Comcast’s thePlatform Shoots for Video Unification

‘Unified Ingest Service’ Targets Set-Tops, Other Devices
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thePlatform, the Comcast-owned online video publishing firm, aims to simplify the world of multiscreen VOD with a service that unifies the management of how video and its associated metadata is ingested and managed for a wide range of device types. 

Looking to breakdown silos that have traditionally hindered such efforts, thePlatform claims that its new cloud-based Unified Ingest Service can handle the job across devices – from older set-tops that use QAM/MPEG-2 transport to newer IP-capable tablets, smartphones, gaming consoles and streaming players.

Typically, a pay TV operator’s ingest systems manage linear, VOD and online video and the associated metadata via distinct systems. VOD content, for example, usually has its own metadata package with its own descriptions and box art, as does OTT.

The goal now, said thePlatform co-CEO Marty Roberts, is to stitch all of that together under one standard specification, noting that companies such as Netflix and Amazon already standardize around one high quality mezzanine video file that can be used to deliver to a variety of devices, bit rates and resolutions.

“The [pay TV] operators are coming around to that same idea,” he said, noting that “job number one” is to clean up that ingest process with the video files themselves.

This process also involves a similar alignment of metadata  from sources such as Rovi, Gracenote and Red Bee, among others. Additionally, thePlatform's new service can be made to default to metadata used for OTT video, which is usually optimized for online discovery. thePlatform, Roberts explained, can then set up rules to rationalize the metadata for one centralized “store” that can talk to legacy set-tops as well as new IP-connected devices.

He said thePlatform co-developed this Unified Ingest Service with an unnamed customer and is in the process of deploying it with multiple clients. In addition to Comcast, some of the vendor’s known partners include Liberty Global, Cox Communications, Rogers Communications, Time Warner Cable and Cablevision Systems.

It will compete with content management systems from suppliers such as Ericsson, Cisco Systems and, to a degree, SeaChange International.

Roberts said the new ingest offering, sold under a software-as-a-service model, is primarily targeted to pay TV operators as they face off with how to scale up and simplify their workflow as they supply live programming to a greater number of device types and as VOD libraries continue to expand  -- some contain about 250,000 choices, but could have about 1 million titles moving in and out of window at any given time.

thePlatform is pitching the new offering as part of its flagship publishing platform, mpx, or as a standalone service.

“Right now, the act of collecting video and metadata is a real mess,” Roberts said in a statement. “We’ve invested in our Unified Ingest System to help operators tackle this issue and create a new foundation for innovation. In fact, we already provide this kind of functionality to support more than 20 million pay TV subscribers across STBs and other devices. So, we decided to productize it, and make it generally available to the broader cable, telco, and satellite TV provider community, starting today.”  

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