Rovi Plans Broadband-Enabled IPG For Cable

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Rovi is in the early planning stages of designing an interactive program guide for cable operators that would integrate video content from the Internet, giving subscribers a way to potentially access YouTube clips, MySpace videos or any other Web content through the same guide they use to access linear cable TV and video-on-demand.

The company expects to have details on the new IP-enabled IPG next year, said Corey Ferengul, Rovi's executive vice president of product management and marketing.

Cable customers, he said, have been extremely interested in getting their hands on the capability. "The [cable] industry has shifted in the last year," Ferengul said. "Their fear of over-the-top video is pulling us forward more quickly than we were planning just six months ago."

Rovi's Corey Ferengul

Ferengul said the product would be a brand-new guide separate from its current offerings for cable, which include Passport and i-Guide, developed through a joint venture with Comcast.

"We're figuring out how to do it," he said. "We're looking at how to refactor our products."

Rovi currently offers what it calls TotalGuide to consumer-electronics manufacturers. Previously code-named Liquid, the on-screen guide provides access to a user's personal media and Web content using, for example, an Internet-connected TV. It hasn't announced any CE customers for the product yet, but has lined up several content partners including Blockbuster, YouTube and CinemaNow.

To bring Internet video options to cable, Rovi is having to consider broad architectural questions, such as whether video files are downloaded to a set-top box or gateway and stored on a disk or whether it's streamed from a source server, Ferengul said, adding, "We have to figure out as an industry how to make this shift to IP."

The Federal Communications Commission last week issued a request for information on "video device innovation" as part of its national broadband plan, asking for public input on how set-top boxes could enable more viewing of Internet video and thereby drive broadband adoption.

"Given the flood of video content that is now available from a multitude of sources, what obstacles stand in the way of allowing consumers to navigate those sources?" the FCC asked in its notice. "What can the Commission do to eliminate those obstacles?"

To Ferengul, cable operators are far more motivated to incorporate Internet video into their services because of competition from telco TV and satellite providers, as well as over-the-top sources.

"The cable industry responds to competitive pressures," Ferengul said. "We'll see cable change before any [FCC] rules are implemented."

Rovi changed its name from Macrovision Solutions, the company that acquired Gemstar-TV Guide International. Its Passport guide is deployed to about 3.9 million U.S. cable households, by operators, including Cox Communications and RCN.

Ferengul said that on the Passport front, Rovi will be providing more customization for MSOs than the company has in the past.

"The biggest mistake we made with Passport was not customizing the UI [user interface] on a customer-by-customer basis," he said. "That's what our customers want."

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