Michael Pasquinilli is vice president, engineering, for the on-demand business unit of Concurrent, where he oversees the design and development of new products and applications to meet the growing needs of the on-demand industry, including mapping product strategy. He has extensive experience on both sides of the industry, having held positions at Cox Communications and Scientific Atlanta before joining Concurrent in 2006.

What sort of "time shifting" trends are you tracking most closely?

Concurrent was the first VOD vendor to commercially launch Start Over with Time Warner. Look Back, from a VOD technology standpoint, looks like Start Over but requires much more storage. These types of services seem to be very popular with subscribers.

Our customers have also voiced a desire to record and place broadcast content into their VOD menus. I believe that all these services are leading toward true network DVR systems. Ad replacements and targeted ad placements will be the next technological hurdle necessary to overcome on the way towards full channel line-up nDVR.

What activity are you seeing among customers on VOD architectures?

The general trend continues to favor centralized VOD architectures. The Concurrent MediaHawk solution can support centralized, distributed and hybrid configurations equally well, so we adapt to our customer’s preference. One of the trends we are seeing is a requirement for both the large VOD storage libraries and VOD back offices to support multiple sites. This regionalization makes economic sense from a capital standpoint as well as centralizing operations.

Another major change in VOD is that services like Start Over are blurring the line between broadcast and on-demand services. As more and more VOD services cross into the broadcast domain, subscribers will be much less tolerant of denial of services. This is making the MSOs focus much more on VOD redundancy, fault tolerance, failover and very high availability of services. Concurrent’s MediaHawk 4500 VOD system comes to market at a perfect time to address these higher emphases on VOD QoS.

What’s the next step in on-demand navigation?

The cable industry should turn to the Internet to learn how to sell vast amounts of content. Sites like Amazon.com have many more products than cable has videos, yet they do very well using product photos, promotions, recommendations, user ratings, product rankings, communities, blogs and discounts to keep relevant products in front of consumers. Cable could do a fraction of these tactics and see improvements.

Which navigational technologies seem most promising?

Technologies that allow for rich graphics and mosaic style scaled video have the most promise. If the set-top can’t support these features, headend technologies are available today for developing graphically rich VOD content showcases. For advanced digital set-tops, an HTML-based authoring and hosting environment like Concurrent’s commercially deployed MHPilot has allowed our customers to quickly develop and deploy new VOD client applications.

How does high definition impact the on-demand infrastructure and business?

Having HD VOD content is a necessary marketing tool for the cable operator, but these movies require so much more storage and bandwidth, compared to standard definition, it seems unlikely that the service is attractive from a return on resources standpoint. The cable operators will need to add considerably more streaming capacity than most have in place today if HD VOD becomes popular with a majority of subscribers.

The only technology impact we are seeing today with HD VOD is that the digital video systems must be able to distinguish HD from non-HD set-tops, and the IPG must have intelligence to offer HD VOD to just those set-tops capable of supporting the service.

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