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OnDemand Summit: Execs, Techs Take On VOD's Biggest Hurdles, Tout Innovations

Philadelphia - The rapid increase in the mass of content being produced across multiple media platforms is forcing VOD executives and technical experts alike to address questions of ingest, storage, and management, with the technology often available before monetizable business models become evident.

It's a little bit "like re-doing the plumbing in your house without worrying about the water supply," said Mitch Weinraub, executive director of products and services for Comcast Media Center, at the B&C-Multichannel News OnDemand Media Summit here Wednesday.

While the speed at which content can be ingested into a centralized network has increased exponentially over the last decade, many MSOs are still struggling with how to translate all of that content into a solid customer experience and advertising dollars.

"I was there when the servers were refrigerator-sized and we could load one movie at a time," said Yvette Kanouff, chief strategy officer for SeaChange, the VOD and advanced advertising solutions company. "Now we can load 4000 at the same time and will be going to 8000 shortly...The question is what do we make of it?"

Kanouff believes the future of on-demand content lies in multiplatform usage. She sees a time when "you watch part of a movie at home and watch the rest on a mobile while you're waiting to pick the kids up from school."

The real challenge to a future where a single copy of a movie is available to serve multiple platforms, with seamless functionality, is again less an issue of transcoding and copyright challenges than it is of finding an adequate business model to make it profitable.

"When the program is ready and the rights are ready, the technology is pretty much there," said Weinraub.

Other issues surrounding single-copy on-demand content on multiple platforms involve trying to tie together varying IT structures for different platforms. Further complicating the matter are the standard- and high-definition versions of the content, which are delivered separately, making it that a consumer who has bought the rights to a movie in the enhanced format can't watch it on a separate set-top that can only handle the traditional signal.

All of the commentators on the VOD delivery panel, which was moderated by B&C senior editor Glen Dickson, agreed that dynamic ad insertion and targeted spots in VOD content have not yet been widely deployed due to difficulties in selling the product to buyers, as well as some technological issues around encoding and meta-data.

"The business challenge is to make it incentive to advertisers," said Louise Wasilewski, director of on demand software at Cox.

Michael Adams, vice president of applications software strategy at Tandberg Television, said an advanced advertising push may be on the way, but that it will take a collaborative effort showing VOD's value to attract buyers.

"I think the solution we are building as an industry is going to be a very good solution," he said.