Q&A With Broadcast International's Steve Jones

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In June, Broadcast
International hired a new vice president and general manager to run its
CodecSys division, Steve Jones. In this interview, Jones talks with HD Update's George Winslow about some of
his plans for the division and their software-based approach to helping multichannel
operators and broadcasters manage the bandwidth requirements of HD content more
efficiently. An edited transcript follows.

MCN: Since taking over the management of the
CodecSys division, what have been some of your key strategies for expanding its
presence?

Steve Jones: The
distribution of high-definition content is now becoming such a mainstay of any
network, whether you are talking about triple-play providers or content over Internet.

I can't think of a better market space to be in at this
point, and to capitalize on that we created a CodecSys division, which is really
built on two or three product initiatives.

The core product is our video operating system, which is
truly a platform for managing video or multimedia content or assets from their inception.
We are going to reach back into the output whether its from live HD cameras or
files that are stored and then pushed through a system, and start to treat the
pre-processing of that content in a different way. So what we are doing goes
beyond encoding. It creates a framework that allows all of those services to
run.

We think our software-driven approach to these issues gives
us flexibility and really future-proofs our customers. Our whole goal is to show
that a software-only platform can really bring some exciting value to HD world.

You will see us targeting the triple-play guys as customers.
I think IPTV holds promise internationally [particularly] in Europe
and South America. Probably it won't be as big in [the United
States], with the cable dominance here, but
we do see things moving in that direction and want to be a player in that
regard.

MCN: Your CE-1000 video encoder product is targeted to the IP world?

SJ: CE-1000 is really
our flagship platform and the initial markets for us with that are the IPTV
delivery partners. We will have some strategic alliances that we will announce
in the next 90 days around the IPTV platform guys. We also have some proof-of-concepts
going on with flagship telecom providers who are looking to round out their
triple play. As we get further along with those trials, we will announce who
they are, but I can say they are in tier-one and tier-two marketplaces.

MCN: Some of those telcos are very bandwidth
constrained but you've announced that your CE-1000 video encoder can create
high-quality HD content with bitrates as low as 3 Mbps. How do you get those
bit rates down?

SJ: Everyone has
their secret sauce. The CE 1000 has our video operating system that can manage
and process HD content extremely efficiently.

One of the modules that sits inside our operating system is
our multi-codec functionality. The multi-codec functionality is really where we
optimize and are able to bring down those bit rates. As opposed to compressing
a file based on the overall or the average flow of a file, we break it down
almost on a scene-by-scene basis and based on the action sequence of the scene,
we move those bits through a different codec. That means a particular segment
can be optimized for white noise, or slow motion or fast motion or light or
darkness. Because all of those characteristics can be handled better by certain
codecs, we break it down so we can employ the best codec for the needs of a
particular clip. That is what really gives us a competitive edge.

MCN: You noted this handles live content very
well but I assume you are not achieving bit rates of 3 Megabits per second for
live sports?

SJ: Live sports
is the holy grail for everyone. We can handle HD very efficiently but we are
not at 3 Mbps for live athletic events.

We just ran a couple of tests for an Asian customer who I
can't name but who owns the rights for a live broadcasts of a certain soccer
professional team in the Northeast region of Asia around Korea. There we've
been able to get bit rates of about 6 Mpbs for a live HD soccer match. That is
over broadband and the last mile is also a question mark, but I would say the quality
is 90% of what your full experience would be. So we feel pretty good about what
we can do.

MCN: How do you see the cable market for your
products?

SJ: We are ready
to play there and we've had some preliminary conversations. As you know, there
are some incumbents that are very entrenched. But those hardware-based encoders
have a three-year shelf life and as they start to roll off, I think we will be
right in the thick of the conversation.

One reason is our open software platform. The modularity of
that platform lets them go beyond their traditional publishing role and
leverage that same investment for a number of other things -- for VOD,
for personalization, for mobile, etc. Even with some of networking innovations
in the cable world that have been rumored --leveraging WiMAX in the last mile,
for example -- we will be able to repurpose content and manage it throughout
the entire equation. I don't think you will see the hardware encoding guys be
able to do that. As that becomes more formally defined, I think we will be
right in the thick of it.

MCN: You have cut an alliance with IBM. Are you looking for other alliances to
help you break into some of these markets?

SJ: Absolutely.
We snuck out an announcement a while ago with HP and you will probably see
something with Intel and a couple of other fairly large software companies.

Whether you are talking about delivering content with
Internet-protocol TV or VOD, there are some big players in those spaces. We know
where the boundaries are and we would much rather be in their ecosystems than
to build our own.

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