With all the new devices coming into the home, how can cable capitalize?  A few lucky newcomers had the chance to pitch their answers to this question to a panel of MSOs, during Wednesday’s “The Next, Next Thing: Inventive Ideas for Cable-Connected Technologies and Platforms.”

More devices means more remotes or purchasing one expensive and difficult to program model. “We think this is a problem worth solving,” said Brad Beale, VP business development, Zelfy.

His company uses WiFi-connected devices with touch pads, like an iPhone, as a platform to control and personalize content. It can create social networking experiences or recommend programming from multiple sources, whether it be television or YouTube, for example.

“There is a hardware version of this that could be available at retail locations, but we would also like to partner with network operators,” Beale said, noting that the Zelfy solution solves the legacy set-top issue.

“One of the problems network operators face is a discontinuity of networks…For $20 per home, you can create a ubiquitous user experience that you control,” Beale said.

Mimi Thigpen, SVP, strategy, Cox Communications, acknowledged that improving viewing and navigation is a “great problem to help us try to solve,” but wondered if it would be better to improve it on the TV instead of looking down from the remote. What would happen in a shared environment where there is one iPhone and multiple viewers?

Zelfy’s solution will enable an on screen UI, as well. “For a lot of homes that are our target with lots of sources of video…this will be a better method of navigation and for you a better way than having to change an on screen UI without having to change thousands of set-top boxes,” Beale said.

Web Services

Customers have connected devices, but they are constrained and cannot connect to the Internet as we know it, Zane Vella, CEO, RCDb, said. His company brings the Web to them.

For cable, this means, among other things, being able to deliver Web services to EBIF and tru2Way set-tops. “The real value is leveraging integrations once (you are) taking advantage of existing boxes on the network…(You are) bringing the Internet and Web services into the cable plant on the operators terms,” Vella said, noting that his company offers a mechanism to serve as a control point for what Web services the company wants to bring into the set-top.

RCDb does the “plumbing” work that connects a Web service and device, but also acts as a data utility that a developer can use to add new consumer experiences to video.  For example, the ability for a viewer to access information about an actor while watching a movie or buy the song that is playing using a PayPal account.

“The e-commerce number on a quarterly basis is $32 billion in online retail…Cable operators need to find a way to tap into those transaction flows happening separate from their networks,” Vella said.

Energy Tap

Helping consumers save money through cutting down on energy use, could be a new recurring revenue stream for cable, Seth Frader-Thompson, CEO, EnergyHub, said. His company has created a system whereby a customer can use a Web portal to monitor and manage how much electricity they are using in their homes.

Frader-Thompson suggests that cable operators can offer the service on a subscription basis to consumers. “As long as there is a significant differential in what people are saving and what they are paying, that is what will keep people engaged. You can install low cost hardware, subsidize it and make it back in service fees.”

-Monta Hernon

The Daily

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