nCUBE Inserts Comcast's Miami Cluster


Comcast Corp.'s cable unit has chosen nCUBE Corp.'s digital-ad-insertion system for its consolidated Miami market.

Comcast Advertising Sales, whose Miami operation reaches about 1 million cable subscribers in Dade, Broward and Monroe counties, plans to sell avails across 40 analog and several digital channels per zone, the companies said.

Vice president John Boland, general manager of nCUBE's advertising-systems division, said that its equipment is "starting to go in now, with five headends already up" out of 16. In addition, he said the vendor has given the Miami operation "DPI [digital program insertion] capability right out of the gate" on some unspecified digital networks in some of the 16 zones.

Comcast Ad Sales Miami vice president and general manager Theresa Fletcher said the nCUBE deal will enable the operator to "expand our digital ad-insertion options to more channels, which will provide our advertisers a greater opportunity to reach their targeted audiences."

"nCUBE's ability to offer operators a range of advertising capabilities — whether it's digital-to-analog or digital-to-digital from one low-cost platform, without the delay and expense of forklift upgrades — simplifies and speeds to market the transition to a digital world," she added.

"The hallmark of this deal is analog now but they saw themselves moving to a digital plan" in the near future, Boland explained. "Comcast wanted a platform to do that fluidly. That was a real trigger for them."

Six weeks into the changeover in Miami, Fletcher described the transition as "seamless," noting that nCUBE's system offered Comcast "opportunities to accomplish multiple strategies."

Although nCUBE is replacing SeaChange International Inc., she emphasized that the choice was "no dishonor" to the vendor, whose system averaged a 99.5% run rate for commercials. "There's no negativity involved."

SeaChange vice president and general manager of advertising systems technology James Kelso said he wasn't told why nCUBE got the Miami contract. "We've got a robust platform," he said.

Kelso, who estimated that SeaChange holds 80% of the overall ad-insertion market, said there are other markets where operators and interconnects are contacting vendors about expansion of their existing insertion systems. He remained bullish on his company's outlook for sales of digital-into-digital and video-on-demand ad insertion.

Last year, he noted, SeaChange won the Comcast VOD contract in the Philadelphia DMA away from Concurrent.

Boland, who said that initial discussions on this deal began in 2002, felt that Comcast executives became "more knowledgeable about and comfortable with" nCUBE equipment by getting testimonials from inside the MSO, following its acquisition of AT&T Broadband systems and interconnects. nCUBE had operations in San Francisco, Denver, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles, prior to Comcast's purchase of AT&T last November.

Other ad-insertion talks are underway at other Comcast-owned systems and interconnects, said Boland.

Systems owned by Adelphia Communications Corp., Charter Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable are among nCUBE's other MSO customers for both analog insertion and DPI.