Pouring a Foundation for IP Video

When it comes to building a multiscreen, Internet-protocol video platform for the future, many of the nation’s largest cable operators have their game plan in hand and are now in execution mode.

Comcast, for example, has its X1 platform, which is now being licensed by some of its peers, including Cox Communications and Shaw Communications. Charter Communications, meanwhile, is making progress with an IP-capable platform that will include apps for mobile devices, its new “Worldbox” and its cloud-powered Spectrum Guide.

But independent operators appear to have more limited options. Some have teamed up with TiVo to deliver a more advanced interface and the ability to integrate with overthe-top services such as Netflix and Hulu, but others are still grasping for answers.

Evolution Digital is a supplier that claims to have solved the IPvideo equation in an economically palatable way. Colorado-based Evolution last week introduced eVUE-TV, an IP video platform that features “thousands” of hours of aggregated VOD content, plus the ability to feed in live, linear TV in that format and match it with a cloud-based DVR platform and user interface.

eVUE-TV, which evolved from Evolution’s acquisition of IP VOD specialist i-Velozity last year, will help cable operators deliver all of their video services on a unified platform that is capable of supporting and integrating OTT services, the company said.

“It’s not just a simple, straightforward IP VOD platform,” Brent Smith, Evolution Digital’s president and chief technology officer, said of eVUE-TV. “It encompasses on-demand … live linear and network DVR and catch-up services.”

The idea behind eVUETV and Evolution’s recent purchase of iVelozity, he said, is to help operators start on a migration path to IP, and to help them move beyond old, legacy boxes that don’t have IP capabilities.

“We’ll provide a foundation for cable operators, and offer them an end-to-end solution to help them migrate their whole network to IP,” he said.

Knowing that quadrature amplitude modulation/MPEG-based digital delivery won’t go the way of the dodo anytime soon, Evolution’s play centers on relatively inexpensive hybrid (IP/QAM) set-tops and apps that can run on tablets, smartphones, PCs and other IP-connected devices.

“There are millions of boxes out there that are still relying solely on QAM,” Smith said. “This platform will let operators gracefully migrate all of their services to IP, should they choose to.”

In that scenario, an operator, for example, could continue to deliver live TV via QAM, and deliver all of its non-linear services, such as VOD.

Over time, that modular approach could enable operators to continue to offer their traditional bundles while establishing a foundation for “skinny bundles,” Smith said.

Evolution Digital’s target for eVUE-TV are the smaller tier 2 and 3 MSOs that don’t have the technical and financial ability to migrate all of their video services to IP.

And Evolution isn’t married to its own boxes, Smith said, noting that it has developed an app that will be capable of running on other IP-capable boxes, such as Arris’s “Moxi” platform. Evolution has also been working with TiVo in recent years.

To make eVUE-TV work financially for smaller operators, Evolution claims it won’t require any significant upfront investments, but will instead use a software-as-a service, pay-as-you grow model.

Evolution Digital hasn’t announced any takers for the new platform, but it’s in “deep discussions” with MSOs now and expects to announce some initial partners later this year, Smith said.

From a competitive perspective, Evolution’s approach with eVUE-TV seems similar to the platform being developed by Layer3 TV, another Colorado-based company that appears to be partnering with Suddenlink Communications on “Umio TV,” a small IP-video trial in Texas. Layer3 TV is also said to have aspirations for a service that could be delivered over-the-top.

A big difference, Smith said, is that “we’re a tool provider to the operator, not someone who could potentially compete with them.”