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17 January 2019

New angle for Edgeware with Cavena subtitling buy

CDN technology vendor Edgeware made an uncharacteristic move at the tail end of last week, when the Swedish firm opened up its check book and snapped up subtitling specialist Cavena Image Products for $0.9 million. While plenty of medium-sized OTT technology supplier outfits like Edgeware have been feeling the effects of industry commoditization, leading to job cuts, write downs, and private equity buy outs, Edgeware has sought to diversify its business. But what does a cache server expert want with a subtitling company?

Well, apparently Cavena, also from Sweden, drastically improves QoE for OTT video services with its optical character recognition technology (OCR), which converts subtitles from image formats to text formats. As we said, diversity seems to be the name of the game here from Edgeware’s point of view, citing a long-term strategy to offer OTT service providers and broadcasters a broader product portfolio and benefiting from operational synergies.

Through the integration of Cavena’s subtitling technology, Edgeware says customers can build a higher-value origin system for automating the subtitling process, saving time and money in the process, while enabling personalized advertising and supporting any device. This could prove an important feature for Edgeware customers eyeing international expansion. Some of its biggest include tier 1s PCCW, Com Hem, Telia and KPN.

OCR systems have been around for several decades, with a history dating back over a century to the days of telegraphs. It was in 1974 when Ray Kurzweil developed the first omni-font OCR capable of recognizing text in virtually any font, and today the technique is readily used in smartphones and in AI-driven ventures. The proliferation of intelligent subtitling software has prompted the growth of another company relatively new on our radar, Speechmatics, although its machine learning-based subtitling product Subito Live is targeted more at studios, with notable deals at Netflix and Disney.

In the middle of last year, Edgeware surprised everyone by launching a portfolio of new features after months in the abyss leading us to speculate about the company’s future. Faultline Online Reporter has spoken to Edgeware on two separate occasions since these features rolled out – regardless to say, subtitles were not a central topic of discussion.

Edgeware is best known for a TV server and now focuses on end to end OTT – complete with ingest, cloud DVR, live streaming, using a just in time packager, encryption, server side ad insertion, a CDN selector similar to Cedexis, though without the detailed data that Cedexis has on the current performance of multiple CDNs, from its installed website codebase. It now has a TV Director that load balances CDNs automatically, using CDN supplied data, and something from the old days of Edgeware, the Edge TV repackager, and this TV repackager is exactly where Cavena-generated text is applied, creating “glitch-free” streaming content and supporting any language.

It always had this TV repackager because the CDN cache could be used to change the manifest of packages as far from the Origin server as possible, just before it leaves the CDN, so many requests do not have to do a round trip to the origin and back. Another product of interest is the TV watermarker, for inserting on the fly watermarks into content to identify the session.

The company talks about “frame accurate segmentation,” which is so that advertising can be inserted between specific frames. The system monitors the quality of the video before it leaves the CDN and targets the CMAF data format we have talked about before. It inserts watermarking using software from French specialist Content Armor. And naturally it operates a typical volume based licensing sales process.

The TV System Manager looks after the origin and CDN, offering its own TV analytics to give insights into viewer behavior, although this is not based on QoS data, just what video was ordered, and it provides control to use multiple CDNs based mostly on price and even supports fast channel change as specified in IPTV standards and provides UDP retransmission for live and VOD, eliminating packet loss by resending corrupted packets.

This is all very well, and the company is no longer a specialist, but shooting at a wider target with a multiplicity of software tools – an end to end service provider. It’s just that at the top end we have specialists who still provide best of breed, and large spin-offs from telecom companies.

Hong Kong-based streaming service myTV Super, an existing Edgeware customer, has already deployed the Cavena subtitling system for its lineup of popular Chinese and Korean dramas.

Cavena MD Henrik Moberg said, “As more TV is watched online, our customers and prospects need to optimize subtitling to offer a high-quality OTT experience. Working with Edgeware will allow us to integrate our technology into a broader origin solution that has been purpose-built for today’s online TV delivery.”