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Cable Technology Feature Article

March 08, 2014

Cable Technology Week in Review

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

First up, DISH Network inked a landmark content deal with Disney this week, announcing a plan to launch an affordable OTT service with a blend of kids, broadcast network and especially live sports content. Unlike current OTT services which lack the most coveted live content – national and regional sports contests – the DISH option is expected to feature a slew of ESPN (News - Alert) channels, the Longhorn Network and a Regional Sports Network (RSN) under construction for the sprawling Southeastern Conference as part of the partnership with ABC Disney. While it’s more accurate to yell “game on,” than “game over,” for corded TV service providers, DISH’ s acknowledgement of the need for low monthly pricing should deliver a package that shakes up the industry moving forward.

Also in the OTT realm, hardware and gear was in the news this week. Forget $100 palm-sized set-tops: This season, cheap HDMI sticks are the new black when it comes to over-the-top (OTT) streaming hardware, judging by Roku’s decision to freshen up its video dongle. The company has introduced a new, spruced up version of its Streaming Stick (it comes in purple!), which now goes for just $49 and appears to be set to take on Google’s $35 online video phenom, the Chromecast streaming gadget. The Streaming Stick was originally launched in 2012 and until now has sold for $99—analogous to, say, Apple (News  - Alert) TV. It depended on an MHL-enhanced HDMI port to work though, which has limited consumer accessibility. The new version connects to a TV’s generic HDMI port instead, like Chromecast, thus widening the market to virtually any HDTV.

Also in OTT streaming, Apple TV, the palm-sized over-the-top (OTT) streaming set-top, is poised for a new lease on digital life, according to CEO Tim Cook. At the annual shareholder’s meeting, he pledged that the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech giant will continue to increase research and development investment in the sector, and he noted that the company has already significantly ramped up its interest in Apple TV over the past year.

Apple TV, put simply, is “no longer a hobby,” he said, referring to Steve Jobs’ (News  - Alert) famous proclamation on the product line. He also said that Apple generated more than $1 billion in revenue from the Apple TV units last year, which would translate to shipping about 10 million of the devices in 2013. That’s more than double what it sold in 2012, meaning that Apple TV is the fastest-growing product segment in the Apple orchard.

And speaking of Disney, apparently the rivalry between film giants Disney and Dreamworks Animation doesn’t seem to extend to the employees of the companies. Disney’s marketing professional T.J. Marchetti has switched sides with his recent hire by Dreamworks’ AwesomenessTV to serve as its new CMO. AwesomenessTV is a YouTube-based company that has its own television show on Nickelodeon, and is involved with a wide range of teen-directed media. Dreamworks Studios acquired AwesomenessTV in May 2013 for over $33 million, and has taken a dominant role as one of the most popular channels for teens to visit.

During his time at Disney Digital, Marchetti served as senior VP of digital marketing. Marchetti worked on projects marketing Disney movies through different media. Large franchises that Marchetti was involved with include Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilms. He also played a marketing role in the Disney blockbuster success “Frozen,” and was part of the team that released the cloud-based Apple (News  - Alert) iTunes app Disney Movies Anywhere.

Other changes are afoot for Comcast (News - Alert). Not content with its recent takeover of Time Warner Cable, Comcast has moved on to another acquisition, albeit a less major one. Specifically, the mass media and communications company is planning to acquire online advertising platform FreeWheel for about $320 million. Put simply, FreeWheel allows online video content creators to serve ads alongside videos. So far, it has managed a good deal of success as it can include the likes of NBC Universal (News - Alert), Fox and ESPN among its customers. FreeWheel also started handling video advertising for ecommerce giant Amazon recently. According to a source close to the situation, Comcast’s deal with FreeWheel would not immediately affect FreeWheel’s business operations or its client relationships. That said, FreeWheel does currently serve some of Comcast’s direct competitors, namely DirecTV (News - Alert), so it’s likely there will be some impact.

Comcast is making other advertising news as well: In the wake of the decriminalization of marijuana in several U.S. states, a history-making advertising campaign has cropped up, so to speak, on several major TV networks. MarijuanaDoctors.com has begun airing a television commercial on the Comcast local Spotlight system in New Jersey—the first time a medical marijuana service has been showcased on the airwaves. Comcast will run the sure-to-be controversial spot on A&E, AMC, Bravo, CNBC, CNN, Comedy Central, Discovery, ESPN, Food Network, FOX, FX, HGTV, History and several others.

As of February 2014, 20 states and Washington, D.C. have legalized medical marijuana for specific terminal and debilitating conditions (including in New Jersey, where the spot will run). However, in 30 states, the substance is still considered an illegal drug. Needless to say, the move by a major cable operator to run ads for what many see as a socially pernicious substance is likely to raise eyebrows and spark discussion nationwide.

Etisalat meanwhile is extending its coverage; the Mideast giant has signed an LTE roaming peering agreement with iBasis in order to provide a high quality, seamless LTE roaming experience. The Etisalat SmartHub IPX will be peered with the iBasis LTE Signaling eXchange (LSX) to deliver LTE roaming and signaling. Roaming will be supported by pre-existing IPX connections for GRPS roaming eXchange (GRX) and data services. The combined solution offers a single point of interconnect between existing SS7 networks and diameter-based LTE networks, and facilitate international roaming across 3G/4G networks.

And finally, ZTE (News - Alert) has been rated as a global market leader in three major market segments by the IPTV Global Market Leader Report by the Multimedia Research Group: IPTV middleware, video-on-demand (VOD) and set-top boxes (STB). The objective of the report was to evaluate the global market performance of IPTV equipment and service providers based on the number of active users for each target product. 955 IPTV service providers, six key IPTV products, and content protection markets in eight regions across the world, were analyzed for the report. The six key IPTV products were, access systems, head-end, VOD, STB, middleware. The content protection markets in the eight target regions included North America, Latin America, Caribbean, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia-Pacific and Middle East and Africa.

To check out more details on all of this and more, visit our homepage. And have a great weekend!

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