Will a Vendor Get a License to Drive X1?

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Before Comcast got tied up with its Time Warner Cable mega-merger, the MSO was eager to discuss its plans to license X1, its cloud-based video platform, to other cable operators.

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts first told Multichannel News last fall that the operator was looking into such a strategy. Then cable unit president and CEO Neil Smit mentioned on the company’s firstquarter earnings call in January that Comcast and Cox Communications were in X1 licensing talks.

At the time, it seemed that Comcast was making some progress, even as it was still getting X1 deployed on its own systems. Then February happened, and Comcast and Time Warner Cable announced their merger.

Since then, Comcast has said next to nothing about X1 licensing. Part of that could be by design, as industry sources indicated in the spring that those plans were being put on the back burner while the deal gets vetted (“TWC Might Deal Might Alter Comcast X1 Licensing,” April 14, 2014).

But there’s been some industry chatter of late indicating that Comcast still wants to license X1, and might try a new way to get that done. Instead of assuming the licensor role entirely on its own, it is exploring the idea of assigning the task of licensing and integration to an outside vendor, according to two sources.

Nothing appears to be imminent (Comcast declined to offer any fresh comment on plans involving X1 licensing), but that sort of model would still keep Comcast connected, though further in the background, and hand the task off to a vendor with experience in tailoring products to the needs of specific pay TV operators.

Which leads The Wire to wonder who might be best positioned to take on that task. Arris is always a consideration, given its strong ties to Comcast. Ericsson is a master integrator, but its loyalties lie with Mediaroom, the Internet-protocol video platform it acquired from Microsoft, so it’s not considered a serious candidate.

Cisco Systems? One source considers it best suited for this sort of project. Its cloud-focused, multiscreen Videoscape platform is not setting the world on fire, it has the needed integration chops, thanks to its $3 billion purchase of NDS in 2012, and an X1 licensing relationship would ensure that it maintains a close relationship with Comcast as one of its historically biggest customers, TWC, gets folded in.

Amazing Kreskin Sees Houdini Reappearances Tied to Fear of War

Harry Houdini is back in the headlines. The escape artist’s crusade against fake spiritualists inspired Woody Allen’s new movie, Magic in the Moonlight, and History has an upcoming two-night miniseries about his life, Houdini (Sept. 1-2), starring Adrien Brody.

Famed mentalist The Amazing Kreskin told The Wire he also knows of two motion pictures about Houdini that are in the works.

Part of Houdini’s appeal stems from curiosity about communicating with the dead, expressed not just in shows like Long Island Medium but also in multiple TV programs about haunted homes, Kreskin said by phone from his New Jersey home.

Interest in spiritualism spiked before and during the Civil War, World War I and World War II, Kreskin said. “Probably a lot of it has to do with the unsettlement and the future that man has to contend with, war being a waste and many people dying suddenly.”

“We’re at war today,” he said. “We’re in a major war. It’s just a war we never understood before.”

At age 79, Kreskin is still a very active performer. He has 39 live shows coming up in Toronto this month, and said that in September he’s planning a crowd-funding campaign for a Broadway show.

Kreskin — whose The Amazing World of Kreskin TV show in the 1970s led to dozens of appearances on The Tonight Show — thinks Houdini would have a tough time of it in today’s on-demand entertainment world. “There was danger to what he did,” Kreskin noted. He would have to do Wallenda-like stunts live on TV, and “those are rare” and costly.

Kreskin said he’s never been convinced anyone has ever communicated with the dead. “But you can’t really prove it,” he said, and the belief seems to fill a need for some people.

Unlike Houdini, Kreskin is no debunker.

— Kent Gibbons

Secrets and Lies Played for Fun in Sundance Promos

SundanceTV is encouraging viewers to become digital sleuths — and test their own honorability — as part of its marketing for drama series The Honorable Woman.

The AMC Networks outlet created several digital campaigns surrounding the theme of personal secrets and how far people would go to keep them. The Thursday-night espionage thriller stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as the head of an Israeli-based arms manufacturing company whose past secrets threaten to undermine her and potential peace in the Middle East.

The network teamed with with website Gawker to create a sponsored post, titled “How Far Have You Gone to Keep a Secret?” The post begins as a story about a woman who finds out her nowex- boyfriend lied about his age and morphs into a plug for The Honorable Woman. Readers are asked to comment anonymously on their own dirty little secrets. At press time, it had generated 451 comments by posters who said they lied about their age or other aspects of their real or online personas (“I catfished a guy for like three years…”).

SundanceTV also partnered with technology company Layar on an app that allows viewers to hold their smart phones or tablets over images on the network’s Sundance.tv website to trigger clues to upcoming episodes of the eight-episode miniseries.

On Sundance.tv, documents featured on the show pop up for viewers to glance at, but read quickly: As each confidential folder is opened, the documents are instantly shredded before the reader’s eyes.

Personality quizzes that test the honorability of contestants also are in the marketing mix, on both Sundance. tv’s show page and via Facebook, through a collaboration with quiz-based website BrainFall.com. (The Wire scored a solid 46% honorable rating.)

SundanceTV senior vice president of marketing Monica Bloom said the idea was to build some intrigue and fun centered on secrets and lies, the source of so much pain in the taut limited series.

“We wanted to translate these themes into a marketing campaign that would rouse and delight our audience while driving engagement and conversation around this compelling series,” she said.

— R. Thomas Umstead

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