Avail-TVN is offering smaller cable operators an on-ramp to the future with a fully managed MPEG-4 service -- which it's positioning as a more efficient alternative to Comcast Media Center's HITS service -- although taking advantage of the newer video format will require deploying brand-new set-tops.
The company's Linear Complete service delivers more than 300 standard- and high-definition linear channels plus more than 10,000 hours of VOD content from its super headend facility in Burbank, Calif.
MPEG-4 uses roughly half as much bandwidth as the current standard in the cable industry, MPEG-2, allowing an operator to deliver more programming in the same amount of spectrum. But most cable set-tops in the field today are compatible only with MPEG-2.
Avail-TVN said it has partnerships with vendors including Motorola, Evolution Digital, BBT and Conax to offer a variety of options for delivering MPEG-4 programming to subscribers. The Linear Complete service includes reception, transcoding, encryption, content delivery over satellite/fiber, hosted conditional access and management of set-top boxes.
In concept, the service is similar to an MPEG-4 solution R.L. Drake tried to take to market two years ago, in partnership with what was then Avail Media (prior to its acquisition of TVN Entertainment). That solution, which never gained much traction, required Drake-developed headend and set-top boxes with the conditional-access system developed by BBT. It offered a lineup of 25 HD and 270 SD channels.
Avail-TVN's new service, by contrast, is not tied to specific hardware or a conditional-access platform. Linear Complete already has been selected by Zito Media, a small operator based in Coudersport, Pa.
"Upgrading to MPEG-4 with Linear Complete offers smaller cable operators an efficient way to maximize existing bandwidth and implement the high-value services they need to grow RGUs and ARPU in the face of stiffer competition," Avail-TVN chief operating officer Jon Romm said in a statement. "Forward-thinking MSOs like Zito Media are turning to hosted solutions and MPEG-4 technology to get to market quickly and economically with the advanced services their subscribers demand."
Avail-TVN is showing Linear Complete at the American Cable Association's Independent Show this week in San Francisco.