Comcast's ThePlatform Overhauls Video System With 'MPX'

ThePlatform, Comcast's online-video management unit, has revamped its core video-publishing system with MPX, which the company claims simplifies everyday tasks for content producers as well as provides more powerful options for applications developers.

"The knock on thePlatform was always our ease of use," said Marty Roberts, vice president of marketing. The launch of the MPX "will make us more competitive in the midmarket."

Billed as the biggest revamping in thePlatform's 10-year history, MPX -- released initially in a "beta" version -- includes a new console for managing video assets; a way to automate processes to publish large video libraries across the Web, mobile devices and set-top-boxes; and personalization features. In addition, the new publishing system is built on a new service oriented architecture (SOA), which thePlatform says provides additional reliability and scalability.

One of the key new features in MPX is the "smart publish profiles," which lets video publishers set up profiles with specified formats, transcoding parameters, thumbnail generation, bit rates and other assets for each target platform or device, such as a Web site or Apple's forthcoming iPad.

"The opportunity for video publishers is going up, but the complexity is also increasing as the number of devices increases," said Ian Blaine, CEO of thePlatform.

The "X" in the name is a reference to the 10 years thePlatform has been in business, as well as to its cross-platform capabilities, Blaine said.

In addition, thePlatform is releasing the MPX Dev Kit, which includes sets of standardized application programming interfaces along with documentation and extensive code samples. For example, customers can use standardized APIs such as POST, GET, DELETE and PUT to connect to the MPX services.

Blaine said that, from a business standpoint, delivering open interfaces to MPX would appear to be risky, "because the more open you are, the easier it is for a customer to move to a competitor... but we don't think the answer is to say, ‘You're locked in.'"

ThePlatform is debuting MPX at its annual customer summit Tuesday in New York, at the W Times Square hotel. Scheduled to make presentations are executives from Rogers Communications -- the Canadian MSO that last fall launched a TV Everywhere service based on thePlatform's video-management system -- as well as NBC, CBS, Cisco Systems and other companies.

Currently, Seattle-based thePlatform has 140 employees, up from 70 when Comcast acquired the company in 2006. Last fall, thePlatform debuted an initiative to help programmers bring TV Everywhere capabilities to their own Web sites. Content customers include Comcast's E!, G4 and Style, as well as Travel Channel, Big Ten Network, and several regional Fox Sports Networks.

In addition, thePlatform provides online-video capabilities for Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications and Cablevision Systems, which are four of the five largest U.S. cable operators.