Will cable operators push their own video-on-demand services "over the top"?
Clearleap, a startup selling a Web-based VOD platform, is teaming up with Internet-connected set-top maker Roku to provide pay-TV operators with a solution that could deliver managed video services over broadband connections.
Clearleap CEO Braxton Jarratt said the combined solution can be used by an MSO in two ways: through a branded VOD channel via the Roku Channel Store, which a customer could access from any Roku box over any service provider's network; or by supplying Roku boxes to subscribers for access on second or third TV sets to VOD content.
"The Roku box is much less expensive than a traditional cable box," Jarratt said.
Roku's set-top, which starts at $80 retail, provides access to Netflix's instant-streaming service, Amazon Video On Demand, MLB.TV, Ultimate Fighting Championship and other content.
For Clearleap, the Roku partnership is the first of many planned partnerships with Internet-based devices such as game consoles, connected TVs and Blu-ray players. "For us it's the beginning of the extension of our platform to any IP-connected set-top or device," Jarratt said. For operators, "you're able to leverage the Web and your IP network rather than your QAM-based networks."
Clearleap's Universal Video Platform provides content management and service delivery and is geared at getting Web-based content to traditional VOD services. With the Roku partnership, Clearleap is taking content back to the TV over IP networks. Jarratt said Clearleap's platform will enable paid VOD transactions to post directly through viewer's pay-TV subscription information, as the platform can be integrated with operators' billing systems and service-management platforms.
Such "over-the-top" Internet video concepts are gathering steam: Earlier this week, Comcast's ThePlatform online-video management subsidiary announced a strategy to let content owners deliver content to broadband-connected TVs, set-tops and other devices.
Jarratt said the Clearleap-Roku managed IP VOD solution will be in multiple field trials starting in the third quarter, and the companies expect to launch a limited commercial deployment with a pay-TV operator by the end of 2010.
Clearleap's VOD system has been deployed by six of the top 10 pay-TV services, including Comcast's Houston division, Mediacom Communications and Bresnan Communications (in the process of being acquired by Cablevision Systems).
"Clearleap's platform opens a clear and easy pathway for premium programmers and TV operators to diversify the distribution of their content through the Roku player and will dramatically strengthen our value as an engaging living-room entertainment device," David Krall, Roku's president and chief operating officer, said in a statement. "This also makes a strong case for MSOs to consider using Roku players in the home with Clearleap as a complete managed VOD service."