'Starting Over' With Broadbus

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At least in San Antonio, Time Warner Cable decided to do a do-over with its “Start Over” video-on-demand platform.

Last week, the operator extended to San Antonio its Start Over service, a network digital video recorder offering that allows subscribers to “rewind” live programs already in progress. The Start Over service there runs on Motorola's B-1 Server (formerly from Broadbus Technologies, which Motorola acquired this summer). The Broadbus system now provides all VOD functions for the market, replacing incumbent vendor SeaChange International.

“Time Warner Cable is looking to scale the amount of streams and ingest with Start Over,” said Tom Kennedy, director of product management Motorola's Connected Home Solutions division. “These requirements were not previously laden on the VOD world.”

Justin Venech, a public relations manager at Time Warner Cable, said the change to the Broadbus VOD platform in San Antonio happened “a few months ago” and was based on a number of factors, including each VOD platform's performance and cost, not specifically in relation to the launch of Start Over. “Our divisions are constantly evaluating VOD platforms,” he said.

Venech added that Time Warner is still working with SeaChange in other markets, along with other VOD vendors, including Concurrent Computer, C-COR and Arroyo Networks (recently acquired by Cisco Systems).

Yvette Gordon-Kanouff, SeaChange's senior vice president of strategic planning, said Time Warner “changed their strategy to say, 'It's purely on the hardware — we care only about the bits per rack.' ” She said that SeaChange “did not focus on [our hardware platform] for several years, and I will say that was a mistake on our part.”

But SeaChange continues to provide VOD for 10 Time Warner Cable markets, she added. And she insisted that SeaChange's platform is able to scale as well as any competing platform.

The Motorola B-1 server is able to handle 1,300 ingest channels and stream up to 18,000 concurrent video streams, Kennedy said. According to SeaChange's product literature, its MediaCluster VOD platform can ingest “over 200 channels, while streaming thousands.”

However, Gordon-Kanouff said the 200-channel ingest spec is for SeaChange's disk-based system, not its newer one that primarily uses memory for input/output functions. “On a hardware-performance basis, we're all pretty much the same,” she said.

Time Warner is launching Start Over in San Antonio just as AT&T broadens the rollout of U-verse TV service, which currently has 3,000 subscribers.

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