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Q&A: OpenTV’s Paul Woidke

Paul Woidke joined OpenTV in May 2008 as senior vice president and general manager of advanced advertising. He is tasked with evolving OpenTV’s advanced advertising business both in the U.S. and internationally. Woidke was most recently with Comcast Spotlight and brings with him more than 30 years of cable and broadcast experience. During his six-year tenure at Comcast Spotlight, Woidke was charged with creating technology standards and best practices across the company's footprint of more than 90 markets. Before joining Comcast Spotlight, Woidke was senior vice president and chief technology officer for Adlink, The Los Angeles-based digital cable interconnect. He has served on various industry committees including those of the Cable Advertising Bureau and CableLabs. Presently, he chairs the SCTE Digital Video Subcommittee's "Working Group Five (DPI)" which has played a leading role in the development of international digital program and advertising insertion standards. Woidke is the recipient of the 2006 SCTE Excellence in Standards Award and is also a frequent industry speaker. He talked about OpenTV’s deal with Comcast Spotlight and plans to include EclipsePlus advanced advertising product in several markets following the trial of the system in Baltimore. An edited transcript follows:

Q: How does EclipsePlus work and what was Comcast Spotlight looking for in the product?

A: OpenTV EclipsePlus is a major upgrade to the original OpenTV Eclipse traffic and billing [T&B] product that OpenTV has been marketing for the past few years. EclipsePlus accomplishes two things: First of all, it provides significant improvements to processing and reporting throughput while at the same time reducing the staffing requirements to accomplish the traditional traffic and billing tasks and responsibilities. Secondly, EclipsePlus is the transitional infrastructure for the advanced Campaign Management System that will provide the tools and capabilities for the next generation of advertising sales management.

Q: How broadly deployed is OpenTV EclipsePlus and is it used primarily for linear ad applications or advanced services?

A: EclipsePlus provides traffic departments with the capabilities to fulfill all of the contract, scheduling, copy, inventory, billing and other traditional T&B capabilities that generate more than 95% of the revenue in cable advertising today. It has the inherent capabilities to support the advanced advertising requirements such as addressable, on-demand, interactive and other “new media” capabilities through upcoming “extensions” to the EclipsePlus product.

Q: Are software upgrades necessary for advanced applications?

A: The ‘extensions’ to EclipsePlus are designed so that operators can select the tools and functionalities that they need for their specific operations without being burdened with the overhead, hardware, costs, and support fees that they don’t require while being able to have robust capabilities for those advanced advertising capabilities that they are ready to launch. The “extensions” providing addressable, interactive and other support will be rolled out in the coming months.

Q: Is the product's advanced services applications being used by other operators other than Comcast Spotlight?

A: OpenTV is honored to have been selected by Comcast Spotlight to support the ad sales operations serving more than 10 million subscribers in 20 DMAs. Other operators selecting EclipsePlus’ advanced capabilities include Cablevision [serving the NYC Interconnect], Charter, and Midcontinent Communications. We will be announcing other selections in the near future.

Q: Does the EclipsePlus traffic and billing application sit on top of traditional linear systems? Can they be integrated?

A: EclipisePlus provides traditional linear advertising capabilities through advanced user interfaces and streamlined processing and reporting functions. Additional functionality for advanced advertising modules will deploy as ancillary modules that operate hand-in-hand with the core EclipsePlus capabilities or can be deployed as independent standalone systems augmenting other T&B systems with tools not available from those vendors.

Q: What's involved in that?

A: OpenTV is a strong supporter of ‘open APIs’ and other ‘standards-based’ implementations. Our support of these provides us the ability to deploy systems that can provide their own full-service end-to-end functionality or can work in conjunction with other vendor’s systems.

Q: How has being an operator helped you as a vendor?

A: OpenTV is a business partner with the cable advertising sales community. My nearly twenty years experience at the Los Angeles Interconnect [Adlink] and at Comcast Spotlight have given me a clear vision of the near-term capabilities and the tools needed to do business in today’s fast changing environment. I also have had the opportunity to help craft the vision of the long-term plans and goals that the cable advertising sales business will need to develop and deploy solutions that will keep it competitive in the future. I am committed to seeing that the advanced advertising team within OpenTV listens carefully to the requirements of our business partners and builds solutions that meet their requirements. That is why, for example, I insist that we always consider building products using industry standards and open APIs; this is the direction that we began to develop within the MSO community and I am intent on seeing that as a developer, OpenTV supports that requirement.

Q: What do operators need to do to prepare properly for the introduction of advanced advertising services?

A: Multisystem operators need to think beyond the traditional ways of doing business and define the environment in which they will compete through providing advertisers and our subscribers with a better, richer, intuitive, video experience. Television viewing is still the most dominant media by which consumers experience “video”. While there is a lot of talk about “the Internet and streaming video”, the fact of the matter is that the individual use of “streaming media” is measured in minutes per month while the average use of television is measured in hours per day. Most television programming is viewed via cable distribution. Operators provide a valuable service that is relished by most people and it is our business to help develop, support and enhance that service.