Forum Plugs the Broadband Cause

While much of the Internet-content world is littered with dead bodies and retreating media armies, the Broadband Content Delivery Forum is soldiering on with its work to accelerate the delivery of rich broadband content to consumers.

Founded by Nortel Networks Inc. executives and 100 other companies in April 2000, the BCDF is approaching its first anniversary while concentrating on the nuts and bolts necessary to make broadband content viable in today's growing cable and digital subscriber line marketplace.

The forum's principal initiatives are its three working groups-infrastructure, market development, and content and applications-and the four seminars it holds each year.

"The working groups were formed to figure out what's useful today," said David Ginsburg, forum chairman and vice president of marketing for Allegro Networks. Forum members run the gamut from service providers to hardware and software vendors to content providers.

Prominent cable-related names include AT&T Broadband, BroadJump Inc., Sun Microsystems Inc., Akamai Technologies, Inktomi Corp., NBCi, Enron Broadband Services, Telocity Inc. and Bertlesmann AG.

The BCDF is not a standards body per se, Ginsburg said. Rather, it serves as an industry clearinghouse that brings companies together to solve common problems.

For instance, the content and applications group is working to determine, "What is the end-user experience?"

The focus is on several areas, Ginsburg said: "How do I manage content? How do I control distribution and make it easily obtainable?"

Other issues include access control, the tracking and reporting of content usage and how best to personalize and bill content to specific subscribers. Hand in hand with end-user content applications are network capabilities and how to deliver and bill for secure content, he said.

"The infrastructure groups are looking at, 'What are the end-to-end requirements of the network?'" Ginsburg said. Concerns range from access control to quality of service.

That would include locating and delivering content assets over a network and post-delivery management and cleanup, such as shutting down access to a movie after a period of time.

The market development group "is trying to incorporate a base of knowledge of where the industry is today," and post that material on the Web, he said. That includes white papers, case studies, market growth statistics and regulatory developments, he added.

"The forum acts as a control point as feedback from the industry comes in," Ginsburg said. The BCDF plans to work with other forums and industry associations, including Cable Television Laboratories Inc., he said.

Bruce Leichtman, the former Continental Cablevision Inc. and The Yankee Group executive, is an active BCDF member as vice president of corporate strategy at Vividon Inc. Leichtman debriefed forum members on video streaming's potential at a seminar in January in San Francisco.

Leichtman said content providers "need to create Web-specific content, but are concerned about the high costs of placing video on the Web and about the quality of the customers experience, considering the low penetration of broadband." He added there was uncertainty about exactly how business models will evolve. But mainstream content providers, such as cable networks, now have a huge leg up over Internet-only content providers because they bring more potential revenue streams to the table, including advertising, subscriptions, electronic commerce and pay-per-view, he said.

BCDF plans the second of its four 2001 seminars at this year's National Association of Broadcasters show, set for April 25 to 27 in Las Vegas. Executives from WorldCom Inc., Lucent Technologies, British Broadcasting Corp., Bertlesmann and iBlast Inc. will speak at a BCDF supersession.

Two other meetings are planned for Stockholm, Sweden, July 17 to 19, and Atlanta, Oct. 16 to 18.