Interactive TV News Round-Up (VI): S3 Group, Suddenlink, Umami, Visible World

Strange Talk - Climbing Walls

--S3 Group Launches StormTest Decision Line
--Suddenlink Doubles its VOD Capacity
--Umami Secures $1.65 Million in Seed Funding for its iPad-Based Interactive TV App
--Visible World Enables True HD Addressable Ads on HD Networks

Because the [itvt] editorial team has been on the road the past few weeks--as well as working on our second annual TVOT NYC Intensive event--we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary format. We anticipate that it will take us a few more days to catch up with all the recent news: so if your company has sent us a press release or briefed us on an announcement, and you don't yet see your news covered in this issue, please bear with us.

  • S3 Group, a Dublin-based provider of automated testing solutions for digital TV content delivery platforms and devices (note: earlier this month, the company announced that Canoe Ventures had chosen its StormTest Development Center as the automated testing solution for its national deployment of EBIF-enabled interactive TV applications--see the interview with S3's VP of TV technology, Sean Brennan, that was published on, August 8th), has launched a new product in its StormTest portfolio: StormTest Decision Line. "Aimed at easing issues faced by repair facilities around the world such as demanding throughput requirements and device configurations, StormTest Decision Line provides an efficient and reliable assessment of each device and determines what repairs are required before it goes back into the field," the company states in its press materials. "Capable of testing up to 16 devices simultaneously, this latest addition to the StormTest family provides technicians the same trusted platform that development teams rely on with StormTest Development Center. StormTest Decision Line helps operators maintain and develop high-quality content-delivery platforms by ensuring that all returned devices are assessed and fixed properly before re-deployment. The StormTest Decision Line comprises StormTest Decision Station which brings another level of cost savings to automated testing. With this solution, smaller volumes of testing can be completed at hubs before going for repair, or engineers can test a consumer's device directly in the subscriber's home--saving the operators the costs of extra truck rolls to and from the repair facility. StormTest Decision Line: 1) Offers real-time, intelligent, automated decisions based upon testing results, ensuring that correctly functioning devices are deployed and those that are not functioning are efficiently repaired before being sent back into the field. 2) Increases cost-effectiveness of repair facilities by simultaneously testing up to 16 devices and allowing for testing to be done onsite via StormTest Decision Station. 3) Ensures a flexible, programmable and future-proof automated testing platform. 4) Delivers a proven track record of lowering the number of non-functioning devices that are incorrectly sent back into the field. 5) Performs reliable and robust audio and video quality analysis across multiple devices. 6) Allows multiple systems to be linked to provide increased throughput. 7) Gives rich data-mining opportunities for faults detected in devices over time."
  • Suddenlink Communications says that it has increased the capacity of its VOD service from 10,000 to 20,000 hours of content in most areas where the service is available. The operator, which now offers around 8,000 VOD titles, also says that it expects to complete later this year a VOD upgrade of the former NPG Cable systems that it acquired in April. Multichannel News's Todd Spangler has more. Suddenlink has also just launched VOD service in Truckee, California.
  • Umami, a stealth-mode interactive-TV start-up whose founders include former Rovi VP of advanced advertising, Scott Rosenberg, has announced that it has secured $1.65 million in seed funding from Battery Ventures, NEA and angel investors. The company is developing a free, iPad-based TV-companion app which it says is currently in closed beta with TV networks and "influential industry players" and which is slated to launch in time for the fall TV season. "The Umami platform provides TV viewers with enhanced content around the programs they're watching, while offering networks a turnkey publishing platform for creating rich, interactive and shared experiences," the company states in its press materials. "Umami provides consumers with a more robust entertainment experience, while dramatically lowering the barrier for networks to further engage their viewers via a second screen...Mr. Rosenberg, Umami's CEO, has spent his career at the nexus of technology and television with posts at Intel, ReplayTV and BlackArrow. He most recently served as VP of advanced advertising at Rovi, parent of Gemstar-TV Guide, where his team sold interactive TV advertising to major TV networks, studios and consumer brands. Mr. [Bryan] Slavin, the company's CTO, has held technology and product leadership roles at Lightningcast (acquired by AOL), Leap Wireless, and Broadsoft. At Lightningcast, he launched broadband video advertising products and solutions with top TV networks and built the industry's first online video ad network." Said Battery Ventures principal, Alex Benik: "Umami's approach delivers on the age-old promise of interactive television, filling a gap with TV audiences who are armed with iPads and craving more content and a deeper relationship with their favorite programming. We are excited to back a team with a compelling consumer product and deep, first-hand experience serving TV networks and advertisers."
  • Addressable TV advertising specialist, Visible World, announced last month that it now supports the creation and delivery of high-definition addressable ads "so that advertisers can send customized messages to a rapidly growing portion of TV audiences who watch HD networks. The update to Adtag/Adcopy technology gives advertisers the ability to deliver high-quality commercials to viewers watching HD television networks in 76 of the top 100 largest television markets," the company's press materials continue. "Prior to the roll-out of the new technology, advertisers could only develop addressable ads in standard definition, requiring SD ads to be upconverted to HD resulting in the 'letterbox' effect. Visible World's addressable TV technology enables brands, marketers, and advertising agencies to apply the most accurate and relevant TV audience demographic data to TV advertising campaigns. This technology allows advertisers to create ads that reflect the similarities or differences among a region and deliver messages that are most relevant on the household or cable zone level. Visible World is working with the nation's leading cable providers, brands, and advertising agencies to reach more than 55 million cable households with the technology, which increasingly includes HD networks...Visible World is the Adtag and Adcopy service provider for the nation's leading multi-system cable providers. Adtag allows advertisers take a single commercial and customize it, making it more relevant to an audience based on a geographic location. For example, a retail store with several locations across a region, can 'tag' the address or telephone number of each location based on where the segment is shown. Adcopy allows advertisers to simultaneously run different spots within a campaign, across separate zones in a market or region. With Adcopy, an auto manufacturer, for example, can concurrently show ads for a fuel-efficient sedan in the city, a minivan in the suburbs, and a rugged truck in rural areas." Said Visible World CEO, Seth Haberman: "High-definition television commercials take up tremendous bandwidth to deliver, but we have enhanced our Gateways to enable seamless delivery. Now with Adtag and Adcopy technology, advertisers have the power to seamlessly create and deliver multiple segments to audiences in the format that looks best on their TV."
North America