Anticipated Jump in TV-to-PC Initiatives Spurs Growth in Supply of Support Tools

August 7, 2009 – Extend Media is aiming to capitalize on the buzz surrounding TV Everywhere with the August launch of a new set of tools designed to help multichannel providers manage and deliver TV programming online to their existing video customers.

Though Comcast-owned technology enabler thePlatform won the contract to power the Time Warner-Comcast trial of TV Everywhere this summer, Extend Media says it's already inked a deal with a Tier 1 service provider to use its new platform, releasing this month. Extend Media will reveal the specific details in the next few weeks and also expects to have landed three to four service providers for its new toolset by year-end.

The technology player is aiming squarely for the market Comcast and Time Warner expect to open up with their TV Everywhere project. The first trial for TV Everywhere is planned in about 5000 homes this summer with programming from Turner Networks, Rainbow Media, Scripps Networks, A%26E Television Networks, Hallmark, HBO, CBS and others.

Because TV Everywhere is also spurring similar initiatives from satellite and telcos as well as other multichannel operators, it will likely jumpstart new business opportunities for vendors. While some service providers may participate in TV Everywhere (Comcast and Time Warner say any multichannel provider can be included), others will strike out on their own and will need to ink deals for their own tech enablers.

"As TV Everywhere-type services are trialed and begin to roll out, it's inevitable we'll see vendors rush to support these initiatives," says Will Richmond, industry analyst with VideoNuze.com. "The platforms most likely to succeed will address video service providers' full range of requirements and have proven capabilities to support paid as well as ad-supported media."

The goal with TV Everywhere, and like-minded projects from other operators, is to stem potential consumer defections to the Web by offering multichannel TV customers a way to watch cable shows on the computer. Most cable programs aren't currently offered online on Hulu or network Web sites. Cable programmers have been loathe to jeopardize the license fees cable operators pay them to carry those same shows on-air.

The success of TV Everywhere remains to be seen, but vendors are betting it will turn into a new line of business.

Extend Media said its new OpenCASE Publisher lets multichannel operators authenticate subscribers and then manage the process of delivering programming in free, pay and pay-per-view forms to customers on a variety of screens.

"OpenCASE was specifically built to serve TV Everywhere environments," said Tom MacIsaac, Extend Media's CEO. Extend Media already services big operators like AT%26T and Bell Canada with its video commerce and content management tools that are part of the "OpenCASE" family, he says. OpenCASE Publisher adds to those existing capabilities and is designed to help scale broadband video delivery, ensure the right channel lineup is delivered to each consumer, handle transactions for up-sell, cross-sell and ala carte consumption, manage dynamic ad insertion, and operate across platforms such as TVs, PCs and mobile devices.

"TV Everywhere is a more complex programming issue than much of the media coverage has suggested," MacIsaac contends.

Much of technical attention has centered on the challenge of authenticating users as cable customers before they watch the shows. But that's only one aspect of the project, MacIsaac points out.

"You also have to look at what happens after that," he says. "What happens after you have verified that you are entitled to view this content on a PC or mobile device? Then the operator has to deliver the service itself that is as robust in as many ways as pay TV is.

"You have to figure out access to the package of channels such as who is a basic subscriber, how you handle a one-time consumption of a pay-per-view movie, and reporting consumption to the content owner."

The focus on the gateway issue has detracted from the complications of executing on something as massive as online access to subscribers. But the additional features may make or break the success of TV Everywhere and related projects.

After all, cable TV operators rely today on a vast array of technologies to deliver their programming to the TV set, from servers to headends to ad insertion technologies. A Web replica will require similarly hardy and broad-reaching tools.

"We are providing a tool set that allows an operator to efficiently and in a cost-effective way pull in through our tools the feeds from multiple sources of channels, manage all of that and publish and present to the user in an interface and provide the reporting and other capabilities back to the content owner," MacIsaac says.

In addition to AT%26T and Bell Canda, Extend Media's existing customers include San Disk and Major League Baseball. The company also inked a deal with a major movie studio and plans to announce the details in the coming weeks. Under that deal, Extend Media will deliver content and manage a range of business models, such as pay-per-view, subscription and rental.