Interactive TV News Round-Up (III): Rovi, C Spire Wireless, Hisense, MediaTek, Samsung, TeliaSonera, Smart TV Alliance, TiVo, Viggle, YouTube

--Rovi Launches Digital Copy Solution for Retailers
--Rovi Announces Results of Connected-TV Usage Study, Wins with C Spire Wireless, Hisense, MediaTek
--Samsung, TeliaSonera Partner to Enable Set-Top Box-less IPTV for Connected TV's
--Smart TV Alliance Signs Up New Members, Provides Update on its Standardization Efforts
--CEO Rogers: TiVo Working on Cloud-Based Solution for Cable Operators
--Rewards-Based Social-TV Specialist, Viggle, in Marketing Partnership with DirecTV
--Report: YouTube Planning to Cut Poorly Performing Channels, Fund More New Channels

Because the [itvt] editorial team is busy working on our upcoming TV of Tomorrow Show event, TVOT NYC Intensive (December 10th in New York City)--and because of the large volume of news currently being generated by the IFA and IBC shows--we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary or headlines format:

  • Rovi on Friday launched Rovi Digital Copy for Retailers, a product that it says is designed to enable consumers to turn their DVD and Blu-ray Disc collections into "virtual movie libraries. Rovi Digital Copy for Retailers offers solutions for in-store disc-to-digital conversion services, as well as retailer-branded in-home services," the company's press materials continue. "Both services will use industry-proven Rovi technologies for content recognition and authentication, and utilize core components of Rovi Entertainment Store, the company's platform for digital storefront creation and management. Rovi Digital Copy for Retailers ties into UltraViolet--the cloud-based entertainment ecosystem delivering a new way to collect and enjoy home video entertainment. The offering can be integrated as a component of services already powered by Rovi Entertainment Store, or incorporated into existing digital entertainment service infrastructures. Rovi expects the first retailer services powered by Rovi Digital Copy for Retailers to be introduced later this year. With in-home disc-to-digital services, consumers simply insert a DVD or Blu-ray Disc title into a Rovi Digital Copy-enabled PC or Blu-ray Disc player. In the case of in-store offerings, consumers bring their physical disc collections into a participating store where a sales representative will lead them through the 'conversion' process. In both instances, once titles are authorized by the content owner, consumers will then be presented with the opportunity to purchase and trigger access to an UltraViolet digital copy. Digital copies can then be enjoyed by consumers on a range of UltraViolet-enabled connected devices, such as HDTV's, Blu-ray Disc players, set-top boxes, game consoles, smartphones, tablets, and PC's."
  • In other Rovi news: 1) In time for the IFA tradeshow in Berlin, the company last week released the first phase of results of a three-part study it is conducting, in partnership with Decipher Research, of connected-TV usage and advanced advertising in Germany. "The first phase looked at user demographics, device familiarity and usage, and compared the media habits of connected device owners to those of the average German households," Rovi explains in its press materials. "The study found connected device owners were super consumers of media content that spend more time online, more money on pay-TV subscription services, and are actively involved in second-screen viewing activities--including a large percentage who have used secondary devices to search online for information related to what they are viewing on TV. The first phase of the German study was conducted as an online survey involving 500 connected-TV device (Samsung TV or Blu-ray Disc player) owners. The German study is a component of Rovi's comprehensive evaluation and analysis of connected-TV device owners and advanced advertising worldwide. Rovi has already collected and released key findings of similar studies conducted in the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom. The second and third phases of the German study, expected to be complete in the fourth quarter, will assess interactive advertising awareness and effectiveness on connected devices." More information on the findings of the study is available here. 2) The company says that C Spire Wireless is using Rovi TV, music and movie recommendations, data and search functionality in its recently launched Scout mobile app. "Accessing the entertainment data and services through Rovi Cloud Service, a suite of Web API's that can be deployed to create customized consumer applications on various platforms and devices, Scout is a unique application that provides C Spire's customers with advanced capabilities for finding new entertainment content," Rovi states in its press materials. "Based upon Rovi’s vast collection of metadata for TV, movies and music, and original editorial information created by content experts, Scout generates suggested content tailored to the user's tastes using their input into the application. In addition, consumers can connect directly to iTunes or to purchase or rent recommended content from the Scout application enabling them to enjoy movies, TV programs and music content on their handset, anytime and anyplace." Said Suzy Hays, C Spire's SVP of brand management and personalization: "We are very pleased to bring Rovi's turnkey solution to our Scout app. The depth and breadth of Rovi's search and recommendations framework enables us to differentiate our services and deliver a superior, highly personalized experience to our customers and prospective customers across the Android and iOS platforms." 3) The company has announced that fabless semiconductor company, MediaTek, is integrating Rovi DivX Plus Streaming technology into its silicon solutions for connected TV's and Blu-ray Disc players. "Rovi's DivX Plus Streaming solution is built upon core DivX technologies, which are recognized by millions of consumers around the world for delivering excellent video performance, visual quality and multiscreen interoperability," Rovi states in its press materials. "DivX Plus Streaming brings features historically associated with Blu-ray Discs to the over-the-top entertainment experience. The adaptive streaming solution not only dynamically adjusts streams to help deliver maximum visual quality based on available bandwidth, but also offers an advanced feature set with support for 1080p, subtitles, multiple language tracks, and trick-play functions such as smooth fast forward and rewind. DivX Plus Streaming expands the value of the already popular DivX Plus HD Certification program, which brings these same advanced multimedia features to 'download-to-own' video content." 4) The company has also announced that Chinese CE manufacturer, Hisense, is integrating DivX Plus Streaming into a new range of connected TV's. (Note: For more news from Rovi, see here.)
  • Samsung has teamed with Scandinavian telco, TeliaSonera, to develop a connected-TV solution that enables IPTV service without a set-top box. "The new solution is unique in terms of easy to use and even more customer-friendly," the companies state in their press materials. "As soon as the Smart TV equipped with the new solution is connected to Internet, it will recognize the local IPTV provider that the customer is using and the IPTV user interface will appear automatically and all TV services are ready to use. No additional settings or equipment is needed. In addition to that, it reduces the number of remote controls and set-top boxes for the customer--and by that also the cost. The new solution enables to use all IPTV services, such as VOD (video-on-demand) and catch-up...In May, TeliaSonera, the fifth-largest telecommunication company in Europe, and Samsung, one of the world's leading technology companies, started a collaboration to develop the world's first solution that would enable to use local IPTV services with a Samsung Smart TV without a set-top box, which has so far been an essential piece of equipment. The beta version of this new solution has been developed for Samsung Smart TV series 7 and 8 and IPTV service provided by Elion, TeliaSonera's Estonian subsidiary. The new solution will initially be launched in Estonia and will thereafter be adopted in TeliaSonera's other markets, starting with Sweden in first half of 2013 and Finland during 2013."
  • The Smart TV Alliance, an organization launched in June by LG Electronics and TP Vision (Philips), with the stated goal of "creating a non-proprietary ecosystem for application developers to create attractive, platform-independent services" (note: Toshiba joined the Alliance shortly after its launch), on Thursday announced that it has signed up a number of new members, and provided an update on its standardization efforts. "As it continues to expand its market reach, the Smart TV Alliance will publish specifications for its software development kit (SDK) 2.0 on its official Web site," the organization states in its press materials. "The actual SDK tool will be made available by the end of the year for use by developers. In addition to smart-TV manufacturers, organizations that contribute in different ways to the smart-TV experience have also joined the Alliance. Qualcomm...and MStar will bring their expertise and understanding in hardware design to the consortium while Obigo, a leading Web browser provider and application developer, will provide valuable input from a developer's perspective. And YuMe, a provider of video advertising software and services, will deliver knowledge and experience from the advertising community...Demonstrating that developing common Alliance specifications is not an exercise in theory only, Obigo has developed apps based on Alliance SDK 1.0 specifications that run consistently on TV sets from Alliance members. Consumers will be able to enjoy these apps, including Accuweather and Vilanoise, when they become publicly available in September. In addition, more apps will be developed and become available through Smart TV Alliance members...As different communities in the smart-TV industry come together, the Smart TV Alliance will announce the SDK 2.0 specifications on its Web site, which will be supported by 2013 products from member companies. By looking at these specifications, developers will be able to understand what capabilities to expect on 2013 products and plan their application development accordingly. After the specifications are announced, the SDK software tool will be available for download."
  • During TiVo's earnings conference call with analysts last week, CEO Tom Rogers revealed that the company is developing cloud-based solutions for cable operators, that will deliver programming via connected TV's, games consoles, tablets and other connected devices. Light Reading Cable's Steve Donohue has more. (Note: For more news from TiVo, see here.)
  • Rewards-based social-TV company, Viggle, said Thursday that it has signed a marketing agreement with DirecTV. "Under the agreement, DirecTV customers will receive unique benefits when they check into their favorite TV shows using Viggle, a loyalty program for television that rewards users for checking into the shows they're watching," the company states in its press materials. "Users are given points for watching shows, playing games and engaging with interactive ads throughout the app that is available on both the iOS and Android platforms. Viggle points can be redeemed for rewards or they can be converted into charitable donations. Since its launch just over seven months ago, more than one million users have registered for our app...The companies will be working with network and premium channel programmers to provide enhanced TV experiences and to reward DirecTV customers with bonus points when they check into their favorite shows with Viggle. As part of the agreement, DirecTV will market the benefits of its service to Viggle users on Viggle's innovative advertising platform with video, sponsored games and interactive ads. Viggle will also be marketed throughout DirecTV's marketing channels for new user acquisition and retention, encouraging existing DirecTV subscribers to link their accounts with Viggle in order to receive enhanced points earning and rewards while watching DirecTV. Viggle will be working with DirecTV on a number of technical solutions going forward including set-top box and tablet integrations." Said DirecTV's VP of marketing, Alex Kaplan: "With this agreement, DirecTV customers will have the best Viggle experience with exclusive bonus points-earning opportunities and rewards such as pay-per-view movies. This is the first step of our agreement with Viggle and we expect more enhancements for our customers will follow."
  • YouTube is planning to cut some of the more poorly performing channels that have launched on its platform under the auspices of its $100 million original channels initiative, according to a report in the New York Post. However, the cuts--which are purported to take place by the end of the year--will be accompanied by a new round of funding for channel-start-ups, the Post claims.
North America