Interactive TV News Round-Up (I): Amino, Apple TV, Arris, BigBand, Avail-TVN, "Big Brother"

--Amino Plans US Debut for its OTT-Enabled IPTV Set-Tops at TelcoTV
--Apple TV 4.4 Released
--Arris to Acquire BigBand Networks
--Avail-TVN Names Laurie Lawrence CMO
--New "Big Brother" Play-Along Game Encourages Viewers to Keep Watching During Commercials

Because the [itvt] editorial team has been working on TVOT NYC Intensive 2011, we are covering stories in this issue in round-up/summary format.

  • Amino Communications plans to debut its OTT-enabled IPTV set-top box range in the US in its booth (133) at the TelcoTV trade show later this month. It also plans to debut a new user interface for its Freedom Jump OTT Companion Media Center. "The company's Aminet A140 and A540 DVR devices have proved to be strong performers in the North American market with over 100 deployments and a further 150 trials this year alone," Amino states in its press materials. "Now with new enhancements to the range--incorporating both HLS (HTTP Live Streaming) and HTML5 capabilities to deliver a new layer of OTT content--Amino expects strong interest at the show...The new OTT functionality is enabled by HLS (HTTP live streaming) and HTML5. HLS is designed to deliver content over open and unmanaged networks by selecting optimum network speeds to guarantee a continuous quality user experience. It can also enhance content choice by delivering video-on-demand and live TV from aggregated and cloud-based services without additional investment in network infrastructure. HTML5 provides a standardized framework for video and audio playback inside the browser, and will further enrich the viewing experience by allowing operators to create a rich walled garden of OTT content for their customers. The range of OTT-enabled Aminet set-top boxes--which includes the A129, A140 and A540 PVR and the H140 hospitality devices--also includes HTTP upgrade capability which allows them to be remotely upgraded automatically with the latest firmware further minimizing operator support costs. Amino will also showcase its new OTT user interface at TelcoTV 2011--offering pay-TV operators the opportunity to deliver open Internet-delivered content to their existing branded entertainment experience. As well as social media, catch-up TV, gaming, apps and video-on-demand, Amino will also demonstrate new 'sharing' multiscreen Web viewing functionality available via Vidiactive's Videobee service. Visitors to the Amino booth...can see the new interface running on Amino's Freedom Jump OTT Companion Media Center which has been designed to work alongside existing cable and satellite set-top boxes, offering access to the wealth of additional content available on the open Internet."
  • Apple has released version 4.4 of its Apple TV software. The new version provides support for Photo Stream, AirPlay mirroring, NHL hockey coverage, and Wall Street Journal content, among other things. Macworld's Jonathan Seff has more.
  • Arris Group has reached an agreement to acquire BigBand Networks for $2.24 per share in cash. "This equates to a diluted equity value of approximately $172 million, or $53 million net of estimated BigBand cash on hand," the companies state in their press materials. "With the addition of BigBand's experienced employees, this acquisition further extends Arris' capabilities in the processing, management and distribution of digital video content and represents an important acquisition of innovative technologies and significant R&D investments that are expected to accelerate time-to-market and increase opportunities for Arris in several fast-growing product areas. These include the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) architecture defined by CableLabs [note: for more on the significance of the acquisition for the CCAP space, see Jeff Baumgartner's recent article in Light Reading Cable], local and targeted advertising, IP video distribution, and advanced video processing and compression. BigBand's valuable patent portfolio, coupled with their expertise in digital video networking will enhance Arris' technological leadership as service providers move to an all-IP converged network architecture."
  • VOD and IPTV content aggregator, Avail-TVN, has appointed Laurie Lawrence as chief marketing officer, replacing Brian Matthews who stepped down earlier this year. Lawrence's resume includes stints as VP of strategic plans and corporate initiatives at XM Satellite Radio; as VP of VOD marketing at NBCUniversal; as general manager of e-media solutions at Sony; as director of promotion at CBS; and as director of marketing at CNBC. Multichannel News's Todd Spangler has more.
  • UK commercial terrestrial broadcaster, Channel 5, has teamed with app developer, JadeWorld, to launch MatchPhrase, a multiplatform play-along game for the reality TV show, "Big Brother." The game, which costs £0.69, can be played on iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry and on a dedicated Web site. "The game is simple--just watch 'Big Brother' and match the lines of dialog to the right housemate," Channel 5 explains on its Web site. "It's a proper test of your 'Big Brother' skills as some of the lines said won't appear in the broadcast show. So you must use your knowledge and judgment to suss out who said what." Significantly, the game is also designed to keep viewers watching during commercial breaks (note: the version of the game for commercial breaks is called AdPhrase). "During the ad breaks the game continues," Channel 5 explains. "Scroll down and score more points in AdPhrase by sorting the ads in order of appearance during the original broadcast. The faster you submit the game card and the more answers you get right, the more likely you'll be to win a prize. For the best chance of winning, be sure to play every day!" High-scoring players can win cash prizes and "Big Brother" tickets and props. New Media Age's Jessica Davies has more on how AdPhrase is designed to generate data for participating advertisers.
North America