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Comcast Uses Imake VOD Software

In 1994, Imake Corp. was making software designed to help Bell Atlantic Video Services launch video-on-demand through a video-dialtone system.

Eight years later, software with those same roots was being deployed in Bell Atlantic's backyard. This time, though, it was the nation's largest cable operator, Comcast Corp., using Imake's software to help run its video-on-demand system in Philadelphia.

Comcast is using a portion of Imake's product line: It's centralized asset management, which makes sure all the VOD content that's ingested in Philadelphia finds it way correctly to VOD servers.

"We put a system in place to see the bugs and correct them," Imake senior vice president of engineering Armando Martinez said.

In Philadelphia, Comcast is ingesting content from TVN Entertainment Corp. and In Demand, via TVN's docking stations and N2 Broadband catchers in New Castle, Pa., and Audubon, N.J.

Content is then fed into Imake's e.merge catcher gateway, Martinez said.

"The first thing we do is validate the metadata," he said. "Are there any errors in the metadata?"

Imake's software, which runs on a Dell PC, looks for errors in syntax and approved values to make sure, for instance, that adult content is not placed in a children's VOD category. During this phase, the content is housed in a "content tank," Martinez said.

After the metadata is verified, it's sent to an e.merge application that sits on an Oracle Corp. database. "That's where we implement the business logic application," which can be accessed via a standard Web browser, Martinez said.

The third piece of Imake software used in Philadelphia — the media center gateway — operates in front of the SeaChange International Inc. servers. That media receives content directly from the e.merge content tank, Martinez said.

About 80 percent to 90 percent of all content goes through without any errors, Martinez said. About 3 percent to 5 percent of errors require a manual change, while the remaining ones can be corrected automatically.

Like other software providers, Imake charges a fee for both licensing and maintenance. Imake is primarily known in the cable industry for VOD software, but Comcast is using only about 25 percent of Imake's overall product line, Imake senior account manager Lanny Dietz said.

The company provides software for targeted advertising applications and other content distribution and digital-media asset-management software for applications beyond cable, one reason executives will be at the National Association of Broadcasters convention this week in Las Vegas.

In addition to the Comcast rollout, Martinez said some elements of its software are incorporated into TVN applications rolled out by Charter Communications Inc. and Insight Communications Co.

Imake hopes it can build on its Comcast success by getting its software installed in the MSO's other systems, as well as with other operators. It's also working to place its software inside network digital video recorder schemes pursued by AOL Time Warner Inc., for instance.