SeaChange International Inc. landed two more promised
strategic links last week, one with Pioneer Digital Technologies and the other with Rogers
SeaChange has said it will end the year with two major MSOs
signed on for tests of its video-on-demand solution, and that most agreements with set-top
suppliers will be in place.
Nevertheless, don't look for 1999 to be "the year
of VOD," said Yvette Gordon, director of interactive technologies for SeaChange.
Gordon, no fan of hype, said she anticipates technical issues to dominate most of 1999.
Instead, 2000 will be a major VOD deployment year, she predicted.
Next year may also herald strategic links between SeaChange
and traditional premium programmers, such as Home Box Office and others, who are quietly
planning their entry into the pay-per-view segment via VOD techniques, Gordon hinted. She
declined to elaborate, except to say that partnerships between satellite-based and
server-based entities "make logical sense."
Time Warner Cable, as the MSO most publicly bullish about
VOD, was the first to sign up with SeaChange for VOD field tests. On the set-top side,
both General Instrument Corp. and Scientific-Atlanta Inc. are working with SeaChange to
assemble an integrated VOD solution.
Now, Rogers will put the SeaChange ITV (interactive
television) system through tests in an undisclosed area. Executives with the MSO did not
return calls to discuss the SeaChange arrangement, but the MSO's set-top decisions
fall into the GI camp.
Rogers is also the first North American MSO to deploy
GI's DCT-2000 digital set-tops, which are distinguished by their use of 256 QAM
(quadrature amplitude modulation). Known as "higher order modulation," 256 QAM
affords about 33 percent more bandwidth for digital traffic.
Pioneer executives said they want to ready a VOD solution
partly because of Time Warner's enthusiasm about the category.
"VOD is definitely the digital 'killer app,'
and demonstrates the potential and power of the Pegasus/OpenCable digital system,"
said Neil Jones, senior vice president of operations and business development for Pioneer
The VOD addition will link to Pioneer's
"Voyager"-brand digital set-top and "Passport" navigator, Jones said.
SeaChange plans to debut its complete ITV system at the
Western Show next month. The system consists of SeaChange's "MediaCluster"
video server system, linked to the "Command Center," a master control center
software suite that automates interactive applications.