ICTV Plans Set-Top Video Streaming

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ICTV Inc. and StreamSearch have teamed to bring cable operators video-streamed Internet content via 2000 series digital set-tops.

Under terms of the alliance announced last week, StreamSearch will create a TV portal version of its Web audio and video search service that will be showcased on ICTV's interactive-television application.

"This is a strategic alliance which perfectly bridges the convergence divide," StreamSearch founder and CEO Rob Shambro said.

ICTV, which will demonstrate the application at the Western Show, plans to test the service with several MSOs later this year and in 2001, according to ICTV senior vice president of marketing and business development Michael Collette.

Exactly where the StreamSearch function will show up on the TV screen will be up to the cable operator, Collette said.

"Placement of the StreamSearch icon becomes a design issue. You might have a 'broadband channel' on your home page," he said, where buttons for e-mail, video-on-demand and other applications reside.

A StreamSearch button, which allows consumers to access the Web for audio and video content, could appear on that page, he said.

At a minimum, ICTV will carry a StreamSearch button on its opening screen, which would give consumers direct access to the TV portal that StreamSearch will build on its Web site. Consumers could then access more than 2 million audio and video clips in StreamSearch's database, through ICTV.

An operator also could launch StreamSearch from a button on an electronic program guide, Collette said.

The key for ICTV is that operators could provide subscribers with Internet video streaming content through currently deployed 2000 series set-tops from Motorola Broadband Communications Sector or Scientific-Atlanta Inc. It's also a TV enhancement that direct-broadcast satellite can't provide, Collette added.

ICTV's technology rests at the cable operator's headend. The company delivers content through a single 6-megahertz channel on the cable system.

ICTV has backbone connections from the headend to the Internet. That transmission system-part high-speed backbone, part dedicated channel-insures subscribers see streamed video at reasonable speeds, the companies said.

Collette isn't concerned that video streaming to current set-tops might be a stretch for consumers who are just getting used to video-on-demand.

"I think the huge majority of consumers have seen video streaming," he said.

StreamSearch now specializes in movie trailers; independent films; short-form animated product; news and sports; and audio and video music clips. Much of its traffic comes from portal sites, such as Go.com and About.com, which market StreamSearch content on their home pages.

The average session lasts just under seven minutes, Shambro said.

StreamSearch generates revenue by hosting, encoding and streaming content. It also shares advertising and e-commerce revenue with content providers.

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