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Comcast’s thePlatform Nails Up ‘Virtual TV Framework’

ThePlatform, the Comcast-owned media publishing unit, is aiming to bring multiscreen video services to the next level via an upgrade to its flagship mpx system that enables pay-TV operators to replicate their live TV and video-on-demand offerings across tablets, PCs, smartphones, smart TVs and other connected devices.

The company said it is implementing the update, which envisions a blending of TV and the Web, because decreasing delivery costs coupled with the inexorable shift to IP and cloud-based video delivery systems are expected to alter the distribution model dramatically over the next five years.

Today, TV Everywhere is disjointed in that only part of a customer’s set-top-based video service experience is typically available on other screens in or out of the home. Some MSO-developed TV Everywhere apps offer a subset of the live TV lineup or just a portion of the pay TV provider’s VOD service, while others offer only access to an authenticated, multiscreen VOD library. Several programmers, meanwhile, have developed their own TV Everywhere apps that tend to vary in terms of capability and function.

While that fragmented situation has as much to do with distribution rights as anything, the underlying publishing and workflow system must also enable a unification of pay TV services across different screens.

“Consumers expect to see their TV [service] on every device,” said Marty Roberts, thePlatform’s senior vice president of sales and marketing. “This [update] brings it all together to meet this consumer expectation. The economics now make it a more viable approach to bring something like this online.”

He said cloud-based distribution systems have also come far enough along that they provide enough security and reliability to convince operators to shift the model. The emergence of over-the-top video competition is also spurring operators into action.

thePlatform said it’s trying to address this need by providing cloud-based management of a wide swath of  elements, including linear TV, VOD, discovery and personalization, targeted advertising, content protection and multiscreen user interfaces. Roberts said the system also sets the table to deliver cross-promotional and cross-device “commerce features,” such as unique video bundles (holiday specials, trilogies, etc.), subscription extras and TV season and series purchases.

The company is addressing each of those using open APIs that can facilitate a multivendor environment, but thePlatform is also kicking off its new Virtual TV Framework with an initial set of vendor integrations: ThinkAnalytics (discovery and personalization); FreeWheel and BlackArrow (targeted advertising); Accedo (device user interfaces); Rovi and TMS (EPG Data); and Microsoft and Adobe (policy management, content protection and digital rights management); and Alcatel-Lucent (systems integration).

And thePlatform insists that those modular vendor integrations are pre-integrated guidelines, not a pre-determined technology path for its pay-TV operator customers. “Each customer will evaluate each piece independently and pick what’s best for them,” Roberts said. “There’s a lot of optionality built into this.”

Comcast, BT, Liberty Global and  Sky New Zealand are among some of thePlatform’s major customers.