Cablevision Hopes Persistence Pays

When Cablevision Systems Corp. rolled out its digital, interactive Optimum service last September, it also broke new ground behind the scenes with technology and software largely foreign to cable operators.

One of the new vendors Cablevision brought into the fold is Persistence Software, which provides for the dynamic caching of information in the network that enables distribution of personalized marketing messages to consumers.

Persistence allows operators to create relational databases close to the end users, said Ed Muirrer, senior vice president of marketing. "We take data, update it, then replicate is across a wide database," he said. "We're a middleware, infrastructure play."

Muirrer said that when Cablevision looked to launch iO: Interactive Optimum, the MSO estimated it would need five large data centers to get good response times, Muirrer said. But those types of data centers, with Oracle databases and servers from Sun Microsystems Inc., would cost several million dollars a piece. "There was no way they wanted to spend that kind of money," he said. "And they were unsure they could run five world-class data centers."

"We looked to a different model to manage data in the broadband network," he said, which consisted of two large data centers and three smaller "virtual" data centers at other headends. Muirrer said the setup functions much the same as five large data centers, but at a reduced cost.

Over five years, Muirrer said, Cablevision could save $50 million using this method.

Persistence's software will allow Cablevision to see what customers are online or are watching television, then deliver a personalized message to them. "Imagine your watching TV and you know a certain user is on line and likes Mexican food or Jaguars," he said. "You can do directed advertising to them."

In order to make that work, "you need to know who they are in real time," Muirrer said.

Another example is sending a pizza offer or coupon to a home that's just ordered a PPV movie or fight. Cablevision also could provide e-commerce offerings. If a subscriber is watching certain musical programming, the operator could send an offer to buy the artist's CD.

Persistence also offers the MSO the ability to execute interactive advertising, instant messaging and e-commerce.

Rich Neill, senior vice president of software technology for Cablevision, said in a statement: "After benchmarking other technology solutions, we determined that we would be unable to distribute real-time data to our customers without potential system overloads and high infrastructure costs. Persistence's PowerTier provided a highly scalable, cost-efficient system that can support our 3 million household subscribers."