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14 September 2017

Zodiac software finally shows up at ActiveVideo with Cable Bahamas win

ActiveVideo, the joint Arris and Charter Communications cloud venture, has again teamed up with New York-based multiscreen software supplier Zodiac Interactive, as the pair continue to find ways of extending the shelf life of legacy hardware by bridging the gap between the set top and the cloud.

The two firms have been developing a joint system for over four years now, and this week’s press release finally opens up some of the inner workings – combining ActiveVideo’s CloudTV virtualization capabilities with Zodiac’s PowerUp Stack software and PowerUp AMS (Advanced Messaging Solution) platform.

The joint ActiveVideo-Zodiac system, which is a nameless product at the moment, claims “rapid time-to-market” – a statement ActiveVideo declined to elaborate on – giving operators a platform from which to roll out new services to reduce subscriber churn and open up additional revenue streams.

The pair have announced an initial customer deployment at Cable Bahamas set to roll out on 250,000 set tops in Q2 next year. We suspect Cable Bahamas is running Arris hardware, although ActiveVideo could not confirm this, but a representative told Faultline Online Reporter that the joint system is “able to be deployed on the set top devices from any OEM. Versions of it have already been deployed on more than 100 different set top device models from many OEMs.”

Given its small size, not much has been written about Cable Bahamas, but we know that Canadian multiscreen provider UXP Systems won a contract there back in 2012, to aggregate and personalize multiscreen TV using its MINT Multiscreen Interaction Platform – enabling a variety of video, voice and messaging services, including OTT video delivered as TV Everywhere. Faultline Online Reporter reached out to UXP Systems to ask if its Cable Bahamas contract is still standing today and we will provide an update upon receiving confirmation. The Caribbean operator has also used Amdocs for billing.

ActiveVideo and Zodiac say they have collaborated on customer projects previously, claiming to have powered new user experiences for millions of subscribers of leading pay TV operators. ActiveVideo said it could not detail any previous collaborations, not even the one we already knew about, Charter’s Spectrum Guide, which runs ActiveVideo and Zodiac software on its new Worldbox set tops and legacy hardware currently deployed within the Charter footprint.

The new Charter UI has a guide streamed in video using MPEG stitching, a feature ActiveVideo is well known for, using cloud technology to change the guide from IP format to streamed MPEG and rendering this inside the video. This saved Charter from having to switch out some 4 million set tops in the US. Cisco also played a big role in the Worldbox roll out, supplying its set top security and DRM systems as well as a “substantial share” of the set tops themselves.

We last covered ActiveVideo in April this year when it landed a deal at Japanese operator J:COM (Jupiter Telecommunications), to virtualize VoD functions in its set top environment, but there was no mention of Zodiac in this particular deployment either.

Zodiac says its software stack supports both QAM and IP devices, using a building block approach, enabling it to get the most out of components inside a range of set tops – “from a shiny new Worldbox to a creaky Motorola DCT 2000.”

In essence, set top virtualization software is nothing new and many others are coming out with similar ideas, like UK set top maker Amino, which recently released its Enable set top software from its hardware, and it isn’t too far from what TiVo’s Cubiware does. However, it is potentially a multi-billion dollar market as the technology is gradually tweaked and improved to scale across millions of devices.

Cable Bahamas VP of Marketing and Media, David Burrows, said, “The ActiveVideo and Zodiac integrated solution was the best option available to us to meet all of our goals. We were looking for a way to unify and enhance our customers’ experience regardless of where they watch content. Now that all of our technology will be leveraging both the cloud and device, our customers will have a unified user experience across our entire set top base.”

Zodiac CEO Brandon Brown said, “Working together, Zodiac and ActiveVideo have enhanced the ability of video service providers universally to deliver next generation capabilities and monetize premium service offerings on any device. Using the integrated solution, small or large pay TV operators around the world can deliver the industry’s most advanced services to every subscriber in a matter of months.”

ActiveVideo President and CEO Jeff Miller, said “Combining CloudTV and PowerUp allows the cloud and the set top to work in tandem. The joint solution intelligently shares the workload between the cloud and the box to enable any pay TV operator to deliver state-of-the-art performance on every TV, using the same familiar installed set tops.”