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Clearleap Delivers Web Video

Cable operators and technology vendors have talked for the past two years about seamlessly bringing popular Internet video content to the living-room TV, both to better compete with over-the-top devices like Apple TV and to reduce churn to satellite and telco competitors.

Clearleap, a venture-backed Atlanta company started last year to help pay-TV operators ingest, transcode and manage content, thinks it has solved the problem. The company has developed a turnkey system for making popular Internet video available on cable operators' video-on-demand systems.

With the customizable system, called Content Marketplace, Clearleap handles scouting, vetting and clearing rights for online video as well as transcoding various Web formats into the standard-definition and high-definition MPEG-2 video used on existing VOD platforms. Clearleap is demonstrating the system, which is already being used by midsize cable operator Atlantic Broadband, in private meetings at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver this week.

“The idea is that while Web video is quite popular on the PC screen, people also want to watch it on the big screen,” says Clearleap CEO Braxton Jarratt. “Our premise all along is that we think there is a big opportunity for cable operators to offer those kinds of services in ways that don't require consumers to plug in a new set-top box or manage two competing interfaces.”

Operators can select programming through Content Marketplace by using a simple Web-browser interface that gives basic information about program content. The content is delivered by Clearleap directly to operators' VOD servers through its “edge exchange” devices. Programmers get compensated by selling ads around the programming, mostly pre-roll and post-roll spots. They split inventory with the operator; a short video of several minutes might have two ads, one going to the operator and the other inserted by the programmer.

So far, Web programmers have been amenable to those terms, according to Braxton, as the VOD platform allows them to reach a new device—the television—they couldn't previously, without much effort on their part.

Content Marketplace has about 500 hours of content available for publishing in 10 genres spanning hundreds of currently available programs. Genres include comedy, pop culture, music, sports, science and nature, lifestyle and best of the Web, with clips ranging from two to 10 minutes in length. Clearleap plans to soon expand the service into categories such as instructional, travel and cooking.

Programmers and content aggregators already signed up include three that first announced content deals with Clearleap in May: Blip.TV, Next New Networks and Revision3. New partners include For Your Imagination, The Pentagon Channel, MyOutdoorTV, Uncensored Interview, On the Flipside, Earth Touch, Inside Reel and PlayOn Sports.

Content Marketplace is based on Clearleap's existing Clearflow product, which speeds the distribution of content from a programmer to an operator's VOD platform. The Internet-based system, supported by data centers in New York, Atlanta and Los Angeles, handles content acquisition, management and distribution, and fully integrates with existing VOD infrastructure. It also offers both proprietary and third-party transcoding tools for upconverting Internet video for display on a TV screen.

For example, Clearleap can take 480-line progressive Flash video from a Web programmer, which might be encoded at a bitrate of 750 kilobits per second using advanced compression, and deliver an MPEG-2 file to the cable operator encoded in the 3.75 megabit-per-second, 480-line interlace specification used for VOD. Clearleap will also transcode high-definition-quality Web video into MPEG-2 HD at 13 to 15 Mbps for VOD playout. Clearleap VP of Product Development Rick Young says both hold up well on a big-screen HDTV.

“A lot of these guys are already producing 16:9 content. So it hasn't been difficult to get good-looking video.”