Building a Bigger Box

Managed Broadband TV a Hot Topic

A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.
A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.

Growth was definitely the vibe of this week’s NTCA’s Southeast Regional meeting in Savannah. Operators and vendors provided examples and ideas for how to generate new revenue through the introduction of new products and services that complement the broadband infrastructure. Although one of the panels referenced the idea of “out-of-the-box” thinking, it is clear that operators want to build a bigger box by complement their broadband offering with services that help their customers and result in new revenue.

Video has always been a challenge and some operators and vendors demonstrated some out-of-box thinking in marrying web technologies with local expertise to come up with offerings that provide a win-win for the rural consumer, content providers and the operators’ efforts to promulgate broadband. NeoNova and Skitter discussed and demonstrated their solutions, while Star Communications explained why, even though they already are a provider of CATV and IPTV, they see Managed Broadband TV as a way to expand their video reach.

Local Management and People Are the Key to Making Broadband Relevant

Understanding the unique needs of customers is one of the advantages that local operators have, compared to conglomerates where management decisions are often made thousands of miles from the customer and/or the decisions that are made not tailored to a particular locale. Jimmy Blevins, CEO of SkyLine Membership Corporation provided several examples of how local knowledge can create broadband demand.

He and his staff noticed that people with second homes weren’t signing up for telecommunications’ services and were presumably bringing their wireless devices from their first homes to fulfill their telecommunications’ needs.

As they dug into it, Blevins and his staff found that people still wanted the reliability and speed of a terrestrial network, but they only wanted to pay for the network when they were at their respective get-away homes. SkyLine came up with what they call a “Weekender Plan” that provides a lower cost ($15 for 12 Mb/s solution with options for phone and unlimited long-distance) for those who are at their homes only on the weekends.

Unique Broadband Solution for Students in Low Income Households

Blevins described a unique way to reach low-income households without subsidies or devaluing their existing broadband plans. The local school superintendent had come to Blevins with the challenge of reaching students from low-income households who had been given tablets by the school district, but couldn’t do their home work on them because their families couldn’t afford broadband.

SkyLine and the school district devised a low-cost, monthly broadband plan, whereby SkyLine routes Internet traffic through the School’s Internet connection. This is an off-peak time for the school district, so it doesn’t add to its costs. At the same time, this technique lowers the cost of connecting to the Internet for SkyLine, which they can pass on to the low-income household.

The Video Exchange – A Dream Realized

Local content is a proven driver for broadband and video services. The challenge is producing content on a consistent and ongoing basis. As Jimmy Blevins suggested,

“It’s easy to produce several hours of local TV sports programming each week, but what do you do the rest of the time?”

A screenshot of website.
A screenshot of website.

SkyLine saw this challenge as an opportunity to help not only its own community, but the community of independent operators.  SkyLine has developed In a nutshell, this is exactly the sort of content exchange that has been promoted in various forms on these virtual pages for the past decade. They have done an impressive job with this web portal which allows content producers to upload and sell their content to local channels.

The objective of the video exchange  is to help an operator program their local content channel with content that complements what the operator is already producing and airing. The exchange collects the content, stores associated metadata and serves as the clearinghouse between sellers and buyers. With a fee of 15%, it is very affordable.

The fact that it was started by an independent operator to address their long-term need is an indication that they are in this for the long-term. Look for ViodiTV content to be on the site in the near-future.

[Note, there are four more chances to check out one of NTCA’s excellent regional meetings this summer and fall, including next week in Denver. For the full schedule, click here.]

Viodi View – 07/09/14

It is that time of the year when millions of people pack their suitcases and take some well-earned vacation time. We too will be on the road this summer visiting some of our friends with independent broadband service providers. One trip I am looking forward to is next week’s NTCA Regional meeting in Savannah, GA, where it will be an honor to moderate a panel on the topic of over managed, over-the-top video.

A Teacher Teaching Tech to Telecom

Ken Pyle interviews Carissa Swenson of TechTECS at the 2014 MTA Convention.
Click to View

One of the sessions I wish I could attend at the aforementioned NTCA event will feature TechTECS’ Carissa Swenson. Fortunately, I was able to catch up with Carissa at the 2014 MTA Convention, where she explained how her career path evolved from teaching within the North Dakota public school system to helping telecom companies teach tech to their customers. She is able to run her business from a small town (population of 209), thanks to the robust broadband of a Fiber to the Home Network.

Click here to read more and to view the video interview.

Abolishing the Fear of Failure- Do What You’re Afraid to Do!

An impersonator of an Elvis impersonator gives his best move.
Click Here

On June 26th, Stanford Education & Psychology Professor John D. Krumboltz told a sold out Commonwealth Club-Silicon Valley audience to “stop being afraid of failure. Learn to accept and even enjoy it,” he said in his opening remarks. Prof Krumboltz is the co-author of the book, Fail Fast, Fail Often- How Losing Can Help You Win.  It was Oprah Winfrey’s favorite book for 2014.

Click here to read more.

Local Sports Everywhere with No CableCARD

Ken Pyle interviews Joe Jensen regarding their multiscreen implementation of their local TV channel.
Click to View

From the Pinewood Derby to collegiate sports, the BCSN networks carry local sports that are of interest to residents of the Toledo and Lima, Ohio area. This platform, which has been years in the making, lays the foundation for the transition from QAM to IP for Buckeye CableSystem’s delivery of video services.

The next step in this transition is in the regulatory realm and, in the above interview, Buckeye CableSystem’s EVP of Cable & Telecommunications, Joe Jensen, discusses their March 2014 request for a waiver of CableCARD rules which would allow Buckeye CableSystem to create a combination set-top that incorporates a DTA (Digital Terminal Adaptor – a low-cost QAM set-top) with an Internet Protocol video receiver.

Click here to read more and to view the video.

Evidence of Cable/Telephony Architecture Convergence

An image of Grande's web site and their 1 Gig service.The appointment of cable industry legend Chris Bowick to Calix’s board of directors, along with their related announcement regarding Grande’s use of their equipment to power their 1 gig, GPON network, is evidence of the long-term architectural convergence of the cable and telephony industries. I was fortunate to work with Calix and Phil Fine on the following video, which provides more information about Calix’s work with Grande, as well as their related effort to deploy DOCSIS and GPON from the same back-office.

Click here to view.

The Luddites of London

The graphic illustrates how Virtual Personal Assistants could work in the background to facilitate human relationships.
Click here to read

Just as we begin to hear about the and the significance of the autonomous vehicle (AV) for society, taxi cab drivers throughout the European Union recently staged mass protests against the smart phone app service Uber, portraying themselves as 21st century Luddites sacking London.

Click here to read more.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • San Jose complies with Google Fiber’s checklist, according to Mayor Reed – now up to Google to bring Fiber to Silicon Valley.
  • A couple things stand out in this article; how tech and telecom can be the beneficiaries of autonomous vehicles.
  • It’s the People Power band van. They must be returning from a July 4th gig. We interviewed their CEO, Gene Wang a few years ago.

The Korner – Keeping a Green Lawn & Saving Some Green

The ZERO from Cub Cadet is demonstrated at the 2014 International CES
Click to View

With summer in full bloom, so are the gardens and lawns. For those in places where the lawns are large and the blades of grass thick thanks to summer rains, a riding lawnmower is a labor and time-saving device that is a must-have.

At International CES 2014, we caught up with Cub Cadet, a leading manufacturer of riding lawnmowers, where they displayed their first electric, riding lawnmower. They claim it is possible to mow an acre of grass on a single charge with their new model, ZERO. It also features all the other benefits of going electric, such as lower maintenance costs, no liquid fuel and quieter operation (now, you can mow the lawn at any time).

Given the theme of many of the recent Viodi View posts, it is not difficult to imagine a future model that would feature autonomous operation, much like the robotic vacuum cleaners that have been on the market for years. Autonomous operation would eliminate the need for a human operator, leaving the home owner even more time for a summer vacation.

Click here to read more about the ZERO.

Telling the Whole Story

Bruce Wolk Being Interviewed by ABC 7.
Bruce Wolk Being Interviewed by ABC 7

Soundbites from experts or concerned parties are powerful for telling a story through video. The soundbites fit the narrative of the person who is constructing the story, however, and don’t necessarily paint the entire picture. This is understandable given the time constraints of a 30 minute news program (more like 22 minutes after commercials) where stories have to be short and focused. One of the advantages of online video is that, for better or worse, the entire story can be told and the people being interviewed can give their entire viewpoint on a topic.

When the local ABC affiliate pointed their camera at me last Saturday, I figured that 99% of the content would be left on the cutting room floor. My expectations were met, as, out of a several minute interview, they used a few second soundbite where I suggested that crimes and vandalism were up at the local park and the neighborhood. What wasn’t reported were several elements that put that single sentence into perspective:

  • That this uptick in crime has been occurring for years and really isn’t news; the traditional local media just had not been reporting it on a regular basis, at least at the micro local level. In the case of the Bay Area, the local media represents an area that is nearly the size of New Jersey, so it’s no surprise that it is rare for the spotlight be on a given neighborhood (and the stories that are highlighted are often salacious).
  • We knew that crime has been an ongoing issue, thanks to our neighborhood’s private web site. This site, which was created to give the community a two-way communication tool, has informed the community of not only crimes, but positive developments as well. Because the efforts of the neighborhood association, more crimes are probably being reported, as the community has been educated about the importance of being a “squeaky wheel” and reporting all crimes, so police know where resources are needed. 
  • That crime isn’t specific to our area. Thanks to the various social media outlets, such as email groups, web sites, etc., we have seen reports of crime in other neighborhoods as well, so we know we are not alone and that it is a wider problem than our neighborhood.
  • The online social tools of the web site led to a very active board that has actively been working with the local police, city parks and recreation department and the community to find ways to reduce crime.
  • That the police departments of Campbell and San José are great partners with each other and have done an excellent job in responding to the community needs within the given constraints.
  • The patrol the board initiated is a relatively low-cost way for the community to augment the work being done by the police forces.
  • That, like with any dark cloud, there is always a silver lining. The silver lining for this story is that crimes have created a better community, which seems like an oxymoron. The rebirth of the neighborhood association and the active participation of the board is transforming the community through events that bring neighbors together face-to-face; for not-so-fun things like crime prevention forums, as well as positive events, like ice cream socials, park clean up days and an upcoming health fair. The association is also involving the local schools in these events, which promises not only to help the community, but our schools.

To this last point, the message in my narrative, which was different from the reporter’s story, is that times are tough everywhere and we need to work together and give each other a hand to make our communities better; whether it is making them safer, getting to know our neighbors better or helping educate our youth. Helping in the community is work, but the rewards are greater than the effort.

If only I had my video camera rolling, I could have told the whole story via video. At least I had the wits about me to snap a photo of my friend and fellow Moreland Little League coach, Bruce Wolk when it was his turn in front of the video camera to discuss the unique mobile neighborhood watch effort taking place in his neighborhood.

Viodi View – 10/19/12

Panels and presentations provide the skeleton for a conference, but sometimes the hallway conversations, sparked by something a speaker said or didn’t say, are the real meat of a conference. This thought occurred to me at last week’s TV Next 2012 conference, as organizer Greg Fawson did an excellent job of bringing together the various players from the interactive TV ecosystem into many good conversations. We will be providing a glimpse of those conversations with several video interviews over the next few weeks.

Second Screen Apps Enhance Viewing Experience & Offer Additional Capabilities – TVNEXT 2012 Conference Highlights by Alan Weissberger

There were many interesting exhibits, presentations and panel sessions at the 6th annual TVNEXT conference, held October 10-11th in Santa Clara, CA. Over-the-Top video, quality of experience, voice activated TV interfaces and multi-screen viewing and second screen apps were some of the topics of discussion. Due to time and space constraints, this article will focus on Second Screen Apps by reviewing selected presentations. Click here to read more.

Last Chance to Give Your Opinion about Local Content

A typical citizen journalist camera

Rural broadband operators – reply in the comment section below to get a link to our latest survey on local content. An Executive Summary will be provided to those who complete the survey. We will be sharing the results at the local content panel at the Calix User’s Group, on Sunday October 28th at 3:30 pm. This panel will also feature marketing experts sharing how they are making their communities and service offering better through their production of local content.

What Carriers Must Do to Accelerate Innovation-Summary of Telecom Council TC3, Part 3 by Alan Weissberger

Part three of this three-part series of the Telecom Council TC3 conference focuses on an Informa analyst presentation suggesting what carriers must do to innovate (or die). Consider that wireless carriers are more than ever in danger of being reduced to purveyors of “dumb pipes,” with little or no financial participation in the mobile network value chain. A link is also provided to innovation priorities from selected carriers; i.e. what they are looking for from suppliers and vendors (especially start-ups). Click here to read the entire post.

Verizon Close to Launching a Video Streaming Service with Redbox; More than 250M covered by VZW LTE Network by Alan Weissberger

In its third-quarter financial report, Verizon Communications profit margins grew as it added 136,000 FiOS broadband customers and 119,000 FiOS TV subscribers — about the same as in the prior quarter.   More importantly,  Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said the giant telco was “very close to launching” its video-streaming service with Redbox this quarter. Click here to read more.

Operational Savings and New Revenue

Kevin Larson, GM & CEO of CTC in Minnesota, provides insight on ways independent rural broadband operators can stay competitive in ever more challenging times. He discusses the importance of a fiber to the home network infrastructure in reducing ongoing operational and maintenance costs, while providing a more reliable network for the end customers. He also suggests that communications providers need to start charging the customers for things that typically provide with no charge.

Stay tuned for the other three parts of this exclusive interview, where Larson looks at the challenges and opportunities facing rural broadband providers. Click here to view part 1.

US ITC – Don’t Turn Out the Lights [Opinion]

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) have been a 50 year overnight success. One supplier now threatens that progress, at least in the niche of videography and perhaps beyond, given the broad nature of its patents. Anyone involved in local content should take a minute to read this, as the number of choices of LED lights for videography could be greatly diminished and the prices will most likely increase, depending upon the final ruling of the United States International Trade Commission in mid-October. Click here to read more.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

The Korner -The Video Generation

Click here to view video interview

Revision3 has demonstrated what the next generation TV network looks like for several years now and its success led to its recent acquisition by Discovery Communications. Revision3 is a complement to Discovery programming and there is even some cross-pollination between the programming of the two networks (think Shark Week meets tech, gaming and entertainment).

In this interview, filmed at TV NEXT 2012, Revision3 CEO Jim Louderback provides insight that is useful to anyone who is producing local content. Similar to a local content producer, Revision3 has found that authenticity has been a key to Revision3?s programming success. Louderback points out that they create a relationship between the on-air personalities and the viewers.

Louderback also explains that the younger generation has a way of learning that is different from most adults, who typically learn through reading. As former Editor in Chief of PC Magazine, Louderback certainly understands the power of the written word, but he points out, through a personal anecdote, that children now view video as the way to learn.

One implication of Louderback’s comments is that the importance of video will continue to grow, as the younger generations age. This shift to a video-centric world will have a profound impact on the network, as instead of thinking of multi-streams per home, service providers will have to think in terms of multi-streams per person.

Click here to view.

Viodi View – 10/05/12

Where the road leads is not always clear, but eventually it leads us home. Last week, that road led me to the digital home; that is, the Digital Home Summit in Dallas. It was great to help Bernie and Tocia of Telecompetitor  document this conference, which focuses on the digital home from the operator perspective.

Think Like a Start-Up

Robert Kenney, OnProcess
Robert Kenney, OnProcess

“Think like a start-up,” was a recurring theme of the Digital Home Summit and a key message of the opening keynote by Robert Kenney, EVP of Sales and Marketing for OnProcess. Other speakers reiterated this line throughout the daylong event, as they stressed that the digital home is still early in its development. The opportunity and the challenge for service providers is that the digital home is still in its early stages. Click here to read the summary of this day-long event.

Stay tuned to Telecompetitor for video interviews from the event; in the meantime, here are a couple of videos interviews from that event:

FCC Plans for Incentive Auctions to Shake Up Broadcast TV & Mobile Broadband industries by Alan Weissberger

Alan Weissberger examines the  recently announced FCC “incentive auction process,” which will reclaim airwaves now owned by TV broadcasters and auction them off for use in wireless broadband networks.  TV broadcasters that want to keep their spectrum  would be forced to relocate frequencies to different parts of the TV band, in a procedure called “repacking.”  Broadcasters would get some undisclosed portion of the spectrum sales from the Incentive Auctions. Click here to read Weissberger’s article, as well as the associated comments.

Summary of Telecom Council TC3, Part 1- Service Provider Innovation Forum by Alan Weissberger

Over the last few years, more than 25 Telco Innovation Labs have opened up in the SF Bay Area, including Sprint’s in Burlingame, AT&T’s in Palo Alto, Verizon’s in San Francisco and Deutsche Telekom’s in Palo Alto. Telecom Council Carrier Connections (TC3) – the Telecom Council’s annual summit – provides an opportunity for startups and application developers to interact with telecom carriers (telcos) and network operators. Telco representatives who manage innovation, from developer programs and labs facilities to venture investing, discussed many issues that are relevant to their vendors and partner companies. Click here to read more.

Entrepreneur Forum & Carrier Perspectives – Summary of Telecom Council TC3, Part 2 by Alan Weissberger

This second piece examines the panel session on Rich Communications Suite (RCS) and (more importantly) selected carrier innovation agendas, strategies and case studies. RCS is a unified communications service for smart phones that will be built on top of IMS (IP Multimedia Services). From the end-user point of view, RCS would enable communication such as instant messaging, video sharing and buddy lists. Click here to read more.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • A recent article in Wall Street Journal and reported elsewhere discusses how people are sacrificing meals out, spending less on apparel, etc., so they can spend money on mobile data plans. If they don’t go out as much, then why do they need the expensive data plans? To encourage people to eat out again, perhaps we will see a national restaurant chain or group of chains offer their own wireless plan with an “all you can eat” data plan.
  • [Thanks to tech/BB] “Our world isn’t getting smaller-our reach is getting longer & deeper” – Eric Bruno/Verizon #DHS12
  • Eric Simons of “AOL squatting” fame [article on ViodiTV] launched education startup@TeamClaco.
  • Jonathan Adelstein leaving RUS & starting at PCIA. Can’t believe that isn’t headline news. It isn’t even on the RUS website.

 The Korner – A Cooperative Local Content Solution

North Liberty Recreation Center
Click to View Video

Promoting community and economic development is one of the benefits the city of North Liberty, IA is finding with their local content presence. In this exclusive interview, Cheryle Caplinger, Communications Director for the city of North Liberty, explains how the city is using PEG (Public, Education and Government) funding to create content that not only brings their community together, but promotes it to businesses and people well outside its border.

She also explains their special partnership with South Slope Cooperative Communications and how they turned to South Slope to help broadcast their signal beyond the borders of North Liberty. With South Slope’s network and its relationship with the state-wide Iowa Network Services, North Liberty was able to help drive a substantial increase in attendance at their annual North Liberty Blues and Barbecue festival.

Meredith Fisher King, Marketing Director for South Slope Cooperative Communications, comments on the relationship with North Liberty and how these two entities complement one another. One gets the sense from King, as well as from observing the town and its continued growth, that its local content efforts are a manifestation of a business-friendly and community-driven environment.

Note: This interview just touches upon the clever things that North Liberty is doing in the way of local content production. A great place to learn more will be at the Calix User’s Group, where Cheryle will be on a panel moderated by this author.

For more information on registering for the Calix User’s Group and attending the October 28th panel, please go to

Click here to view the video interview.

Viodi View – 09/21/12

Somewhere in MN
Somewhere in MN

Words are great, pictures are better, video is best, but none of these can compare to being there.

Experiencing the rural roads of this great country – the ones off the beaten path of the Interstate – and meeting the people who are finding creative ways to keep their communities vibrant has been one of the most rewarding aspects to the videos we produce. The videos in our Stories of the Heartland category on ViodiTV tell the story of broadband in rural communities, but, even in this world of Google travel, being there is beyond compare.

Tell Us Your Local Content Story

To help us tell the story of local content, we are asking rural operators to tell us what they are doing or not doing regarding local content. This will be the most comprehensive survey yet on this important topic and, if nothing else, the questions are thought-provoking. We will be presenting the results of the survey at an exclusive session of the Calix User’s Group on October 28th.

Please email us for the link to the survey.  The survey will also have information on how to participate in the Viodi Content Awards for Local Content.

Does Broadband Lead to a Broad Waist

Spring Grove Fitness Center

In late August, the Milken Institute issued a provocative study, Waistlines of the World – The Effect of Information and Communications Technology on Obesity. The report suggests that, “For every 10 percentage point increase in the share of ICT spending, obesity rates will significantly rise by 1 percentage point directly and 0.4 percentage point indirectly based on the impact of additional consumption of leisure ‘screen’ time.” Click here to read a summary of the report, the report’s prescriptions for what to do, as well as pointers to what a couple of independent operators are doing to counter the negative effects of a knowledge-based economy.

The Operator App Store

David Adams Accedo

“It’s a competitive issue. They [Operators] want to be offering these solutions on their platforms so that their customers don’t go somewhere else,” said David Adams VP Corporate Development for Accedo. Adams was referring to the idea that operators are beginning to offer app stores to stay relevant in a world where over-the-top is causing a shift in the way people search, discover and view content. The recent announcement from Accedo and Nagra about their partnership to, “deliver an ‘off-the-shelf’ application store and a set of applications to pay-TV service providers,” reinforces Adams point that Operators’ see the need to stay current with competitive pressures. Click here to read more.

More Confusion or More Simplicity

Paul Woidke, Nagra

More confusion or more simplicity, that is the question asked by Paul Woidke of Nagra OpenTV in the above interview.  He was referring to the idea that what started as touch-screen simplicity could end up with customer confusion as the number of apps on a particular device multiplies. Similarly, he discusses the opportunities and challenges for advertisers as they deal with the fragmentation of viewership across devices and location. Click here to view

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • Catherine Moyer… “We need the FCC to set clear rules & provide sufficient support for the investments needed to continue to roll out advanced services” 
  • Mini documentary from Bike the Barns ride. Check out Roger’s videography. It is amazing that he didn’t fall off the bike.
  • Interesting stats from ACA/NCTC on demise of small CATV systems- what are the implications for BB in those areas?
  • Google TiSP  reminds me of a top-secret network we once exposed, Internet Protocol Over Optical Paths

The Korner – The NHL Lockout Related to Instant POTS

Sanford Center

One of the most depressing recent developments from the sports world, at least for hockey fans, is the NHL lockout. Perhaps a beneficiary of the lockout will be college hockey. In the upper Midwest, college hockey is already a popular entertainment option for sports fans. Last spring, Viodi got a flavor for the popularity of this winter collegiate sport with our visit to the state-of-the-art hockey rink at Bemidji State University’s Sanford Center.

The Sanford Center features many of the same accoutrements one would find in any modern-day NHL arena. Arena-wide WiFi allows connectivity via the Fiber to the Building connection supplied by the local communications provider, Paul Bunyan Communications. The facility also serves a dual purpose as a conference center for non-sporting events. And even though the world is going all-IP, there are still demands for legacy POTS circuits, as the manager of the arena found out one Friday evening.

Click here to hear his story of how he met a conference client’s last minute request for Plain Old Telephone Services and how this happened only because a local provider was there to help with feet on the street and ears to the phone.

Viodi View – 03/23/12

Will Google Hangouts and other virtual get together’s replace the advantages of face-to-face communications one sees at a trade show or conference? Sure, the immediacy and the zero travel cost of an online conversation plays well in a world that changes ever faster and needs an instant response. Still, being able to see people in all of their 3D glory and being able to take advantage of serendipitous introductions and meetings that occur in a crowded venue is invaluable. And sometimes, it is good just to get away to be able to focus on industry issues.

One of the problems of a local trade show is that it is hard to get away. There were a number of excellent panels at OTTCON in Santa Clara. Being in my turf, it was particularly difficult to break out of normal routines, as is possible when traveling. I didn’t catch enough of the panels to determine an overall theme, but a thought from Martez R. Moore EVP of Digital Media for BET echoed what Viodi has argued in its local content workshops for years.

He suggested they are aggregating and monetizing eyeballs across TV, mobile, VOD, online, social media and trying to create shared companion experiences across their platform. Moore said that BET is, “Creating value across an aggregated base of viewers.” He revealed that part of their competitive advantage is that they have one sales team representing all of their media (TV, VOD, mobile, etc).

Cloud Based Local Content

To have one sales team, requires a back-end that deals with multiple end-user screens and allows the operator to set business rules and serve advertising that is appropriate for a given device. Part of the solution to that problem, may lie with a company called TelVue.  Using the cloud to deliver local, linear and on-demand content is what Jesse Lerman of TelVue demonstrates in this brief video interview at the 2012 OTTCON (Over the Top Conference) in Santa Clara, CA.  Click here to view and read more.

OTT Movies Equal VOD with More Gardens to Pick From by Roger Bindl

rog-tv-ott-720Over-the-top progressed faster than I thought and gave more options than I thought, but now I think OTT has done better than VOD because it offers more options, probably did a better job marketing, and will likely dominate in the future because of its options. To me OTT movies are simply VOD out of someone else’s garden but I have a vehicle driving me to many more gardens to pick from.  Click here to read more.

Retransmit This and More

Content is the challenge in this world where technology destroys (and creates) business models. Retransmission consent, developed at a time when technology had different limitations, was top of mind at the 2012 ACA Summit in Washington D.C., as ViodiTV captured various operator perspectives on this controversial topic. We also heard from the folks from the U.S. and Canada who aggregate content for smaller, rural operators. Click here to view this brief video that provides highlights of those topics and provides a glimpse of the 11+ interviews we will be showing on ViodiTV.

Be More Nimble and More Local

Retransmission consent, programming costs and the terms and conditions under which his company must operate were among the biggest concerns of Robert Gessner of Massillon Cable TV at last week’s 2012 ACA Summit.  In this video interview, he explains the importance of independents working together to negotiate with the large media suppliers.  He points out that the biggest challenge his company (and other independents) face is scale.  Despite its relatively small size, Massillon Cable TV has retained customers through innovation and being close to the customer.  Click here to view.

Cost/Benefit Analysis of Regulations

In this video interview, filmed as he was leaving the 2012 ACA Summit and rushing to a vote, Senator Mark Pryor [D-AR] briefly explains a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation introduced by Senators Pryor and Portman [R-OH] and Representatives Coble [R-NC] and Peterson [D-MN] intended to reduce the cost of regulation and, by extension, help improve job creation.

The bill promises to bring those who are being regulated into the discussion before the regulations are passed.   The regulators must also show that a particular rule is the  “least costly way” to meet the objective.  Similarly, under this proposed legislation, the regulators must do a cost/benefit analysis; which is currently not allowed by some statutes.  Click here to view.

The Sleepy & Instant On Set-Top

“Lite sleep” and “Deep Sleep” are two of the power-reduction initiatives that Cable Labs is actively pursuing to reduce the power consumption, explains Ralph Brown, CTO of Cable Labs.  Being more efficient, without sacrificing performance and not sacrificing user-experience is their goal.

As pointed out in this CED article, the conversation could quickly turn into a political one, as  power consumption of a Network DVR (one copy stored remotely for multiple viewers) is approximately 1/60th of that of a network DVR-RS (Remote Storage, where it is one copy per viewer).  Perhaps, this will drive some interesting political alliances between the cable industry and “green” groups, pressuring content owners to grant network DVR rights to their distribution partners.  Click here to view the video interview and read the rest of the post.

Key Messages from IDC Directions 2012 for “The Intelligent Network” – Part 1 by Alan Weissberger

Courtesy of IDC

At it’s annual Directions 2012 conference,  market research firm IDC strongly stated that IT is on the cusp of a “Third Platform” that will dominate the  landscape till 2020 and beyond.  That 3rd platform consists of some mash up of: cloud computing, mobile broadband, mobile services/devices/platforms- OSs/apps, social networks, and big data/analytics.  Many or all of those technologies will be integrated or combined to offer new types of services to both business and personal IT end users. IDC predicts a CAGR of 15% for Third Platform IT spending through 2010 with a cumulative growth rate  of 70.4% (2013-’20).  Click here to read the rest of the article.

Some Tweets and Short Thoughts:

  • “Is the QR code a fad to be killed by fraud,” asks Roger Bindl?  Perhaps we will learn what he means in a future issue.
  • Richard Bullwinkle of Rovi- Amount of personal sharing of information is inversely proportional to the size of the screen
  • Bullwinkle of Rovi at OTTCON – 89% watch live TV – all those who are trying to disrupt television are trying to create television-like experiences.
  • Jeremy Toeman of dijit just threw out the obligatory “Jennifer Aniston sweater” ITV comment. Is pizza w/ VOD going to be the next comment?

The Korner – The Community Movie Theater

The chance to see a community revival of sorts would have not been possible without the face-to-face interaction that one finds at a trade show.  This story starts several years ago at the Badger Communications booth at the MTA show.  Cliff Albertson kindly gave me a copy of a book written by an owner of an independent telecom company.  I was thrilled to review the book and jumped at the chance to interview the author on camera to discuss his book.

Little did I know that I would get a bonus interview with Everett Christensen talking about his Economic Development Award.  It was great to talk about it, but I really wanted to see why he won the award.  I held out hope that someday I might get a chance to see the impact my new friend had made in his community.  Fast-forward six months or so and another friend  had figured out how Viodi could help his company tell their customers’ stories.

That was the ticket for me to take a detour on my route to North Dakota and see why Christensen Communications won the 2011 MTA Economic Development Award.  We look forward to meeting old and new friends at next week’s MTA show, as well as the 2012 MTA Economic Development Award and hope to get to that winner’s community some day.

And if you don’t have time to watch the video online, don’t fret, as we will air it on the hotel channel at MTA next week.  Thanks MTA!

From Diamonds to Ringtone, It's All About Community

To paraphrase former House Speaker Tip O’Neill, all communications is local.  On an NTCA webinar a couple of weeks ago, Kent Larson of CHR Solutions made a statement that reinforces this idea, when he said that, “Loops cannot be outsourced.”   He made the argument that, to some extent, parts of a telecom operators’ business can be outsourced, but the last mile network is their bedrock.

The implication is that there needs to be local employees who maintain, operate, understand and serve the needs of the community to deliver on the promise of an advanced telecommunications network.  In my travels across America, these are the people who are the community.  With the full support of their employers, they are the ones volunteering for the fire departments, school boards and city council.

The challenge for small companies is that they have fewer employees to share the workload.  It truly becomes a team effort for the company, as one person sometimes needs to pick up the slack for another.  It also becomes important to leverage efforts to create a win for everyone involved.  Leverage is something that is a recurring theme in our Viodi Local Content Workshops , which are about creating content of interest to the community.

Community involvement, leverage and the “All politics is local” adage, were top of mind yesterday when I had the honor of appearing before the San Jose City Council with team members of Northern California’s only Little League World Series winning team.  In 1962, this group sprung from an area that was then known for prunes instead of tech and won 13 straight to nab youth baseball’s most precious prize.

This was back in the day before ESPN turned youth baseball into another opportunity to create a licensing fee bonanza.  It was when it was much more about kids having fun and playing the game.  There is a great deal of history associated with this team; history that goes beyond baseball, but involves a community that has radically changed in a few generations.

Like so many small telecom companies do for their communities through videos, web sites and museums, we are putting together a history of this team, the 50+ years of the league and the influence it has had on the community and the citizens it helped shape.  Our latest effort at this is the video we produced yesterday, which does double duty, by documenting the City of San José’s Commendation as well as promoting a team reunion/league fundraiser dinner this Saturday, 3/10 from 6:30 to 9:30 at Mountain Mike’s in Campbell, CA.

Mountain Mike’s is a great example of how franchised businesses should work with the community.  This is also a story about relationships and how, to paraphrase Tony Jamroz, people help people.  These are all great things to cover in a Local Content Workshop sometime, but in the meantime, I have to thank Roger Bindl for picking up my slack while I am flitting about at City Hall and the baseball diamond.

Viodi View – 10/12/11

The forces of creative destruction unleashed by the combination of broadband and computing power have transformed virtually every industry in the past 20 years.  Two closely intertwined sectors, government and education, have been relatively untouched through this time of tumult. A growing chorus from a variety of groups indicates that at least the education part of the equation is in for a change; and this may create new opportunities for both service providers and the creative community.

Digital Learning – A Boon for Broadband

On the political front, there is at least one bipartisan effort, the Foundation for Excellence in Education, which is trying to improve the quality of education through the integration of digital learning.  Last December, former Florida and West Virginia governors Jeb Bush and Bob Wise, a Republican and Democrat, respectively, unveiled a roadmap for local, state and federal officials to weave digital learning into education.

This report suggests there are 10 elements to digital learning.  What should be of particular interest to communications service providers are elements 9 and 10, which call for funding and infrastructure to support digital learning.  That is, broadband will be central to what experts are calling blended learning.   We look forward to sharing what we learn about blended learning and digital education efforts from this week’s Foundation for Excellence in Education Summit in San Francisco.

Cloud Networking- Provider & Vendor Perspective

Speaking of learning, The IEEE ComSocSCV event tonight in Santa Clara, CA will be a good event to learn about the challenges and opportunities in Cloud Networking.  Click here to read Alan Weissberger’s description of the speakers and topics which include discussion of the Savvis Converged Cloud, followed by   will then provide a network equipment vendor perspective of Cloud Networking with Juniper Networks and Arista Networks.

Role of Telecommunications & Benefits of Cloud Computing (ITU-T FG Cloud) by Alan Weissberger

As way of background for the above meeting, Alan Weissberger penned this article describing October 7, 2011 ITU-T FG Cloud document ”Cloud Benefits” which is based on their recent meeting in Seoul, South Korea.  Click here to read the entire article.

The Blurring of the Physical and the Virtual

Yesterday’s news regarding the first implementation of UltraViolet is a significant milestone by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, LLC, as it represents an industry-wide effort to bridge the physical and streaming worlds of media distribution.  Warner’s release of Horrible Bosses and Green Lantern will be available online, via computers, iPhones, iPads to those who purchase the DVDs or Blu-ray discs.  It is in the first stage, as the future promises availability of content on an operator’s set-top box as well.

Interestingly, Surewest’s imminent deployment of Seachange international’s T-Commerce application is taking a different approach to merging physical and streaming media.  In phase 1 of their implementation, customers will be able to purchase DVDs from the convenience of their remote control by selecting a “Watch Now” icon from the VOD menu or within the program.  Thanks to an arrangement with a third-party fulfillment house, Surewest customers will receive a copy of the DVD via traditional mail.   This promises to be a convenient way for a customer to purchase a title they wish to view multiple times.

It will be interesting to see which approach proves to be more popular with the customer.

The Connected Yahoo!

How do you hide the complexity from the consumer?  This question, raised by Russ Schafer, Senior Director, Global Consumer and Business Marketing (Developer, Advertiser, Channel) at Yahoo!, may be the most important one in determining the success of interactive television.   He suggested that ease of use and convenience are critical to ensure customer adoption.  Yahoo has quietly been building a presence in interactive television through its presence online and as part of the connected TV.  Click here to view a video interview we had with Schafer  and read some of his comments from the TV Next Conference.

Some Short Thoughts and Tweets:

  • Open Range, Rural Wireless Provider, Files for Bankruptcy  – will this be the  Solyndra of the Telecom Industry?
  • “If I was 25 and just getting out of college, I probably wouldn’t buy a TV. I would buy an iPad.” – panelist at TV Next 2011 – me too.
  • Could the Xbox LIVE announcement regarding partnering with content and distribution partners be bigger than last week’s iPhone4s?
  • Correction:  In our previous issue, HickoryTech was incorrectly identified as Hickory Tech.

The Korner – Local Content Success Story – Schools, Community and a Local Presence 

Schools provide opportunities for building stronger communities.  They provide a reason for people of different backgrounds to meet and pursue a common goal; educating kids.  Schools serve as a central meeting point for the community at large and both the community and the schools benefit when there are strong ties between the educational institutions and other local entities.

This image exemplifies the positive results of a close tie between a community organization and the local school system.  Ryan Thompson, CEO and General Manager of Santel Communciations Cooperative and Mitchell Telecom in South Dakota, sent this picture of a high school football game that they filmed and distributed on their IPTV networks.  The TV above the snack bar provides a glimpse of the coverage that encompasses approximately 150 events per year.

The secret to their local content success story is board/management support and finding those individuals who have the passion to create something out of nothing. Thompson explained to me that Scott Peper, Mitchell Telecom Subsidiary Manager, and Greg McCurry, Santel marketing manager, are the ones who found creative ways to work with the schools and other local institutions to create a channel that serves their community.

As Thompson put it, “I couldn’t be more pleased with their efforts, especially considering they’ve done this all on the top of the many others things small technology company employees need to do every single day.”

Look for the specifics of the different approaches these individuals took to achieve local content success in a future issue.

Viodi View – 09/14/11

Across the nation, back to school nights are in full swing. This is a great opportunity for teachers, parents and administrators to meet and set the tone for what will, hopefully, a productive school year.   Technology will play a big part in improving productivity, at least if the use of Google Docs by my 7th grader’s language arts teacher is an indication (I suppose a kids’ excuse for not turning in assignments will change from, “The dog ate my homework.” to,  “Google swallowed my spreadsheet.”).

Focus on Youth at the Media Innovation Summit:

Having tracked the impact of technology on youth in the Viodi View and ViodiTV for a several years, it is exciting to work with the Media Innovation Summit to help shape the session regarding youth and their use and impact on technology. We have some cool and unique speakers that will help us and I am looking forward to shaping the rest of the agenda. Readers, if you have any particular points you would like to make sure are covered or any speakers you would like to hear from, let us know.   More to follow, but set aside November 30th to December 2nd and plan on making the trek to Santa Clara.

Looking to the New Generation for Answers

Broadband and community were two recurring threads of a panel conversation at the 2011 Independent Show regarding ways that family run cable businesses can set themselves apart and remain relevant in the 21st century.  Three of the four panelists were 2nd or 3rd generation leaders and brought a younger generation’s perspective to the challenges that face businesses that, arguably, are mature.   NCTC president Rich Fickle, who moderated the panel, summed up his impressions of working with panelists and their companies when he said that , “These guys are entrepreneurial and [their companies] are built to last.”

Their businesses, like most small operators, had their roots in providing services where larger companies failed to serve. Geographically, the panelists serve small towns and rural areas.  They are family owned and operated, which, as the panelists agreed, provides a different mindset than an outside investor-owned company. This mindset helps both in the deployment and adoption of broadband and other ancillary technologies that will help their rural communities survive and thrive.

Click here to see the thoughts of these leaders on topics, such as:

  • What do family-owned Operators provide that are unique or an advantage?
  • Trends in Media
  • Grooming New Leaders for a Transition – What Does It Take?
  • What about Cord Cutting?  Is it a  panic situation?

Click to View Video Interview with Levi Maaia

Back to Local

Local coverage of civic events was a justification for allocating spectrum to the broadcast industry, says Full Channel, Incorporated’s Levi Maaia.  In this interview, filmed at the 2011 Independent Show,  Maaia suggests that broadcasters are not meeting this obligation and provides an example of how the broadcasters fell short in his area.  Click here to watch the video and see how, by  investing in the resources necessary for creating local content,  Full Channel was ready to capture the memories of the nation’s oldest Independence Day parade.

FCC Reinstates Video Description Rules, But More To Come by Robert Primosch

[Editor’s Note: Robert Primosch is a Partner with the Washington, D.C.-based, communications law firm Wilkinson Barker Knauer, LLP]

Providers of video, voice and/or data services (and their vendors) should be tracking the FCC’s implementation of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (“Accessibility Act”).   Congress passed this legislation to provide the disabled community (including those who are visually or hearing-impaired) with improved access to modern communications services and technologies.

The Accessibility Act directed the FCC to take a variety of actions over time, including reinstatement of its video description rules for television stations and providers of Multichannel Video Provider Distributors or “MVPDs.” Video description is “the insertion of audio narrated descriptions of a television program’s key visual elements into natural pauses in the program’s dialogue.”  In effect, video description attempts to do for visually impaired subscribers what closed captioning does for those who are hearing-impaired.

Click here to read the entire article.

Tweets and Short Thoughts

  •  Let the White Space revolution start – the first white space database trial begins, according to the FCC.  Click here for a demonstration of white spaces.
  • China Mobile and Clearwire Announce Collaboration on TD-LTE Devices – Is an investment in Clearwire from China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator (by subscribers), next?
  • Netflix Quietly Caps Streams Per Household – surprising this didn’t happen sooner – but, in the end it didn’t happen, at least for now.
  • Fame is fleeting but the internet is forever…originally said a couple of years ago by one of the characters of the Disney show, Phineas and Ferb.  Still as relevant as ever.

The Korner – And Now for Some Happy News

The Search Institute is a great resource for raising healthy kids.  We first referenced this organization in 2007  report on rural youth and their use of technology.  The Search Institute has a newsletter that provides parenting tips tailored to various age groups.  In today’s newsletter, they reference a site, called “Happy News” that curates positive news from across the web.  What a great and simple idea.  With content that spans news, sports and lifestyle, this could be a good source of material for independent operator’s web portals.

And for those you in the Twin City area, the Search Institute’s documentary on the topic of  what makes families strong will be broadcast on September 25th and 26th.