Cablevision’s MSG Varsity Gets Boost From ActiveVideo Networks’ CloudTV

The concept of cloud computing is making the move to consumer TV sets. ActiveVideo Networks technology is being used by Cablevision to offer subscribers a true, MPEG-based interactive-TV experience that gives the MSG Varsity high school sports network more exposure than ever and subscribers more reasons than ever to tune in.

“Subscribers can watch various high school games that are either taped or delivered live via a Web feed,” says Edgar Villalpano, SVP of marketing for ActiveVideo Networks. “People on the ground can be shooting sports and then upload them to a Website.”

The ActiveVideo Networks technology, called CloudTV, relies on an ingest server that can be placed at the cable headend or anywhere else in the cable plant. The server can contain everything from linear content feeds to RSS feeds and links to video files.

A small software client resides on the subscriber’s set-top box and provides an on-screen menu of the content available on the server. When the user selects a piece of content — for example, a link to Web video content — the content is converted to an MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 h.264 stream before delivery to the viewer.

“By streaming in MPEG vs. proprietary technology, the content developer can write an application once and distribute it to any device, including consumer-electronics devices,” says Villalpano. “The thin client is less than 100 kb in size so it can reside on a device and then decode keystrokes in real time and on the fly.”

A demonstration ActiveVideo is giving at The Cable Show this week shows how the technology can take Web content and RSS feeds at CNN.com and make them available to TV viewers. Users can also build customized pages.

“Even if you’re seeing a banner ad,” says Villalpano, “it is rendered as an MPEG object.”

Sports applications include allowing viewers to select different camera angles or bring up more information about a player. They could even communicate directly with the announcer or share video clips and data.

“It can translate into a more on-demand, custom experience,” says Villalpano.

The next focus for ActiveVideo, he says, is to help cable operators revamp VOD offerings as they attempt to migrate more content to the on-demand menu.

“We want to migrate linear channels to VOD and make VOD more intelligent,” he says. “During the next 12 months, you’ll see more content move from the Web space into VOD.”