Switching On Internet TV

Cable could be going “over the
top” right to viewers’ TV sets.

While the industry has feared losing
ground to competing Internet-to-the-TV
services, such as Netflix’s video-on-demand
service, new approaches promise to put operators
and programmers on the same
playing field.

Last week, Comcast’s ThePlatform
online video-management subsidiary
announced a strategy to let
content owners deliver content
to broadband-connected TVs,
set-tops and other devices.
Separately, startup Clearleap is
teaming up with Internet set-top maker
Roku to provide pay TV operators with a
solution that could deliver managed video
services over broadband connections.

ThePlatform, for its part, is providing video
management and publishing features
to devices from Boxee, DivX, Free Stream
Media, Mitsubishi, LG Electronics, Roku,
Samsung, Syabas, TiVo, Toshiba, Vizio
and Vudu (now owned by Wal-Mart). ThePlatform said it will also support Google
TV devices, which are expected to debut
this fall from Sony and Logitech.
“Media and entertainment companies are
looking well beyond today’s PCs and conventional
set-top boxes to reach their audiences,”
ThePlatform CEO Ian Blaine said in a

ThePlatform currently provides online video-
management services to programmers,
media companies and cable-TV service
providers including Comcast, Cox Communications,
Time Warner Cable, Cablevision
Systems and Rogers Communications.

Meanwhile, Clearleap’s solution with
Roku can be used by an MSO in two ways,
according to Clearleap CEO Braxton Jarratt:
Through a branded VOD channel via
the Roku Channel Store, which a customer
could access from any Roku box over any
service provider’s network; or by supplying
Roku boxes to subscribers for access to VOD
content on second or third TV sets.

“The Roku box is much less expensive than
a traditional cable box,” Jarratt said.

For cable operators, “you’re able to leverage
the Web and your IP network rather than
your QAM-based networks,” he said.

Roku’s set-top, which starts at $80 retail,
provides access to Netflix’s instant-streaming
service, Amazon Video On Demand,
MLB.TV, Ultimate Fighting Championship
and other content.

Jarratt said the Clearleap-Roku managed
IP VOD solution will be in multiple field trials
starting in the third quarter, and the
companies expect to launch a limited commercial
deployment with a pay TV operator
by the end of 2010.

Clearleap said the Roku partnership is the
first of many planned partnerships with Internet-
based devices such as game consoles,
connected TVs and Blu-ray players.

Clearleap’s VOD system has been deployed
by six of the top 10 pay TV services, including
Comcast’s Houston division, Mediacom
Communications and Bresnan Communications
(in the process of being acquired by Cablevision