News Round-Up

--Report: Amazon Attempting to Launch Subscription-Based Broadband VOD Service
--Report: New Apple TV Device to Feature Netflix Access
--BeeSmart Announces New Release of its Interactive TV Middleware
--Boxee Invites Users to Choose Tagline for its Boxee Box
--Epix Live Lets Viewers Interact with On-Screen Talent
--Netgem Upgrades Telekom Slovenia's Legacy IPTV Infrastructure
--SingTel Launches TV App Store, Video Search Engine
--Softel Launches MultiText for Streamlined Multilanguage Subtitle and Caption Processing
--Yoostar Now Available for Mac

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

  • Amazon is attempting to create a subscription-based broadband VOD service, and has proposed the idea to various media companies, including NBC Universal, Time Warner and Viacom, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal." The service would be available through the Web or through devices (such as the Roku platform) that already provide access to Amazon's transactional broadband VOD service, the Times said.
  • The new version of the Apple TV platform (rumored to be branded as "iTV" and to be priced at $99) that Apple is expected to launch today (Wednesday) will feature movies from Netflix, according to a report from the Bloomberg news service. Meanwhile, Apple has announced that it will provide a live video stream of the event at which it is expected to launch the new Apple TV.
  • Slovenian interactive TV technology provider, BeeSmart, has announced the release of version 3.2 of its eponymous middleware suite. According to the company, among other things, the new release "allows operators, content providers, advertisers and agencies to introduce new advertising models, which are supported by BeeSmart's versatile targeted advertising engine; "includes an additional support for prepaid and credit card payments"; and offers a "new open API interface [that] enables simple integration with various client devices from different STB models to PC's, gaming consoles and mobile phones."
  • OTT specialist, Boxee, is inviting users of its service to choose a tagline for its Boxee Box, which is slated to launch in November. Users can choose between seven taglines suggested by the company (including, for example, "A cure for the common box," "Not your mom's box" and "We drank beer. We smoked. We dug deep. We called it Boxee"), or submit their own.
  • Epix, a subscription-based multiplatform (linear, VOD, online) premium programming service which is a joint venture between Viacom's Paramount Pictures arm, MGM and Lionsgate, has announced the launch of Epix Live, an online forum that allows fans to interact with their favorite artists via 30-minute Q&A sessions. The first artist to appear on Epix Live (which is located on EpixHD.com) will be comedian, Lewis Black (3:00PM Eastern, September 1st), who will be following up on his Epix comedy special, "Stark Raving Black," and documentary, "Basic Black," which premiered August 1st. According to Epix, Epix Live, which is powered by Clipsync, "provides a true social TV experience," allowing viewers to "submit and have questions answered in real time, interact, share and comment with one another and broadcast their participation to their friends via integrations with Twitter and Facebook."
  • Netgem has announced that Telekom Slovenia has deployed its set-top box technology and NetgemTV middleware to upgrade its legacy IPTV infrastructure and enable it to offer a rich hybrid-TV service. "From September 1, 2010, Telekom Slovenia will use Netgem's intelligent client solution to roll out tailored applications to customers, building upon the operator's existing bouquet of entertainment services to ensure it fulfils its long-term connected home roadmap," Netgem states in its press materials. "Netgem is working with Planet9, Telekom Slovenia's multimedia and system integration subsidiary, to launch the SiOL iO service, which seamlessly blends broadcast, Web and mobile content within a single, branded user experience. Initial applications include an online radio portal, weather news channel, livescore, Facebook Connect, news channel SiOL.net and an innovative new application that enables subscribers to publish content shot direct from their mobile phone or webcam and share this content in the comfort of their living room. The deployment time and costs for these new services are minimized since Netgem's open solution is able to integrate with Telekom Slovenia's existing content management system, backend systems and headend." According to Netgem, its "device-centric approach" allowed it to solve various technical obstacles that Telekom Slovenia had faced as a result of its ageing server-based architecture: "The widespread adoption of connected devices at home, the customer's desire to share content in and outside of the home, their willingness to merge TV experience with Web content, including social networks and to personalize their services, are strong forces calling for a renewal of solutions towards intelligent set-top boxes and away from the previous network-centric approach," the company states in its press materials.
  • Singaporean telco, SingTel, has launched a service, called exCite--which includes a video search engine and an app store--for its IPTV platform: "With the exCite service, customers can experience the world's best video search engine allowing customers to find the widest range of online video content and stream them smoothly from sites like YouTube and Tudou," the company states in its press materials. "Customers can create their own entertainment channel and experience limitless Internet content, right from their TV screen. exCite also gives customers access to Singapore's first TV apps store, starting with a catalog of over 30 TV games. The store is based on an open TV platform enabling developers to easily create exciting applications. A gesture-based remote control and predictive text searches in English and Chinese offer easier navigation."
  • Softel, a UK-based company which 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), has announced a new MultiText option for its Swift vTX and Swift TX subtitling, encoding and transmission systems. According to the company, MultiText simplifies the playout of complex, multilanguage broadcast subtitles, reducing operational costs and increasing productivity while improving quality through built-in automated quality-control procedures. "Swift vTX with MultiText is a solution for binding multilingual rich-text formatted subtitle streams to video files and then transcoding them using Swift TX at transmission time from SDI into any of the common transmission formats (typically DVB bitmap or Open burnt-in)," the company states in its press materials. "For every language stream, each subtitle is encoded frame by frame, with associated metadata, into the original video file. MultiText enables early binding of multilingual subtitles to video assets, allowing broadcasters to be confident that automated or manual quality-control processes can be completed well in advance of transmission. Early binding of subtitles to video content also makes it possible for broadcast-ready video files to be archived with single- or multilanguage subtitles attached to the file. At transmission time, the transcoding process does not require supervision, automation triggers or timecode inputs, simplifying infrastructure and saving operational costs."
  • Yoostar--a 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) that digitally removes the original actors from scenes, so that users can insert themselves in their place and then record their performances to their computer or upload them to the company's Web site--has announced the availability of a Mac version of the product, priced at $99.99.

 

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