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ActiveVideo, a Silicon Valley software company, uses cloud-based technology to virtualize CPE or STB functionality and bring advanced user interfaces, online video experiences such as YouTube, and interactive web-style advertising to cable and IPTV set-top boxes and connected consumer electronics devices. The company’s primary product, CloudTV, is a software platform that removes the need for cable operators and other video service providers to create and manage multiple versions of guides for each device.
CloudTV is available on more than 10 million devices. Announced customer activity includes Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems, Comcast, and Time Warner Oceanic in the United States; Liberty Global, Ziggo and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Labs in Europe; and PCCW in Asia. CloudTV-powered services also are available on Philips NetTVs  and on Roku players.
ActiveVideo was the product of a 2006 merger between ICTV and Switched Media, a developer of technologies for the customization of video streams. The company was named ActiveVideo in 2008. ActiveVideo acquired the European company Avinity Systems, B.V., in 2009.
In 2011, ActiveVideo announced its first consumer electronics partner, Funai Electric, manufacturer of Philips NetTVs. More recently, licensing agreements for CloudTV have been effected with Cisco Systems and ARRIS to expand the footprints of their respective Videoscape and DreamGallery user experiences. ActiveVideo also has announced a partnership with Sumitomo Corporation that is intended to drive distribution of CloudTV in Japan and the Asia-Pacific market. Sumitomo is a 50% owner of J:COM, the largest cable system operator in Japan.
By virtualizing CPE functionality, CloudTV enables pay-TV providers to provide “TV as an application” services such as next-generation guides, interactive TV advertising and full online video experiences to existing and new devices, including QAM and IP set-tops, Internet-connected TVs, gaming consoles and specialized streaming boxes. Multichannel News notes that “instead of requiring operators to write a different version of the UI for each device, operating system and rendering engine, ActiveVideo’s approach looks to avoid that operational nightmare by requiring that it only be written once, in HTML5, and managed from the cloud.” The analyst firm nScreenMedia cites such advantages as: Compatibility with the widest range of devices; the ability to update an app once and see it reflected on every device; scalability for large and small service providers; and the ability to use the most advanced UI techniques available to ensure high “coolness” factors. ACG Research notes that for cable operators, CloudTV can reduce total cost of ownership by up to 83% when compared to a set-top box replacement program. Videonet writes that this same core technology and client software can “dramatically reduce” cost and time-to-market for interactive television advertising at scale while ScreenPlays adds that the platform enables delivery of “protected OTT streams as an integral part of channel offerings” without replacing existing customer devices.
ActiveVideo announced in 2012 the availability of a new version of the CloudTV platform, CloudTV H5, that can bring navigation interfaces (CloudTV GuideCast) or applications written in HTML5 to digital set-top boxes or connected CE devices. Enhancements to the CloudTV H5 platform that reduce bandwidth and increase throughput were announced in June 2013. In addition, ActiveVideo introduced a family of thin clients that can deliver consistent user experiences on diverse connected devices. ActiveVideo complemented the existing CloudTV GuideCast platform in 2014 with the introduction of new products that support interactive television advertising (CloudTV AdCast) and delivery of online video experiences (CloudTV StreamCast) to existing set-top boxes and connected devices that lack HTML5 browsers. The company also introduced flexible business models that include the option for hosted Software as a Service (SaaS) or enterprise licensing models, as well as the ability to pay for services on a per-subscriber basis or on a per campaign basis.
The earliest implementations of virtualized CPE functionality included Cablevision Systems’ iO TV Quick Views guide, which allows consumers to create up to 20 personalized Uis with up to nine favorite TV channels each, and Olympics UIs that offered simultaneous views of multiple channels of Olympics coverage, plus supplemental Opympic content.
In March, 2013, Ziggo became the first operator in the world to provide interactive services such as VOD without built-in hardware. Using CloudTV, Ziggo launched a multiscreen, multiroom service that provides a consistent look and feel on even the oldest set-tops in its footprint. In November 2013 Ziggo announced another first: the delivery of the same interactive services to televisions equipped with CI Plus 1.3 conditional access modules, and without the need of a set-top box. Broadband TV News quotedPieter Vervoort, vice president, consumer products and innovation for Ziggo, as saying that the innovation would allow consumers to watch VOD and catch-up TV services without “extra equipment, extra leads or an extra remote control” and would enable Ziggo to ensure that the look and feel of the interactive service would be “exactly the same for all types of peripheral equipment.” Multichannel News reported that the implementation would allow Ziggo to save on set-top costs. Cable & Satellite International estimated that 300,000 homes were using the Ziggo service by the end of 2013.
In June 2013, ActiveVideo announced that CharterCommunications would become the first pay-TV provider to deploy a full user interface that is streamed entirely from the cloud. Charter EVP of engineering and IT Jim Blackley observed that CloudTV “enhances platform and network scalability, while delivering a balanced architecture on which cloud and client interactions can be optimized.” Blackley noted that early tests of CloudTV had produced “favorable results” and the next step would be an in-market trial. Multichannel News reported in April 2014 that Charter is architecting the new UI so it can be offered across its entire base of set-top boxes, including new IP-capable devices as well as boxes that can only use QAM/MPEG-based digital transport streams. Charter CEO Tom Rutledge reported on the company’s Q1 2014 earnings call that tests are showing that the approach works and that Charter will be able to extend the UI to all boxes without having to buy new ones.
In September 2013, three European companies announced that they had deployed, or intended to deploy, cloud-based Uis. Glasgart Media, a part of Dutch telecommunications provider KPN, said that it had migrated its interactive services to the CloudTV H5 platform, and noted that CloudTV had helped it double subscribers and achieve VOD take rates of three items per subscriber per month. T-Labs, the research and innovation arm of Deutsche Telekom, demonstrated how CloudTV had allowed it to achieve its goal of “virtualizing the set-top box and moving the execution of applications to the cloud.” Light Reading reported that the T-Labs work “suggests a new wave of TV services” that would allow operators to offer “TV service on devices users already own, or through an inexpensive adapter such as the Chromecast HDMI dongle now being popularized by Google.” Liberty Global said that it would use CloudTV to bring its Horizon multi-screen service to existing set-tops and other video devices.
In April 2014, Liberty Puerto Rico, a Liberty Global system, announced that it was using CloudTV to power Social Content Navigator, a user interface that uses viewing metrics to rank eight tiles of live video by program popularity. Videonet noted that Liberty Puerto Rico is running Social Content Navigator on single-tuner set-tops, and observed that such a service ordinarily would require “new STBs with more power and multiple tuners.” Waldo Hooker, vice president of product and strategy for Liberty Puerto Rico, said that Social Content Navigator encourages viewers to “go outside their comfort zone,” underscoring the value of the channel bundle.
Advertising and OTT Streaming
At the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2014, ActiveVideo and BrightLine announced a strategic partnership to bring greater scale to interactive TV advertising. Broadcasting & Cable reported that the two companies were bringing ads authored in HTML5 to upwards of 300 million cable, satellite and IPTV set-top boxes and connected devices. ActiveVideo and BrightLine launched the partnership by delivering interactive brand experiences from American Express and L’Oreal to Roku devices. Light Reading pointed out that in a demonstration at CES, the same L’Oreal ad written in HTML5 provided the same interactive on a Roku box and on a QAM-based cable set-top box.
At The Cable Show in April 2014, Broadcasting & Cable noted that Cablevision was “making notable improvements to its interactive advertising capabilities” with the deployment of the CloudTV AdCast platform. Ben Tatta, president of Cablevision Media Sales, noted that for advertisers, a benefit would be that “any application they have created for web or mobile in HTML5 can be extended to the TV.” American Express is the first advertiser to commit to the platform, which is scheduled to go live in the later part of 2014.
At The Cable Show, ActiveVideo also announced the availability of CloudTV StreamCast, which is addresses content experience, content protection and content delivery issues that have prevented pay-TV operators from delivering online video content to every set-top box and connected device. Screenplays reported that initial deployment of full online video experiences to full market footprints of a major cable system operator would occur in the near future.
In June 2014, GigaOm reported that Liberty Global subsidiary UPC Hungary is “bringing YouTube to every single customer, thanks to clever use of the cloud.” GigaOm noted that UPC is using CloudTV to deliver YouTube to customers’ existing set-top boxes, making the approach “not only cheaper, but also a whole lot faster than transitioning each and every customer to new devices.” Within several weeks of availability, the service had exceeded usage and engagement targets that had been established for the first six months, as well as other benchmarks for YouTube on TV. Multichannel News reported that Liberty Global could use the same technology to bring YouTube to its entire footprint of existing set-top boxes.
- “Teaching Ancient Set-Tops New Tricks”. Multichannel News. June 6, 2013.
- "ActiveVideo Eyes Scale With Interactive Ad Platform". Multichannel News. January 6, 2014.
- "The Cloud UI Could Improve Connected TV Prospects". Videonet. February 7, 201.
- “ActiveVideo Reaches Roku”. Light Reading. May 30, 2013.
- "ICTV acquires Switched Media". CED Magazine. February 7, 2006.
- "ICTV Is Now ActiveVideo Networks". NewTeeVee. May 17, 2008
- "ActiveVideo buys Avinity for cloud-based TV" VentureBeat. May 28, 2009.
- "ActiveVideo Networks, Funai In Cloud Deal". TWICE. January 18, 2011.
- “Motorola Brings ITV to Older Set-Tops With ActiveVideo Software”. Multichannel News. February 26, 2013.
- “Sumitomo to distribute CloudTV H5 in Asia-Pacific Region”. Asahi Shimbun. June 7, 2013.
- “ActiveVideo unveils enhanced CloudTV, names new customers”. Digital TV Europe. June 6, 2013.
- “ActiveVideo Gets More Active With Charter, Cablevision and Japan”. Multichannel News. June 6, 2013.
- “Television as an App: Taming the Device Fragmentation Problem”. nScreenMedia. June 2013.
- "Business Case for CloudTV", ACG Research, June 2013
- "Cloud UI Technology Solves A New Problem: Interactive Advertising", Videonet. January 7, 2014
- "ActiiveVideo Enables OTT Streaming to All Set-Tops", ScreenPlays. May, 2014
- “ActiveVideo launches CloudTV H5”. Advanced-Television.com. May 22, 2012.
- “AV’s CloudTV platform to deliver TV as an app”. Broadband TV News. June 6, 2013.
- “ActiveVideo and BrightLine Bring InteractiveVideo Ads to Set-Top Boxes and Connected Devices”. VideoNuze. January 6, 2014
- "ActiveVideo Powers Cablevision Interactive Apps”. Broadcasting & Cable. May 10, 2010.
- "ActiveVideo Enhances Cablevision's Olympics Coverage”. CED Magazine. February 12, 2010.
- "Ziggo takes multiscreen into the cloud”. Broadband TV News. March 8, 2013.
- "Ziggo launches STB-less CI+ 1.3 interactivity”. Broadband TV News. November 5, 2013.
- "Ziggo Lights Up Set-Top-Free Option”. Multichannel News. November 5, 2013.
- "Multi-screen Driving Cloud UI Rendering”. Cable & Satellite International. January–February, 2014.
- “Charter Turns to ActiveVideo for UI in the Cloud”. CableFax. June 6, 2013.
- “ActiveVideo upgrades user unterfaces for CloudTV, signs up Charter & Cablevision”. RapidTV News. June 7, 2013
- “Charter Inches Toward Cloud UI Rollout”. Multichannel News. April 28, 2014
- “Glashart Media Moves to Cloud-Based TV with ActiveVideo”. Digital TV Europe. September 10, 2013
- “T-Labs unveils prototype of virtual STB technology”. Videonet. September 5, 2013
- “Deutsche Telekom Tests Set-Top Virtualization”. Light Reading. September 5, 2013
- “ActiveVideo Storms Europe”. Light Reading. September 12, 2013
- “Liberty Puerto Rico adds social TV metrics to programme guide”. RapidTV News. April 24, 2014
- “Cloud UI upgrade boosts linear content discovery”. Videonet. April 24, 2014
- “Liberty Puerto Rico Socializes the UI”. Multichannel News. April 25, 2014
- “ActiveVideo, BrightLine to Enhance Interactive Ad Campaigns on TV, Cross-Platform”. MediaPost. January 6, 2014
- “ActiveVideo, BrightLine Team on Interactive Advertising”. Broadcasting & Cable. January 6, 2014
- “ActiveVideo Unveils Ad Distribution System”. Light Reading. January 6, 2014
- “Cable Show: Cablevision ups interactive ad platform”. Broadcasting & Cable. April 30, 2014
- “ActiveVideo Enables OTT Streaming to All Set-Tops”. Screenplays. May, 2014
- “YouTube is coming to cable set-top boxes, with a little help from the cloud”. GigaOm. June 18, 2014
- “UPC Hungary delivering YouTube app hosted in the cloud”. CED Magazine. June 19, 2014
- “UPC Hungary Brings YouTube to the Set-Top”. Multichannel News. June 18, 2014