another through the guide-based user experience,” says Corey Ferengul, executive vice president of product management and marketing at Macrovision. “This is for platforms already widely deployed for both Passport and i-Guide.
“There are a lot of other applications that can be integrated in this way,” he adds. “We feel the most pressing thing is tru2way and EBIF [the CableLabs Enhanced Binary Interchange Format specification for interactive TV on less powerful legacy set-top boxes]. We think EBIF gives us the opportunity to get a lot of apps on our native [Passport and i-Guide] platforms.”
i-Guide and Passport provide different user experiences and backend architectures, “but they’re coming closer together,” Ferengul says. “i-Guide historically has run on Motorola platforms and Passport was on Cisco/S-A. Customers choose them based on what they need in their environments.”
At the April Cable Show 2009 in Washington, D.C. the company demonstrated “the ease with which a consumer can access DVR recordings in other rooms, with all the trick plays and the ability to start viewing in one room and resume viewing in another,” says Sharon Metz, vice president of channel marketing for Macrovision. “This is a full, feature-rich guide solution for tru2way” demonstrated on multiple set-tops and [tru2way] stack vendors.
In another partnership with interactive TV software supplier Zodiac, Macrovision Data Services is now providing relational metadata databases to enable a Zodiac iTV Movie Guide, a tru2way application that allows consumers to cross-reference actors, directors and the like in Internet Movie Database (IMDB.com) fashion within the IPG on their TV screens using their TV remote controls. Macrovision itself runs similar relational database Web sites AllMusic.com and AllMovies.com.
“Metadata is required for the search process, and it’s not good enough to have just data,” Ferengul says. “You need to have relations between data – who’s in the show and what else have they been in, or what they are working on. That’s something we also do very actively: generating links. That leads to search, discovery and recommendation features. Now picture that put into the richness of guides.”
In a further, somewhat more forward-looking announcement, Macrovision debuted its Connected Platform solution’s support of tru2way technology using the former Mediabolic’s software stack enabling DLNA standard security, Universal Plug-and-Play (UPnP) device connectivity, content discovery and content sharing across home networks. The Macrovision solution provides CE manufacturers with software to enable automatic interconnectivity of their set-tops, TVs or DVRs with millions of other devices that are compliant with DLNA, UPnP, DTCP-IP, and OCAP/tru2way. The result, the company says, is that consumers can discover, manage and enjoy recorded television content as well as personal and premium digital content on their own terms.
“Connected Platform now has the ability to do multi-room DVR within tru2way, enabling secure movement of media between boxes through a standardized tru2way mechanism,” Ferengul explains. “Historically this was done in custom ways because there has been no standard in multi-room DVR. Set-top makers were tired of creating custom stacks for what is now basically a requirement, so they want to get out of custom development for things that don’t bring massive revenue.”
Ferengul foresees no radical revolution in tru2way this year, but rather an evolution. “It’s time to deliver on tru2way, and we’ll get some real market data on its effectiveness this year,” in part through Macrovision’s Harvest, a detailed data collection system that is an add-on to the Passport guide. “If tru2way can deliver, it opens a lot of opportunities for new services and features that can be provided by system operators,” he says.
In the longer term, Macrovision does foresee an expansion of IPGs to encompass not only video but music and all other forms of digital entertainment, both premium and personal.
Toward that end, the company also announced in March that the newest version of its LASSO media recognition solution has expanded access to deeper entertainment data and more types of data worldwide. LASSO now includes a larger global AMG database supported by both editorial and user-submitted data that can be localized to regional specifics in stand-alone devices.
For now, LASSO is aimed at CE makers who want to embed IPGs and even content portal services in their retail CE devices. “On our consumer electronics guides, we’re working to link in music with cover art and other richness, along with DLNA for personal music,” Ferengul says. “We added data around music and games and expanded video data. We now have the world’s largest portfolio of entertainment metadata. These are capabilities we want to bring in over coming releases. We’re not announcing anything on the cable front, but it’s the direction we’re going. Guides are moving from TV guide to any digital media guide, including the personal.”
Internet connected LASSO-powered devices now will have embedded linking capability that allows users to navigate between artist biographies and album reviews. LASSO also includes the ability to recognize Blu-ray discs and allows consumers to submit DVD information. “Extensive media recognition capability in devices such as MP3 players, mobile devices, home CD and DVD players, and automotive entertainment systems is an essential element that makes the device fantastic for a user,” Ferengul says.
The company also continues to sell its data standalone to customers like i.TV, which has created applications for the iPhone that include TV, DVD and theater guides, ticket buying, Netflix and TiVO video streaming and social networking features.
In early April, Macrovision also reached a multi-year agreement with international MSO Liberty Global Inc. Through that deal, Liberty will license from Macrovision patents for IPGs in multiple European countries, and Macrovision will receive rights to distribute certain IPG and interactive television technologies developed by UPC to other service providers. The technology relationship agreement also includes the potential for the two companies to work together on other products and technologies in the future.