Interactive TV News Round-Up

Navigator and WholeHouse DVR

--Report: Apple May Bring Gaming to Apple TV
--Current TV's Will Wright-Created Interactive TV Series, "Bar Karma," Premieres Tonight
--Court Lifts Stay of EchoStar Patent-Infringement Lawsuit against TiVo
--Envivio: Sales Have Doubled Due to Demand for Multiscreen Video Technologies
--Report: Google "in Final-Stage Discussions" to Acquire Next New Networks
--NCTA Denounces Google-Sony Proposal in FCC's AllVid Inquiry
--Netflix to Redesign its API
--Skype iPhone App Adds H.264 Support to Enable Video Calls to Connected-TV Devices
--Time Warner Cable Launches Standalone Whole House DVR Service for East Coast Customers
--YouView Confirms Commercial Launch Delayed until 2012

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

  • "New code in the iOS 4.2 beta 3 firmware hints that Apple TV may soon support online gaming," Engadget reported Wednesday. According to the publication, the code contains several references to "ATVGames" and "ATV Thunder" that "point to a controller of some sort, leaderboards (think Game Center), a way to schedule games (multiplayer?), and a store front (think App Store, iTunes)."
  • "Bar Karma," Current TV's new interactive TV series created by "The Sims" creator, Will Wright, and Worldwide Biggies CEO, Albie Hecht (see the article published on itvt.com, October 17th), will premiere tonight (Friday, February 11th) at 10:00PM (9:00PM Central).
  • The US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas has lifted its stay of a patent-infringement lawsuit brought by EchoStar against TiVo. The lawsuit--which was filed back in 2005 and which is independent of TiVo's lawsuit against EchoStar and its sister company, DISH Network over the so-called "Time Warp" patent--alleges that TiVo is violating US patent #6,208,804 ("Multimedia Direct Access Storage Device and Formatting Method"). Multichannel News's Todd Spangler has more on the court's revival of EchoStar's lawsuit against TiVo and on the long-running TiVo-DISH/EchoStar litigation in general.
  • Envivio, a provider of multiscreen IP video processing and delivery solutions, has announced that its fiscal year 2011 (ended January 31st) was the most successful in the company's history. "Driven by global demand for its live and on-demand video solutions that span mobile, Internet and traditional TV screens, Envivio doubled both its revenues and sales bookings," the company states in its press materials. Said Envivio CEO, Julien Signes: "The success of the past year is clear validation of Envivio's TV without boundaries strategy that creates solutions to deliver the best subscriber experience regardless of the viewing platform. The traditional broadcast television world is changing: TV is no longer limited to stationary screens in the home, but is now being delivered to every IP-connected device, whether it is an iPad, iPhone, Android phone or tablet, or other dynamic device. Envivio, with its flexible software-based platform, is in a unique position to enable traditional and emerging TV service providers to fulfill their customers' demand for the support of this TV revolution."
  • Google is "in final-stage discussions" to acquire online video programming provider, Next New Networks, and is expected to pay "tens of millions of dollars" for the company, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The news that Google was seeking to purchase Next New Networks was originally broken by the Los Angeles Times (see the article published on itvt.com, January 3rd).
  • Kudelski-owned content-protection and multiscreen video solutions provider, Nagra, has announced that it is powering and securing "Digital+ a la carta," a new over-the-top (OTT) VOD and linear-TV service for subscribers of Spanish pay-TV operator Digital+'s satellite service. "'Digital+ a la carta' is powered by Nagra's multiscreen end-to-end solution," Nagra states in its press materials. "Based on advanced technologies, it allows operators like Digital+ to deploy and manage a wide range of media services across multiple devices using one common platform. The solution maintains the highest security standards and ensures cross-device content security with Nagra's Persistent Rights Management (PRM) solution, integrated with the set-top box and the Nagra Media Player (NMP) for PC's, smartphones and tablets. Digital+ a la carta' is already available to Digital+ subscribers on an iPLUS hybrid set-top box. It offers a complete VOD catalog to viewers on both a subscription and pay-per-view basis, providing access in both standard and high definition, with catch-up TV functionality. Digital+ will launch in the coming weeks a PC-based service which will include both VOD services and a selection of the best linear channels already offered through Digital+'s broadcast service. Subscription packages are consistent across both set-top box and PC services, allowing subscribers to enjoy the same programming regardless of the device they use."
  • The NCTA has responded strongly to a letter submitted to the FCC last month (as part of the latter's AllVid inquiry) by Google, Sony, the Consumer Electronics Association and other parties, urging it to adopt "technical standards that enable any device to present a unified interface" that can blend content from multichannel video services with content sourced from the Internet and home networks. The Google-Sony proposal "would require MVPD's to disassemble the programming, data, and program guide metadata used to create and provide each MVPD's service, so that each consumer electronics (CE) manufacturer may remake them into a service of its own design," the NCTA wrote in its own submission to the FCC. Light Reading Cable's Jeff Baumgartner has more.
  • In a posting on a corporate blog, Wednesday, Daniel Jacobson, the director of engineering for Netflix's API, revealed that the company is planning to redesign its API. "In the two-and-a-half years that the API has been live, some major, fundamental changes have taken place, both with the API and with Netflix," Jacobson wrote. "I already mentioned the change in focus from an exclusively public API to one that also drives our device experiences. Additionally, at the time of the launch, Netflix was primarily focused on delivering DVD's. Today, while DVD's are still part of our identity, the growth of our business is streaming. Moreover, we are no longer US-only. In October, we launched in Canada with a pure streaming plan and we are exploring other international markets as well. Because of these fundamental changes, as well as others that have cropped up along the way, the goals of the API have changed. And because the goals have changed, the way the API needs to operate has as well. An example of where the current design is inefficient is in the way the API resources are modeled. Today, there are about 20 resources in the API. Some of these resources are very similar to each other, although they each have their own interfaces and responses. Because of the number of resources and the fact that we are adhering very closely to the REST conventions, our devices need to make a series of calls to the API's to get all the content needed to render the user interface. The result is that there is a high degree of chattiness between the devices and the APIs. In fact, one of our device implementations accounts for about 50% of the total API calls. That same device, however, is responsible for significantly less streaming traffic. Why is this device so chatty? Can we design our API to reduce the number of calls needed to create the same experience? In essence, assuming everything remains static, could the 20+ billion requests that we handled in January 2011 have been 15 billion? Or 10 billion? If we reduce the number of requests to the API to achieve the same user experience, it implies that the payload of each request will need to be larger. While it is possible that this extra payload won't noticeably impair performance, we still would like to reduce the total number of bits delivered. To do so, we will also be looking at ways to handle partial response through the API. Our goal in this approach will be to conceptualize the API as a database. A database can handle incredible variability in requests through SQL. We want the API to be able to answer questions with the same degree of variability that SQL can for a database. Other implementations, like YQL and OData, offer similar flexibility and we will research them as well."
  • Skype has announced that its iPhone app now supports H.264, which means that the app can now be used to make video calls to connected-TV devices.
  • Time Warner Cable has launched a standalone multiroom DVR service, called Whole House DVR, for its East Coast customers. The service, which is priced at $19.99 per month, was previously available only as part of the MSO's premium SignatureHome service. According to Time Warner Cable, it allows subscribers to access programming stored on a main DVR on other, non-DVR set-tops in their home; to start a program in one room and finish watching it in another, without having to restart the program; to network up to 16 DVR's and set-top boxes; and to store up to 75 hours of HD programming. The service is currently available in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York (including New York City), North Carolina and South Carolina. A demo video is embedded above.
  • YouView (formerly, Project Canvas)--the initiative that sees 1) the BBC and UK public-service broadcasters, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, 2) UK ISP's, BT and TalkTalk, and 3) UK broadcast transmission company, Arqiva, partnering in order to attempt to develop a common standard and interface for the delivery of online catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer, the ITV player and 4oD, as well as other Internet-based services (including VOD and interactive TV widgets), to broadband-connected Freeview and Freesat set-top boxes--has confirmed that its commercial launch has been delayed until early 2012, though it says it will have a product in trial by the end of this year, and that it will publish its core technical specifications for launch shortly. Last month (see the article published on itvt.com, January 30th), the Daily Telegraph reported that the launch could be delayed even past the 2012 London Olympics, and ascribed the delay to YouView's failure to agree on technical standards with the Digital Television Group and to technical problems. "Our focus has always been to deliver a product to consumers that is right, but not rushed," YouView CEO, Richard Halton, said in a prepared statement. "Creating a truly open TV platform that will bring consumers increased choice has required significant technological innovation. Our timings for the launch reflect the scale and complexity of this project."
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North America