HomeMoreSamsung, CinemaNow Embrace Macrovision Vision of Set-top as Key Home Media Hub

Samsung, CinemaNow Embrace Macrovision Vision of Set-top as Key Home Media Hub

Convergence of Web and cable, satellite or telco video on consumer TVs and other devices stands to accelerate this year and next, as both consumer electronics and Web video firms embrace plug-and-play home network standards.

Indeed, a next generation of cable, IPTV and satellite set-tops promises to outrun a stalled generation of Web TV set-top boxes that have largely failed to gain consumer acceptance. In the process, the plug-and-play set-tops also promise to retain a crucial role for cable, IPTV and satellite operators in the Web video race to the TV.

Macrovision Corp. has advanced the multi-vendor plug-and-play movement on several fronts in recent weeks: 

  • Consumer electronics (CE) giant Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. licensed Macrovision Connected Platform technology to deliver next-generation set-top boxes by late 2008 with the capability to download, find and manage digital content seamlessly throughout the home. Samsung, a supplier of hundreds of thousands of set-tops to Time Warner Cable, will combine the Macrovision Connected Platform with its CableLabs-based tru2way (formerly OpenCable) applications platform to create a home network solution for cable.
  • Movie and TV download service CinemaNow and Macrovision agreed to integrate their technologies to enable consumers to acquire premium video content and download it directly from CinemaNow to Macrovision-enabled CE devices such as digital television sets, set-top boxes and network attached storage (NAS) devices.

Driving Web video beyond PCs to the TV and other devices has taken a higher profile over the past year with the proliferation of Web video set-top boxes such as Akimbo, Apple TV and Vudu, and of video download-capable game consoles like Xbox 360 and Playstation 3. However, those boxes are dedicated to singular and exclusive walled garden content sources like Akimbo.com, iTunes.com, Xbox LIVE.com and Vudu.com. Additionally, a device like Apple TV interoperates with, and allows copying to, only iPod, iPhone and other devices made solely by Apple.

Arguably, those content and device walled gardens have contributed to limited consumer adoption of the dedicated Web video boxes.

In contrast, Macrovision and partners like CinemaNow suggest that Web video will makes its way to the TV en masse only if CE makers adopt common home network interconnection standards, and if content aggregators and distributors open their service access in a secure manner to multi-vendor, plug-and-play devices and home networks.

“The challenge everyone has right now is being able to have access across a wide reach of device categories,” says CinemaNow CEO Curt Marvis. “Someone will be more willing to buy Harry Potter when they know it will play on four different devices. We feel we have the most robust offering to put in front of all these different categories. I don’t care if it’s a set-top, retail CE or a mobile phone.”

Long a dominant leader in providing copy-protection technologies to Hollywood and television networks in the DVD distribution space, Macrovision intends to carry that mantle into online distribution and consumer fair-use copying, in part through several recent acquisitions.

The Connected Platform is based on software developed by Mediabolic, which Macrovision acquired last year. It provides the dominant reference architecture used by all CE makers adopting Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) guidelines for home networking. Scores of manufacturers of TVs, media storage devices, DVRs and other home networked devices are employing DLNA guidelines to produce devices that will automatically interoperate with other DLNA-certified devices by sharing a common stack of Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Universal Plug and Play (UPnP), MPEG and other standard protocols.

As prescribed by the DLNA architecture, Samsung’s use of the Connected Platform Software Developers Kit will enable its set-top boxes to act as embedded digital media players, digital media servers (in the case of DVR set-tops with storage drives), as both server and player within plug-and-play consumer homes.

As previously reported, Macrovision also plans to play a substantial role in easing consumer headaches in navigating thousands of commercial and personal media selections via networked devices through its pending $2.8-billion acquisition and integration of Gemstar-TV Guide technologies and services. Assuming completion of the acquisition, Macrovision will gain Gemstar’s new My TV Guide suite designed to blend traditional, Internet and personal media discovery and information across TVs, set-tops and mobile and portable devices (ScreenPlays, January, page 20).

That effort is already well underway as CE makers increasingly license Gemstar technology and purchase its data and services. In early January, Sony USA joined a dozen other leading CE makers that are integrating the TV Guide On Screen interactive program guide into their TVs, DVRs and other retail CE products. Gemstar also has made headway in the mobile market through licensing deals with MobiTV and other firms.

Macrovision’s and CinemaNow’s shared focus on getting Web-delivered video to the TV primarily through increasingly standards-based home networks apparently provided a key impetus for their partnership. CinemaNow’s own complementary, downloadable Media Manager software, typically resident on PCs running Microsoft XP or Vista operating systems, can automatically detect a Microsoft Xbox 360 on a home network. CinemaNow also has reached its own agreements to deliver content to Hewlett Packard’s HP Media Internet-ready TV and Samsung’s P2 Portable Media Player.

“We have to get approval from our studio partners as we go into a new product category or open new rights to move content around,” CinemaNow’s Marvis says. “We’re certainly hopeful that this partnership with Macrovision, a trusted brand in terms of securing content, will help our studio partners feel even more confidence.”

Richard Bullwinkle, senior director of products and chief evangelist for Macrovision, notes that Macrovision copy protection software had been embedded into millions of devices before the acquisition of Mediabolic.

Since then, embedding software in CE devices has “kicked that into high gear,” he says. “Very soon after, we announced a partnership with [set-top maker] Scientific-Atlanta on a worldwide source code license. We’re seeing several categories, particularly cable and satellite boxes. A lot of companies in those categories are interested in enabling use cases for multiple rooms and multiple devices for access to content them. They’re also interested in consumers storing personal media on their boxes.”

Bullwinkle notes too that CinemaNow has gained deals with DirecTV, DISH Network and other service providers because of CinemaNow’s on demand classic movie library, and because professional installation of devices that converge satellite or cable TV with such Web video resources lowers consumer resistance.

“Consumers are demanding use cases where you have to have a partnership with a player like CinemaNow for the deep library,” he says. “The DVR didn’t take off until operators deployed them, providing a much better experience for the subscriber than devices like Vudu that require a separate box and self installation.”

Anish Koirala
Anish Koirala
Meet Anish, a talented author in the gaming industry. With a passion for storytelling and a deep understanding of game mechanics, Anish weaves captivating narratives that immerse players in unforgettable worlds.
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