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CES: Drive to ‘Video Everywhere’ Shifts Into High Gear

1/16/2012 12:01 AM Eastern

Las Vegas — The news bubbling up from the 2012 International
Consumer Electronics Show called to mind a classic
Led Zeppelin tune: “The Song Remains the Same.”

For the TV industry, the focus of many CES demos and
announcements last week revolved around getting access
to video content on multiple screens and devices. That
concept is not new. But the promise of ubiquitous and enhanced
multiscreen TV services clearly is now closer to reality
than it was a year ago.

Dish Network tried to hog the spotlight in announcing its
first multiroom digital video recorder, the Hopper, as well
as plans to launch a broadband bundle through a deal with
ViaSat (see Cover Story). The No. 2 satellite-TV operator
boasted that the Hopper is 40% smaller than DirecTV’s
multiroom DVR and highlighted a unique feature called
“PrimeTime Anytime,” which records the past eight days of
primetime programming on ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC.

“You’ll have instant access to the best primetime programming
without having to set timers or using up your
personal DVR hard-drive space,” Dish said in promoting
the Hopper. And with a Sling adapter connected to the
Dish DVR, those shows are available to multiple devices
— over any Internet connection.

CE PLUGS INTO PAY TV

Initially, the connected TVs from major set manufacturers
provided options for accessing “over-the-top” content
from nontraditional players. Now they’re adding cable,
satellite and telco TV services to the menu.

Samsung Electronics is working with four providers —
Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon Communications’
FiOS TV and DirecTV — to pipe their video services directly
into its “smart TVs.”

At its booth here at CES, Samsung demonstrated pre-release
versions of each the services, which are scheduled to
be available through its TVs later this year.

Comcast and TWC are delivering on-demand content
through the Samsung sets. Verizon is providing 26 live TV
channels — the same lineup that is now available through
the Xbox 360 game console — as well as VOD; a representative
said the service will be available “very soon.”
Verizon is also working with LG to deliver FiOS TV content
across its HDTV sets and Blu-ray Disc players.

DirecTV, meanwhile,
is teaming up
with Samsung to provide
access to live and
DVR content directly
on Samsung’s 2012 line
of smart TVs, without
the need for additional
set-top boxes. The
sets will include a Multimedia
over Coax Alliance
(MoCA) interface,
to connect into the satellite
operator’s HR34
Home Media Center
HD multiroom DVR,
which can store up to
200 hours of HD programming.

The Samsung TVs
will replicate the full
user interface of the DirecTV DVR using the specifi cation
from the RVU Alliance. The two companies announced
plans for the RVU-enabled TVs at the 2011 CES.

Samsung said the RVU-compatible Smart TVs will be
available in spring 2012.

“Many homes today have more than one TV to cater to
the different needs of everyone in the family. By working
with a leading provider like DirecTV, we’re able to offer consumers
enhanced convenience in access so they can enjoy
the content they desire from any room in the home, any
time they choose,” Stephen Goldstein, vice president of
Samsung Electronics America, said in a statement.

Panasonic, for its part, was showing a Time Warner Cable
app running on its Viera HDTVs, which provides access to
VOD and DVR content on a subscriber’s set-top.

At last year’s CES, Comcast and TWC announced their
partnership with Samsung, outlining plans to make their
video services available on the CE maker’s smart TVs, smartphones
and tablets. Originally, the MSOs expected to deliver
the capabilities before the end of 2011.

While embracing pay TV providers, CE makers are continuing
to extend their over-the-top video plays, as well.

Panasonic, in looking pull content more easily into its Internet-
connected HDTVs, is plugging Ooyala’s syndication platform
into its Viera Connect
platform, with The Country
Network (TCN) as the first
publisher to take advantage
of the partnership. Later this
month, TCN will begin delivering
music videos and other
content — including a simulcast
of the network’s linear
channel — to Panasonic TVs.

Panasonic also announced
a deal with
Myspace, the social-networking
website sold last
year by News Corp. to Specific
Media, to launch an
over-the-top service for its
connected TVs. Myspace TV,
slated to launch by midyear, will initially focus on music
with its library of 100,000 music videos and 42 million
songs. Eventually, Myspace plans to expand into movie,
news, sports and reality channels.

Then there were new Google TV products, aimed at augmenting
traditional TV with Web content and apps. The hoopla
seemed more muted, however, perhaps given that the first
Google TV products, introduced in late 2010, were DOA.

LG, the latest
Google TV partner,
announced plans
for two 3D-enabled
HDTVs with support
for the second-generation
of the Internet
giant’s software,
which is supposed to
be easier to use and
provide better access
to Android apps
on TV. Vizio also has
a slate of HDTVs, a
Blu-ray Player and
a streaming-media
set-top that incorporate
the latest Google
TV experience.

And Sony, which
had poor sales of HDTVs
with the 1.0 version of Google TV, announced two new devices:
the NSZ-GS7 Network Media Player and NSZ-GP9
Blu-ray Disc Player, both scheduled to arrive on shelves in
North America and Europe by early summer 2012.

But none of the vendors announced pricing for their Google
TV products. It’s a critical question, since a key reason consumers
ignored the fi rst round of Google TVs was because
they cost up to $400 more than models without the embedded
software.

Note that even in announcing support for Google TV, LG
made a point of saying it will “continue to advance its own
Smart TV platform based on NetCast, using open Web technology
such as Webkit browser and Linux.”

TAKE A TABLET TV

TiVo showed a prototype at CES of an adapter for its DVRs
that transcodes up to four streams of video — including
both live TV and DVR content — and delivers them wirelessly
to iPads and other devices.

“What we’re showing is how you get content on any
screen in the home,” David Sanford, vice president and
general manager of TiVo’s service provider business, said.
“Right now, consumers don’t have a way to get DVR content
on multiple devices.”

TiVo also released research
finding that only
38% of viewing by its 2 million
subscribers was live TV,
with the bulk of time spent
watching DVR content or
broadband-delivered video.
Among TiVo users who use
Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus
and other over-the-top services,
live TV was just 27% of
total time spent viewing.

“A year ago, people would
have said this is bad for cable,”
TiVo president and
CEO Tom Rogers said in an
interview. “I think it’s good,
because people still want all
their TV content. The overwhelming amount of [non-live]
viewing is time-shifted TV.”

Rogers identified two primary competitors in the service
provider space: NDS and Arris, which has introduced a wholehome
gateway based on the Moxi set-top from Digeo.

“There are not many people who can do what we do,”
Rogers said. “You have to do this without disrupting the field operations
side, which is damn hard.”

Meanwhile, away from the CES show floor, Comcast announced
that it launched its AnyPlay device developed by
Motorola — which transcodes live TV content for wireless
delivery to tablets and other displays — in Denver and
Nashville, Tenn.

The AnyPlay device is currently available to Xfinity HD
triple-play customers in areas of Denver and Nashville,
Tenn., at no additional charge, with more markets to be
added in the coming months, Mark Hess, Comcast’s senior
vice president of video product development, wrote in a blog
post announcing the trial.

AnyPlay currently lets subscribers watch channels included
in their linear channel subscription through the Xfinity TV
app on Apple’s iPad over in-home Wi-Fi, with support coming
soon for the Motorola Xoom tablet. “So as long as your tablet is
within range of the home wireless router, you can turn it into
another television screen,” Hess wrote.

Comcast and Motorola demonstrated the AnyPlay device
(which Motorola calls “Televation”) at the 2011 Cable Show last
summer. Previously, AnyPlay was the name of a portable DVR
developed with Panasonic, which the MSO never launched.

INTO THE CLOUD

Another theme at CES was the shift toward delivering content
and services from “the cloud” — that is, over a network.
Cisco announced extensions to its Videoscape TV platform with new products to rain
down “video in the cloud,” which
the company promises will let service
providers deliver a consistent
look-and-feel across any device and
paves the way for full IPTV down
the road.

Cisco originally launched
the Videoscape strategy, to
meld traditional TV and Internet-
delivered content into
a unified service, at last year’s
CES.

At the 2012 show, the vendor
highlighted multiscreen capabilities
that deliver live TV and
video-on-demand not only to PCs
and Macs, but also across iPads, iPhones and Android devices.

Cisco has licensed ActiveVideo Networks’ CloudTV network-based interactive-TV software as part of
the new Videoscape suite. That includes Voyager Vantage, software that connects set-tops to the cloud
for deploying user interfaces and interactive program guides, and Voyager Virtual, a cloud-rendered user
interface that delivers IP video to legacy MPEG-2 set-top boxes and helps enable new apps.

Cisco chose to license the ActiveVideo software instead of developing that capability itself because it is
focused on delivering next-generation user experiences to new IP-based devices, Chuck Stucki, vice president
and general manager of IP video systems in Cisco’s Service Provider Video Technology Group, said.

“We didn’t want to spend on delivering to where the installed base has been,” Stucki said. “We’ve been
focusing on the next two generations of user experiences.”

ActiveVideo CEO Jeff Miller said in a statement, “We are delighted to have the world’s largest networking-
infrastructure provider expanding ActiveVideo’s value proposition globally and helping our customers
deliver uniform viewing experience to their subscribers.”

At CES, for its part, ActiveVideo demonstrated its new CloudTV H5 platform, which supports applications
written in HTML5 format, along with a proof-of-concept demo that uses the iPhone 4S’s Siri
voice-recognition feature to let users search TV content using voice commands.

EchoStar Technologies also has pushed the Aria “cloud-based” IPG and video-on-demand system
for cable operators, trying to extend beyond its historical relationship with Dish. (EchoStar also developed
the Hopper DVR and related Joey set-tops.) Last week, the vendor said Cable One is testing out
Aria, and EchoStar was showing off its Sling Media place-shifting technology integrated into Broadcom’s
latest set-top box system-on-a-chip platforms for multiscreen video gateways.

KEEPING THE 3D FLAME ALIVE

On the 3D front, stereoscopic television sets were prominently featured across the show floor. The centerpiece
of LG’s massive booth, in the pole position in the Las Vegas Convention Center’s main Central
Hall, was a gigantic 3D display that spanned about a city block.

But the scarcity of 3D content from pay TV providers available remains a major issue in pushing the category
forward (see “Filling a ‘Black Hole of Content,’ ”).

Looking to help carry the 3DTV torch forward, NBC Sports Group and Panasonic said they will team
up to make the London 2012 Olympic Games available in 3D to all U.S. distributors who carry Olympic
coverage, which will be the first time 3DTV owners will be able to watch the games in the format.

The companies did not announce which pay TV providers intend to carry the Olympic coverage in
3D, but presumably Comcast — which owns NBCUniversal — will be in the mix, along with DirecTV,
which has aimed to be the leading
provider of 3DTV in the U.S.

Cable, satellite and telco providers
who receive the Olympics
package may distribute the 3D
broadcast via the Comcast Media
Center.

“NBC has a history of utilizing
technological innovations to distribute
the Olympics in new ways
for viewers,” NBC Olympics president
Gary Zenkel said in a statement.
“We are proud to continue
that tradition by partnering with
Panasonic and Olympic Broadcasting
Services to distribute the first 3D broadcast of the Games in the U.S. in partnership with our
multichannel video programming distributors.”

Panasonic is the exclusive flat-panel HDTV and Blu-ray Disc player advertiser for NBC’s coverage of
the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Last year, Panasonic announced it would partner with the International
Olympic Committee and Olympic Broadcasting Services to make the London 2012 Olympic
Games the first ever 3D Olympic Games.

The more than 200 hours of 3D telecasts, to be produced by OBS and shown on next-day delay in the
U.S., will span multiple competitions throughout the games, including the opening and closing ceremonies,
gymnastics, diving and swimming. OBS will produce the 3D coverage using Panasonic’s 3D
production technologies.


Broadcasting & Cable contributing editor George Winslow contributed to this article.
September