At this week’s Winter Conference, CableLabs hosted what it is calling an Innovation Showcase to bring focus to some of the cutting-edge ideas represented at its semi-annual events. The showcase, held Monday morning in Denver, highlighted 10 venture capital stage companies that represented themes including growth and revenue generating products, network connectivity and service management, and consumer personalization.

"We think there is a great amount of innovation that is developed and recognized in the cable industry, and we want to facilitate further development of that innovation," said David Reed, CableLabs executive vice president and chief strategy officer. "(The innovation showcase) seeks to identify best new ideas emerging in cable on a regular basis."

"What this showcase demonstrates is that innovation is coming from a number of different quarters, and not in the traditional areas (you) generally think of with cable," said Louis Toth, managing director of Comcast Interactive Capital.

The companies singled out to present were chosen through collaboration among CableLabs and its members, including the CEOs sitting on the organization’s board. Participants included DARTdevices, which promotes interoperability between digital devices; Casabi, which delivers Web-based content and services to handsets; and Oversi, which offers P2P network solutions. The others were BlackArrow, Radiospire Networks, Simple Star, SupportSoft, uControl, VUVOX and Wyse Technology. Audience polled Audience members were polled to determine which of the 10 ideas were the best received. Runners up were BlackArrow with its on-demand ad management solutions and uControl, which offers home security solutions. The company deemed the most interesting, however, was Simple Star, singled out in part because its key message was easily and quickly understood. Its PhotoShow software is a personal media sharing platform consumers can use to create content with personal photos, videos and music, which they can then share online or through VOD.

Oceanic Cable, a division of Time Warner Cable, in Hawaii, currently offers PhotoShowTV free to subscribers who have both digital cable service and Road Runner High Speed Online. "It has been a successful first launch … I think I can say that both Time Warner and Simple Star were really surprised at the level of viewing that has occurred. It is among the most popular content on VOD in Hawaii. What we have learned is that consumers are really enjoying not only creating content, but also viewing what is going on in the local community," said Chad Richard, CEO of Simple Star.

Time Warner will add the service to its Staten Island market on March 22, and Simple Star expects to make announcements with additional operators in April. Incidentally, all content is reviewed before it is broadcast to make sure it doesn’t include copyright violations or offensive material. Richard said that less than 1 percent of the shows thus far are rejected and attributes this track record to the "nature of the platform," meaning that its target audience is families.

CableLabs intends to make the showcase a regular installment at both summer and winter conferences. – Monta Hernon

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