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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. ActiveVideo, a Silicon Valley software company, uses Cloud computing 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.
CloudTV is available on more than 15 million devices. Customers 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 set-top box 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 STB 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 2013, Ziggo became the first operator in the world to provide interactive services such as VOD without built-in hardware, and the first to deliver VOD services to televisions equipped with CI Plus 1.3 conditional access modules, and without the need of a set-top box. Broadband TV News quoted Pieter 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.” 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.
Charter Communications, which in June 2013 had become the first pay-TV provider to commit to deploying a full user interface streamed entirely from the cloud, unveiled its cloud-based Spectrum Guide at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2015. Videonet noted that because "all set-top boxes on the Charter network" would be able to display the new UI, Charter would be able to avoid choosing between replacing existing devices or limiting the new UI to a "subset of its customer base." Charter CEO Tom Rutledge explained that "the processing power of the box is no longer a relevant issue; the processing power moves to the network. That's a breakthrough. We can take any kind of device and turn it into a sophisticated device."
Other companies that have announced that they have deployed, or intend to deploy, cloud-based UIs include: Glashart Media, a part of Dutch telecommunications provider KPN, that noted that CloudTV has 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, which has demonstrated how CloudTV allows it to achieve its goal of “virtualizing the set-top box and moving the execution of applications to the cloud.”; and Liberty Global, which has said that it intends to use CloudTV to bring its Horizon multi-screen service to existing set-tops and other video devices.
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.
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 three months of availability, more than a million minutes per day of YouTube content were being streamed to UPC Hungary STBs, with average engagement of 45 minutes per session. After nine months, 68% of subscribers had tried the service and 83% had returned for additional views. Multichannel News reported that Liberty Global could use the same CloudTV StreamCast technology to bring YouTube to its entire footprint of existing set-top boxes.
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