Cable Operators

Rovi Works Web Angle

12/19/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

In another attempt to marry TV and broadband delivery, Rovi is in the early planning stages of designing an interactive program guide for cable operators that would integrate video content from the Internet.

That would potentially give subscribers a way to access anything from YouTube clips to MySpace videos or any other Web content through the same guide they use to access linear cable TV and video-on-demand.

The company expects to have details on the new IP-enabled IPG next year, said Rovi executive vice president of product management and marketing Corey Ferengul.

Cable operators, he said, have been extremely interested in getting their hands on the capability. “The [cable] industry has shifted in the last year,” Ferengul said. “Their fear of over-the-top video is pulling us forward more quickly than we were planning just six months ago.”

Ferengul said the product would be a brand-new guide, separate from its current offerings for cable, which includes Passport and i-Guide, developed through a joint venture with Comcast.

“We're figuring out how to do it,” he said. “We're looking at how to re-factor our products.”

Rovi currently offers what it calls TotalGuide to consumer-electronics manufacturers. Previously code-named Liquid, the on-screen guide provides access to a user's personal media and Web content through an Internet-connected TV, Blu-ray DVD player or other device. It hasn't announced any CE customers for the product yet, but has lined up several content partners including Blockbuster, YouTube and CinemaNow.

To bring Internet-video options to cable, Rovi must consider broad architectural questions, such as whether video files are downloaded to a set-top box or gateway and stored on a disk or whether video is streamed from a source server, Ferengul said, adding, “We have to figure out as an industry how to make this shift to IP.”

The Federal Communications Commission this month issued a request for information on “video device innovation” as part of its national broadband plan, asking for public input on how set-top boxes could enable more viewing of Internet video and thereby drive broadband adoption.

To Ferengul, cable operators are far more motivated to incorporate Internet video into their services because of competition from telco TV and satellite providers, as well as over-the-top sources.

“The cable industry responds to competitive pressures,” Ferengul said. “We'll see cable change before any [FCC] rules are implemented.” Rovi changed its name from Macrovision Solutions, the company that acquired Gemstar-TV Guide International. Its Passport guide is deployed to about 3.9 million U.S. cable households, by operators that include Cox Communications and RCN.

Ferengul said that on the Passport front, Rovi will be providing more customization for MSOs than the company has in the past.

“The biggest mistake we made with Passport was not customizing the UI [user interface] on a customer-by-customer basis,” he said. “That's what our customers want.”

November