I’m taking a break this week from reporting on cable’s technologies-what’s out there, what’s coming, how it’s being serviced-to enjoy the fruits of the industry’s labors. On Tues, I got the chance to sit in on (virtually) Cable in the Classroom’s 1st "Project Cam," a broadband video/audio interaction that connects students to other areas of the world. Students at Jefferson Middle School in Oak Ridge, TN, were the 1st of several groups of youngsters to interact with explorer Dr Robert Ballard live from the Panamanian rainforest. Using a private Web page, live Webcam, audio feeds and broadband connection powered by Comcast [CMCSA], Ballard and the students got time for 1-on- 1s. "There’s nothing else like it," says Pat DeRoos, whose science class chatted with Ballard. "It’s the virtual field trip-the one you can’t take them on otherwise." Sure, there were glitches, as to be expected, but the possibilities far outnumbered them. It was fascinating to see Ballard, a world-renowned scientist and discoverer of the Titanic, sitting amongst the flora of the rainforest. Even more exciting was hearing the TN students asking Ballard how he became an explorer, what subjects should they study to become oceanographers and what was it like to discover the Titanic. (An aside: Ballard says he’s going back to the sunken ship this summer. Do we smell a Discovery special?). DeRoos says her students were talking about the experience all day. "They actually got to talk to the man we’ve been studying about for 9 weeks." While most of Tues’ Project Cam lesson centered on get-to-know-you questions and figuring out how this technology works, I can envision sessions where the featured speaker can move around his location. For this initial foray, Ballard was confined to a chair in the rainforest. Future sessions, though, might allow for a short walking tour of distant locales. I can also envision students and teachers uploading files for each other to share. And MSOs could televise Project Cam sessions for local communities (talk about community support and outreach). It’s just the sort of tool we’ve expected from cable and Cable in the Classroom-and an excellent way to spread the message that broadband is power. Upcoming Everstream pres Stephen McHale says his company, which creates on demand and ITV analysis software, will be announcing a deal "very soon." Right now, its services are deployed in 5 markets in Time Warner Cable’s National division, and Comcast [CMCSA] is trialing its software in the Midwest. McHale wouldn’t provide specifics on VOD trends Everstream software has identified, but he gave some basics. SVOD continues to show a high take rate and the avg revenue per sub and avg take rate per sub are also on the rise, he says. Broadband Bits 26 local broadcast stations began broadcasting in digital, bringing the total number of DTV stations on the air to 1155 in 203 markets, NAB says. — Comcast Network Solutions exec William Stoehs joined Broadband Services as vp, natl accounts, SE. — SES Americom says its "Americom 10" satellite is set for a Thurs launch. It’s scheduled for full service operation by early May. — Terayon’s [TERN] "BP 5100" will be used to power Fox’s HD broadcast delivery system. — CENTRIS and BPI Partners introduced their new research service CENTRISPlus at CTAM’s Research Conference this week in San Diego. The service tracks and forecasts HH interest in and use of communications products, services and electronic equipment. The HH data can be examined by block group, cable system, county, retail trade area and DMA. — Zoran’s [ZRAN] "Generation9" ICs and software will be used in Motorola’s [MOT] "Digital Convergence Platform."

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