Cable Technology Feature Article
Cable Technology Week in Review
By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor
This week, the business of TV and broadcast saw a move that threatened to shake up the competitive landscape as well as content acquisition processes—until it didn’t. As expected, No. 4 Charter Communications (News - Alert) tendered an offer to buy No. 2 MSO Time Warner Cable, for a total of $61.3 billion. It didn’t take long for TWC CEO Rob Marcus to reject the offer as a “grossly inadequate proposal” and “non-starter” that substantially undervalued his firm. Charter chief executive Thomas Rutledge vowed to take his case directly to TWC’s shareholders, going so far as to hold a conference call to lay out his vision. Marcus then accused Chart of trying to “steal the company.”
Charter has being trying to buy TWC for more than six months, with no luck. Comcast has also been eyeing TWC, and it’s likely that TWC is holding out for an offer from that Big Kahuna. If Charter does manage to prevail, it will create a cableco serving 20 million customers in 38 states, giving Charter significant leverage in terms of negotiating programming costs with content companies — a primary driver for future consolidation, analysts say. The deal would be highly leveraged: No 4 MSO Charter has just 4.3 million subscribers with a market cap that is just a third the size of TWC's.
In other news, customized television was in thenews. Personalized TV has been a holy grail for content companies and pay-TV operators alike, ever since digital delivery and IPTV (News - Alert) became a reality. Yet efforts so far have been timid, focused mainly on enabling the ability to create on-demand and DVR queues and leveraging mobile or online apps to provide a personal overlay to linear TV. This week, Viacom said that it is looking to change that with a new, programmable channel for kids called My Nick Jr. It will be an ad-free premium offering, and takes a page from Internet radio to give parents the ability to customize the programming schedule, to be delivered via the linear TV interface. With a combination of themes to choose from and the ability to like or dislike the current program being shown, the service learns to curate tailored content for the household. Verizon (News - Alert) FiOS has already signed on to carry the channel.
Also in the interactive arena, Mozilla’s is taking a page from Google in moving beyond traditional Web markets into TV. A new deal with Panasonic will see Mozilla’s open-source Firefox browser capabilities populating smart TVs, using HTML5 standards that could bring better gaming, interactive TV programming and customizable dashboards. The deal also covers Mozilla’s WebAPIs, which allow for control and operation of other devices inside and outside the home.
Not to be outdone, NetRange, a specialist in white label smart TV portal solutions, has recently forged a new contract with more than 2,000 linear TV channels to stream them over-the-top to smart TVs that feature the NetRange portal. The company officials said that they will be no technical barricades which have previously stopped from operators from offering additional channels and also, there is no technical infrastructure required, the company said. So, the provider has the opportunity to give consumers additional choice and package personalization. The TV channels come in two different technical play-out qualities, and the standard streaming will be provided via HLS.
Personalized TV may be a big buzz around the industry at the moment, but so is 4K UltraHD. To that point, Envivio announced that it is partnering with Broadcom (News - Alert), MStar Semiconductor and STMicroelectronics on UltraHD content delivery. The vendors, part of Envivio's HEVC Early Access Program, will conduct 4K HEVC trials with several Tier 1 video service providers. In addition to Broadcom’s silicon, MStar decoder chipsets are rooted in connected TVs supporting HEVC and 4K from multiple manufacturers, and ST's SOC solutions for set-top boxes backs 4K HEVC decoding.
Also Samsung, which showed off a TV that bends at a touch of a button as well as a curved 105-inch 4K TV at this month’s CES, has inked a 4K content deal with Comcast Xfinity to address the death of things to show on those shiny new displays. The partnership with Comcast will give Samsung 4K TV owners access to the Xfinity TV 4K app directly on their sets later this year. The app will support 4K UHD movies streamed from the Web as well as TV shows on demand. The cable company said it is working on creating more content with its subsidiary NBCUniversal.
On the advertising front, Rovi has rolled out new predictive analytics products to leverage audience segmentation to manage advanced advertising campaigns and targeting on-air promotions. The Rovi Audience (News - Alert) Management Solutions, which include the Ad Optimizer and Promotion Optimizer, use advanced algorithms to read into behavioral data and leverage Big Data in order to help broadcast networks, cable TV operators, service providers and other television distributors better understand viewing segment to build highly targeted campaigns.
And finally, in regulatory/local TV news, the FCC furthered TV white space use this week by certifying Carlson Wireless’ RuralConnect TV white space radio system for use with the Spectrum Bridge TV white spaces database. And so, RuralConnect is authorized to transmit in the UHF TV band (470-698 MHz) domestically—one of the first commercial offerings. TV white spaces, the airwaves once occupied by UHF television signals, are widely seen as an affordable way to provide high-speed Internet to remote areas. The same propagation characteristics that once carried UHF television broadcasts around trees, buildings and hills and into America's living rooms lend themselves well to the delivery of non-line-of-site wireless broadband, making connectivity possible in places previously difficult or prohibitively expensive to reach.
M&A, personalization, 4K UltraHD, targeted advertising and local TV broadcast—a heady mix for the week after CES closed. All of them have the potential to create new business models and shake up the competitive realities within the video ecosystem. And as you ponder the ways that might be, don’t forget to have a great weekend!