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New VOD Developments from Western Cable Show

For the past several years, the annual cable Western Show (now "Broadband Plus") has spurred the announcement of numerous video-on-demand (VOD) deployments and products, and this year is no exception.

TVN Entertainment, which claims that it is the largest provider of on-demand TV programming, announced at the show that it has expanded its VOD content offerings by making distribution agreements with a number of cable networks, including those channels distributed by Disney ABC and Turner Networks, and other cable channels.

All content will be available from TVN via a satellite transponder delivered to a TVN docking station located at the cable headend. Services include encoding, quality control, packaging, satellite transport and asset management.

On the product side, Harmonic says that seven of the top eight MSOs - those with more than 1 million subscribers - are using their products for their VOD deployments. Harmonic says its Narrowcast Services Gateway (NSG) and GIGALight DWDM transmission system have eliminated previous technical and economic barriers associated with delivering narrowcast services.

Path 1 Network Technologies, the first company to deploy IP video products for cable MSOs, debuted the Chameleon vidX product line at the show.

The Chameleon vidX offers up to 1024 SD and HD VOD content streams and music and other data which can be multiplexed and de-multiplexed for IP transport to existing digital cable set top boxes. The product works with the existing IP infrastructure and has an over 20-megabit bit rate.

The Chameleon is a VOD technology that the company hopes will allow cable operators to adapt and expand services as they move toward "Everything-On-Demand," which includes general broadcast content, IP telephony, cable modems and video in one network.

N2 Broadband has turned out the Xport for cable operators to prepare and manage local content, like sports, news and events, within existing VOD systems. The Xport, which lets users encode, package and play local programming content through any VOD-compliant system, is doing a trial run at three MSO sites and will be commercially available in early 2003.

The appeal of Xport to local cable operators is that community events can now be converted from videotape into on-demand programming. N2 Broadband's President, Reggie Bradford, further states the content lets cable operators reduce subscriber 'churn' by competing more effectively against satellite TV, fortify their local brand and build better relationships with subscribers.

Motorala has unveiled its VOD solution, designed to provide stream processing horsepower, scalability and resource management in the face of an increasing trend toward VOD program roll out. It features five product groups to address the spectrum of VOD stages and strategies, from managing headend system resources to enabling a secure content delivery environment. The VOD solution includes a Motorola SmartStream Interactive Digital Cable System and Simplex Gigabit Ethernet Transport solution as well as NETsolutions, which offers VOD deployment services for multi-party integration.

VOD, touted since the mid-1990s as a way for cable networks to spruce up their services and add subscribers, has recently become more viable with the introduction of open standards-based systems and broad deployment. "2002 has been the Year of Video-on-Demand," remarks Anthony Ley, president and CEO of Harmonic, and digital video and broadband networking company.