Interactive TV News Round-Up (II): Boxee, Bravo, Bright House Networks, BT Vision, BlackArrow (SeaChange), Brightcove, CableLabs, Cablevision, Canoe Ventures

[itvt]'s daily news coverage went on hiatus October 18th in order to allow our editorial staff to work full time on TVOT NYC Intensive. This issue contains a round-up of some of the major interactive TV-related news stories that have broken since then. Due to the volume of news we are covering in this issue, our summaries of each item are somewhat more abbreviated than usual (note: extensive background information on most of the companies and technologies covered in this issue can be found by using itvt.com's search functionality). We apologize for any inconvenience to our readers.

  • OTT specialist, Boxee, has: 1) Begun shipping its long-awaited set-top, the Boxee Box by D-Link, with plans to support Netflix and Hulu Plus. 2) Released various bug fixes for the box. 3) Become the first Windows or Mac platform to support Vudu's HD movies-on-demand service. 4) Announced a deal with Ooyala (see article in this issue). The company is also reported to be attempting to raise $10-15 million in new funding.
  • Bravo has announced that it has "collaborated with Twitter to launch @BravoTV, a real-time social media experience and interactive site where fans can engage with each other 24/7 about their favorite Bravo shows and Bravolebrities. Additionally," the company says, "[its Web site] TelevisionWithoutPity.com will launch Talk Without Pity, a social media dashboard for the TV junkie, where users can find, consume, and participate in real-time virtual watercooler buzz surrounding their favorite programs and performers."
  • Bright House Networks has announced the launch of Look Back, a Time Warner Cable-developed service that allows customers to watch a program for up to 72 hours after its original air date. In the same announcement, the company also revealed that it will shortly launch a "multi-room DVR that allows customers to record and view in any room of their house via one main DVR." In other Bright House news: The company has launched 1) ESPN's "TV Everywhere" service, along with its broadband service, ESPN3.com; and 2) a Web-based Remote DVR Manager service which it says works on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and a number of other mobile platforms.
  • BT Vision has signed a deal with NBC Universal International Television Distribution for the UK VOD rights to all 3D movie titles the studio will release over the next 12 months. Separately, it has signed a deal with Vertigo to show "StreetDance," the first UK movie to be shot in 3D. In addition, the company has just announced a VOD deal with children's entertainers, The Wiggles.
  • Dynamic ad insertion specialist, BlackArrow, has received an investment (an extension of its previously announced Series-C funding round) from Motorola Mobility's strategic investment arm. The company has also formed a partnership with SeaChange International which it says sees the companies "integrating SeaChange's AdPulse On Demand advanced advertising technology and Adrenalin fourth-generation video backoffice with BlackArrow's Advanced Advertising System to offer the most widely available, pre-packaged, and comprehensive solution for dynamic VOD advertising."
  • Brightcove has announced: 1) The release of version 5 of its broadband video platform. According to the company, Brightcove 5's new features include "distribution and synchronization with YouTube, Apple HTTP streaming for the mobile Web and apps, new advanced analytics for Adobe Flash and HTML5 video, and wide-ranging features to enhance productivity." 2) The appointment of Christopher Menard as CFO. 3) The launch of new South Korean headquarters in Seoul. 4) The official launch of operations in Australia, based out of headquarters in Sydney.
  • CableLabs held another in its series of ETV Interop events earlier this fall. According to the organization, "representatives from 21 companies, ranging from manufacturers, application developers, and implementers to cable operators, worked together to test the latest engineering changes to the ETV and OpenCable Content Definition Format (CoDF) Specifications. These attendees also were able to evaluate the interoperability of ETV applications and ETV user agents compliant with the I05 ETV specifications, as well as candidate features of the I06 version of the ETV specifications," CableLabs states in its press materials. Participating companies included Alticast, BackChannelMedia, BigBand Networks, Comcast, Cox, Ensequence, enableTV, FourthWall Media, HSN, icueTV, Ligos, Microsoft, PVI Virtual Media Services, RCDb, S3 Group, Softel-USA, Starz, Strategy & Technology, Time Warner Cable, UniSoft, and Zodiac Interactive. CableLabs has also issued a new set of "Online Content Access" (OLCA) interface specs for TV Everywhere services. Light Reading Cable's Jeff Baumgartner has more.
  • Cablevision has launched a free interactive TV gaming service, based on ActiveVideo Networks' TAG Games offering. The service--which launched with 17 games (one new game is to be added each month), including puzzle, arcade, trivia, card and children's games--allows Cablevision's digital customers to play against one another in "house-to-house mode," and will ultimately feature advertising, Cablevision says. Other key features of the service cited by Cablevision, in addition to its multiplayer functionality, include "player profiles to store high scores and achievements; high scores visible across Cablevision's service area; [and] instantaneous load time." In other Cablevision news: 1) During the company's Q3 earnings call, COO Tom Rutledge revealed that it plans to launch a service called iO photos that will allow customers to view their Facebook photos on TV. 2) The company has tapped Israeli start-up, Fabrix.TV, as one of the key vendors for its Remote Storage (RS)-DVR product, according to a report by Multichannel News's Todd Spangler (note: during the earnings call, Rutledge also revealed that RS-DVR is set to launch later this year and that Cablevision will cease buying DVR set-tops once the service is fully deployed). 3) The company has revealed plans to offer its "full cable television service" on the iPad during the first or second quarter of next year (note: at least at first, the company says, the service will be available only within the subscriber's home). 4) The company "may be nearing the launch of two new products, Optimum Mobile and iO DVR Plus, according to recent trademark applications and a job listing advertised by the MSO," Steve Donohue reports in Light Reading Cable. 5) The company's Advanced Platforms arm has struck a deal to provide natural gas and electricity supplier, MXenergy, with a branded, interactive VOD channel called MXenergyTV. Among other things, the channel allows viewers to access a range of video content, participate in a quiz, and request more information.
  • Canoe Ventures has launched an initiative called the Collaborative Innovation Program (CIP). The company's Innovation Lab, which was launched earlier this year to "explore product and technical opportunities that can better connect television viewers with networks and marketers through innovative next-generation TV services," will now come under the umbrella of the new CIP. According to Canoe, "participants of CIP will join Innovation Lab participants to identify and evaluate new market, business and product opportunities in the areas of Interactive Television, Video On Demand and Addressable Advertising." Joining CIP "to specifically explore RFI and tcommerce opportunities" are: Catalina Marketing, Delivery Agent, FourthWall Media, icueTV and PayPal. PayPal's VP of platform, mobile and new ventures, Osama Bedier, has posted some thoughts on CIP on his blog. In other Canoe news: The company has named David Grabert VP of marketing communications, to replace Dana Runnells who left last month. Grabert was previously director of media relations at Cox Communications.