N2 Broadens Cable Deployments

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Equipment vendors continue to pick up traction as increasing numbers of cable operators launch video-on-demand.

N2Broadband Inc., whose products "pitch" and "catch" VOD content and handle asset-management chores, has deployed 168 MediaPath catchers in 66 MSO headends, with such MSOs as Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., AT&T Broadband, Blue Ridge Cable and Knology Broadband Inc.

"We're fairly deep and wide," said N2 vice president of marketing Greg Swayne.

The catchers are primarily linked to In Demand content. In Demand, Home Box Office, Showtime, Starz Encore Group LLC and CVC, a subsidiary of Warner Bros. studio, have bought VOD "pitchers" from N2 to upload VOD content to cable systems across the country.

Time Warner Cable has deployed 124 N2 catchers in 43 headends, making up the bulk of N2's deployments, said Swayne. Time Warner has launched HBO On Demand in 17 markets, and plans to launch VOD in most of its 40 divisions by year-end.

"Most of the catchers are out there," Swayne said of the TWC deployments.

There's no official word if TWC is using N2's asset-management system. But Swayne said the two products — catcher's gear and asset-management systems — "are essentially going out together. They enhance each other."

Swayne said MediaPath is receiving 700 hours a month in content, 350 hours from CVC and 350 hours from In Demand.

CONTENT AVENUES

Comcast has deployed 22 N2 catchers in 14 headends. Swayne said he couldn't identify the markets, but they are in locations where Comcast uses In Demand as a VOD content provider. In fact, most Comcast VOD deployments receive content from In Demand and TVN, which means TVN docking stations and N2 Broadband catcher's equipment sit side by side in most Comcast headends.

Some cable MSOs believe it's important to offer programmers several different avenues for delivering on-demand product to the headend.

Swayne said N2 is operating in two AT&T Broadband sites, taking over for Diva Systems Corp. Diva had operated VOD systems in AT&T's Los Angeles and Atlanta markets.

Cox also is using N2 in San Diego, another instance in which In Demand supplies VOD content. In total, Cox has 10 catchers in four headends. Cox is an In Demand affiliate and would likely use N2 gear for In Demand VOD content.

"We feel confident that we're in a good position with Cox as well as other operators," Swayne said — even Insight Communications Co. and Charter Communications Inc., both of which use TVN Entertainment Corp. to handle satellite delivery of VOD content, as well as acquisition of on-demand programming.

"It's a long game," Swayne said. "A lot of dynamics are driving decisions in all those companies. Ultimately, the market is going to determine how it will go going forward."

Swayne sees a day when programmers may deliver VOD content directly to MSO headends, without going through third-party middlemen. HBO, Starz and Showtime have already signed deals with N2.

Those premium networks are moving a lot of content to on-demand platforms each month, one reason HBO jumped to buy pitcher's gear from N2 Broadband. Swayne said N2 also receive recurrent revenue from HBO for maintenance services.

N2 is partially backed by funding from AOL Time Warner Inc., and some of its executives are veterans of Scientific-Atlanta Inc.

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