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Comcast's ThePlatform Opens Window On Video Storefronts

ThePlatform, Comcast's online-video publishing company subsidiary, is extending its mpx system to let users buy access to TV shows or movies on a range of devices.

The company's video commerce add-on for mpx lets content owners or service providers set up rules for merchandizing video in customized bundles. The new system includes an automated workflow that applies pricing templates to videos as they are ingested and published.

The idea is provide a better way to monetize content in various windows with automated rules, said Marty Roberts, thePlatform's senior vice president of sales and marketing.

"The premium video marketplace is maturing beyond traditional monetization vehicles," he said. "Our new video commerce system will enable customers to differentiate and sell highly customized video packages and promotions across screens."

Until now, thePlatform's mpx has supported ad-supported and subscription-based video offerings, including TV Everywhere services. The video commerce add-on now provides a way to deliver single purchases of shows, full TV show seasons or other content packages, available across computers, tablets and smartphones.

For example, thePlatform has been in discussions with a programmer that offers the last four episodes of TV shows for free on its website and complete current seasons via TV Everywhere. For prior seasons, however, the broadcaster directs users to Amazon and Apple's iTunes. "We said, 'Why not sell that content on your own site?'" Roberts said.

ThePlatform has a few customers implementing the video-commerce solution, but Roberts declined to identify them. He said there's "a lot of demand from Europe."

ThePlatform's video commerce option is priced based on a per-transaction fee, on top of the regular mpx usage-based pricing. The video commerce system provides support for cascading content windows, geoblocking, concurrent stream caps, support for multiple digital rights management systems and device restrictions (i.e., available only on PCs).

ThePlatform evaluated partners it could potentially work with on the transactional-content front but decided to build the capabilities itself, Roberts said.

The new offering will compete with CSG International's Content Direct. Traditional e-commerce system providers include Demandware and Zuora, but those lack video management capabilities to package content into unique bundles, according to Roberts.

Customers can use some or all of thePlatform's modular commerce components including a payment gateway, taxation engine integration, ledger and fulfillment. For example, thePlatform is integrating the video-commerce system with U.K.-based PayWizard's payment system in a European deployment, Roberts said.

Seattle-based thePlatform, which Comcast acquired in 2006, counts among its customers major MSOs -- including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision Systems, Cox Communications, Liberty Global, Rogers -- as well as programmers including Comcast's E!, Golf Channel and Style Network, NBCUniversal's Syfy and USA Network, Travel Channel Media and Turner Broadcasting System's truTV.