Starz Opens Up ITV Starz OCAPs

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Denver— Starz Encore Group demonstrated an end-to-end transmission of an OpenCable-enabled application here last week, throwing its support behind the next generation of interactive content being developed by MSOs and programmers.

Although the application was fairly simple — an extended menu of information on current and upcoming Starz features — the demonstration showcased how OpenCable Applications Platform-based applications can be embedded in current signals and sent across satellite transmission paths to legacy headends for display on OCAP-enabled set-tops.

“The successful transmission of an OCAP application from uplink to headend user is a major step forward in creating an environment in which interactive TV can become a reality,” said Cable Television Laboratories Inc. president and CEO Richard Green.

Last week, Starz originated a signal with a 500-Kilobit OCAP application that bounced off a satellite to CableLabs’ headend in nearby Louisville, Co.

CableLabs received the signal via a Motorola Inc. headend receiver for transmission to an Advanced Digital Broadcast OCAP-enabled set-top box. Starz also downloaded the signal to its headquarters, and displayed the application on the ADB I-CAN 3200 set-top.

The application consisted of a three sub-menus: “On Tonight,” “Saturday Premieres” and “Movie Extras.” Those three menus provide additional information above and beyond what an interactive program guide might typically offer, said Starz director of ITV technology Rebecca Lim.

Over time, Lim said, Starz could use the applications to help operators reduce churn and provide more program information.

It also features a Starz-branded background screen, affording the pay TV programmer more freedom to create content than what exists with today’s IPG providers.

ITV providers are working on a common icon that would appear on screen to indicate there is an interactive application or additional information about that program. Lim said Starz would likely use the information during interstitial segments.

Exactly which applications Starz might produce — and what operators might want — remains open to discussion, said Starz president Robert Clasen. The programmer has already initiated those talks.

“They all have their own ways of doing things,” he said. But the OCAP standard “creates the opportunity to publish” to a single software platform, said Clasen, reducing the time and expense to bring interactive applications to market.

Starz enlisted the support of several other players to make the OCAP demonstration work. Osmosys S.A., which has been active with Time Warner Cable and others in OCAP work, supplied the software in the box to run the application. UniSoft Corp. provided the headend server to schedule and integrate the one-way OCAP application.

Bill Luehrs, ADB’s corporate vice president and president of its Americas division, said the Starz application can run on either a Motorola or Scientific-Atlanta Inc. network. The data for the OCAP application is in-band, he said.

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