May 2010

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Games-on-Demand Company, Playcast, Signs MOU with Portuguese Pay-TV Operator

Playcast Media, a start-up with offices in Israel and London that was founded by two Harmonic veterans--Guy De Beer, who previously managed that company's VOD product lines, and Natan Peterfreund, who was previously its principal scientist and who is one of the originators of the H.264 compression standard--has signed an MOU with a large Portuguese pay-TV operator whose identity the company has not disclosed, the Israeli business news service, Globes, reported late Wednesday.

Westfield London Publishes Interactive Video of "Greatest Fashion Show on Earth"

London shopping mall, Westfield London, has published an interactive video of its recent fashion show, "The Greatest Fashion Show on Earth," which took place March 18th. The video--which can be viewed here--uses hotspotting technology to enable viewers to click on any of the items of clothing worn by the show's models, in order to access more information about it.

Hillcrest Launches New Version of its Kylo TV Web Browser

--Says "Advanced Users" Will Be Able to Configure Kylo to Access Hulu, Which Had Blocked It

Hillcrest Labs, a company best known for its Freespace in-air pointing and motion-control technology and its Loop pointer (see, for example, the article published on itvt.com, November 11th), is today unveiling the latest version of Kylo, the free Web browser for TV that it launched in March (see the article published on itvt.com, March 23rd). Designed for what Hillcrest says are the "millions of households" that connect their PC's or Macs to the TV (and thus competing in the emerging OTT market against Boxee, among others), the browser is designed for a "10-foot" viewing experience.

TiVo "Non-DVR" Software to Be Integrated into Connected TV's from Best Buy's Insignia Brand

--Legal and R&D Expenses Widen TiVo's Q1 Losses

TiVo and electronics retailer, Best Buy, said Tuesday that development is underway to integrate TiVo's software and advanced TV services (though not the TiVo platform's core DVR functionality) into new connected TV sets from Insignia, Best Buy's in-house consumer electronics brand. The companies did not say when the sets will be available and how much they will cost. This represents the first time that TiVo's software has been integrated directly into a TV set--though the company has announced several deals to integrate it into third-party set-top boxes (see, for example, the article on TiVo's new deal with Technicolor that was published on itvt.com, May 24th).

BBC Trust Publishes Conclusions of its iPlayer Review, Begins Consultation on New Syndication Policy

--New Policy Would Ban iPlayer Self-Builds, Ensure iPlayer Branding on Third-Party VOD Platforms
--BBC Closes Red Button Blog, Launches New Comedy Site

The BBC's governing body, the BBC Trust, on Tuesday published the conclusions of its review of the BBC's on-demand services, including the BBC iPlayer (note: the BBC is expected to announce the addition of a number of social features to the iPlayer today). It also announced an eight-week consultation on changes that the BBC Executive has proposed to the corporation's online programming syndication policy. The proposed changes would mean that BBC programs could not be made available on third-party VOD platforms on an unbundled basis, but would instead always be presented as part of a complete iPlayer-branded offering.

HBO Programming Now Available on Sony PlayStation3 and PlayStation Portable

Sony Computer Entertainment America (SCEA) said Tuesday that programming from premium cable network, HBO, is now available for purchase (for between $0.99 and $2.99 per episode) in the US on its PlayStation3 (PS3) and PlayStation Portable (PSP) consoles via its PlayStation Network video delivery service. The Sony consoles are the first such devices to offer HBO's programming.

Miso Social TV Platform Gets Seed Funding, New Web Version

Bazaar Labs, the company behind the Miso social TV iPhone/iPod touch app (note: Internet programming service, Revision3, recently announced that it would use the app to drive awareness of and tune-ins to its programs--see the article published on itvt.com, May 10th), says that it has secured seed financing from a group of investors that includes Keith Rabois and Jawed Karim, and ex-Googlers, Georges Harik, Richard Chen, Thomas Korte, Kurt Abrahamson and others (note: Rabois will also join the company's advisory team, drawing on what Bazaar Labs says is his "extensive social and consumer Internet

Nokia Siemens Networks' IPTV Platform Enables Daktel to Offer Interactive TV Widgets, OTT Video

Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) said Monday that Daktel Communications, a subsidiary of Dakota Central Telecommunications Cooperative, a telco that serves central North Dakota, has deployed its IPTV platform, enabling it to offer a range of advanced services, including DVR, VOD and interactive TV. According to the company, Daktel is one of the first operators in the US to deploy the platform. "Today's subscribers require higher-quality television experiences and content that is for their individual interests," Daktel CEO, Keith Larson, said in a prepared statement.

Softel Deploys Automated Subtitling and Teletext Solution for Hungarian Broadcaster, Origo TV

Softel, a UK-based company that claims to have over 25 years of experience in providing ancillary data solutions--including solutions for interactive TV, opt cuing/ad insertion, subtitling and captioning--to leading broadcasters and service providers across the world (note: the company recently revealed that it is powering Showtime Networks' new HD EBIF application--see the article published on itvt.com, March 24th), said Tuesday that Hungarian broadcaster, Origo TV, has installed an automated subtitling and Teletext solution, based on Softel's Swift and Cyclone technologies, at its headquarters in Budapest.

China's Shenzhen Topway Taps Harmonic to Power New HD Channels and HD VOD Services

Harmonic said Tuesday that Chinese cable operator, Shenzhen Topway Video Communication, has expanded its HDTV and VOD services using Harmonic headend and edgeQAM solutions. According to the company, the deployment of its technologies has allowed Shenzhen Topway to offer new HD VOD services; expanded on-demand capabilities, including time-shifted TV; and 13 new HDTV linear channels.

News Round-Up

--Canoe Ventures Testing Dynamic VOD Advertising
--Envivio Tapped to Support Meo's New Internet TV Service
--MGM Mirage Launches "Vegas Reality" Augmented Reality App for iPhone
--Netflix to Use Microsoft PlayReady in "Netflix-Ready" OTT Devices
--Saffron Digital Powering NBC Universal International's New Online Video Platform
--Sezmi Updates its Service
--Stoneroos Launches TV Guide App for iPhone/iPod Touch, Yahoo! Widget Platform

Here is a round-up of some other interactive TV-related stories we didn't have room for in this issue:

Comcast Leverages Plaxo Team's Expertise to Develop Social TV/Social Discovery Service, "Tunerfish"

At the TechCrunch Disrupt event in New York City, Monday, Comcast unveiled a social TV service called Tunerfish that was developed by employees of Plaxo, the address book/social networking service that Comcast acquired back in 2008.

YDreams, Canesta to Combine Augmented Reality with "Electronic Perception" Technology

--Helios Interactive Develops Augmented Reality Game for Best Buy

Portugal-based augmented reality company, YDreams, and Canesta, a Silicon Valley-based provider of "electronic perception" technology (note: the company offers single-chip CMOS 3D sensors, which it says enable "fine-grained, 3-dimensional depth perception in a wide range of applications," thus allowing devices to "react on sight to the actions or motions of individuals and objects in their field of view, gaining levels of functionality and ease-of-use that were simply not possible in an era when such devices were blind"), said Monday that they are partnering to "redefine augmented reality and bring it to the broad market."

SKY Perfect JSAT Becomes First Japanese Pay-TV Operator to Join Rovi's EPG Patent License Program

Rovi (formerly Macrovision--for more on the company's name change and the repositioning it heralds, see the interview with Rovi chief evangelist, Richard Bullwinkle, that was published on itvt.com, July 16th), said Monday that SKY Perfect JSAT Corporation (operates the SKY PerfecTV! satellite service) has become the first Japanese pay-TV operator to join its patent license program.

Yoostar Appoints Acclaim Veteran, Gregory Fischbach, as President and CEO

--Appointment Comes as Company Prepares to Launch "Social Video Game" at E3
--Current Media Names John Arianas VP of East Coast Sales

Yoostar--a New York City-based start-up that offers a product (consisting of a Web cam with built-in dual microphones and remote control, a portable green screen, a professional stand, and what the company calls "Active Immersion" software for PC's and Macs) that digitally removes the original actors from scenes, so that users can insert themselves in their place and then record their performances to their PC or Mac or upload them to the company's Web site (note: a video of TV personality, Jimmy Kimmel, using Yoostar's system is embedded above; for more on the company, see the articles published on itvt.com, May 19th and August 11th, 2009)--said Monday that it has appointed Gregory Fischbach as president and CEO.