J:COM deploys ActiveVideo cloud after two years of tweaks

Arris and Charter’s joint cloud-based technology arm, ActiveVideo, says it has landed a deal at Japanese operator J:COM (Jupiter Telecommunications), to virtualize VoD functions in its set top environment for pay TV subscribers – claiming this is the first deployment of the technology in Japan.

Yet we noticed that J:COM has been on ActiveVideo’s customer list since before its takeover by Arris and Charter two years ago, so there were immediate doubts that this week’s press release was actually proclaiming anything new. Arris confirmed this with Faultline Online Reporter, saying that there was already a deal in place for ActiveVideo at J:COM, but this week’s announcement is for deployment at scale. we understand the deployment is for 2 million homes.

It is unclear for now why it has taken over two years to get this deployment rolled out at scale, but given that the ActiveVideo CloudTV GuideCast technology has to go into every single MPEG frame and overwrite where the UI is, requiring a large amount of cloud processing power, this possibly caused some problems when trying to scale the technology to multiple millions of subscribers.

Arris could not reveal to Faultline Online Reporter how many of J:COM’s 3.7 million cable TV subscribers in Japan will be receiving the ActiveVideo-powered virtualized functions in their set tops, suggesting that it won’t be across the board, and isn’t quite ready for a full deployment in the millions.

Arris highlighted to us that ActiveVideo recently announced a deployment at Chilean cable operator VTR, a Liberty Global subsidiary, claiming to deliver virtualized set top functions to more than a million subscribers – so this gives us a ball park figure for how many set tops the cloud processing is currently capable of handling. VTR also reported a 138% year-on-year increase in views on its VoD service, plus an 11% customer increase.

ActiveVideo’s CloudTV GuideCast technology works by giving an MSO the ability to instantaneously deploy a state-of-the-art UI everywhere, without the burdensome and costly process of rolling out brand new set tops to every pay TV subscriber.

It renders a UI in the cloud using MPEG stitching, which involves deconstructing a video stream and identifying where any overlay for the UI is, such as graphics or text, and sewing this into the video stream itself.

As well as hardware cost savings, operators using ActiveVideo can easily roll out software updates from the cloud, to any cable QAM or IP set top – providing it is supported by a downloadable or pre-installed client with a CloudTV Nano module.

The beauty of this is not just about breathing new life into legacy hardware, but also about providing brand new experiences to consumers from the cloud – a field which the pay TV industry has lagged behind, while cloud video gaming has lead the way.

Arris is a company trying to change this – tidying up its product lines to focus on new cloud services.

Humax, Pioneer Electronics and Osaka-based Pixela provide set top hardware to J:COM, and Inside Secure provides its downloadable DRM Fusion Agent software for Android-based set tops.

In October last year, Arris booted Cisco out of the contract for developing the new WorldBox 2.0 for US cableco Charter Communications, its second generation hybrid IP/QAM video platform, based on ActiveVideo’s cloud-based technology. Shipment figures for the WorldBox 2.0 have not been made public, so unfortunately there is no way of grasping how many set tops the ActiveVideo technology is scaling to in the US either.

Masaaki Agaya, GM, Service Planning Division for J:COM, said, “the user interface is the customer’s point of entry to our on-demand library. The power of the cloud has enabled us to offer our subscribers a next-generation UX that overnight is opening the door to engaging new viewing experiences on the same familiar set tops.”

ActiveVideo President and CEO, Jeff Miller, added, “as pay TV operators deploy new services, the time-to-market required to ensure universal availability across the entire footprint can be daunting. J:COM’s success is further proof of how set top virtualization allows operators to rapidly transform user experiences for every subscriber by enabling delivery of faster, larger and more intuitive user experiences.”