Broadband Background: Currently a technology consultant, SCTE Director-At-Large Walter Ciciora sits on additional boards and serves as an expert witness. Previously, he co-founded EnCamera Sciences, held executive-level positions at Time Warner Cable and its predecessor, American Television and Communications, and worked for Zenith Electronics. What’s been keeping you busy lately? Anything interesting on the consulting side you can talk about? I have quite accidentally become in demand as an “expert witness” in patent suits involving technology that seems new, but really has lots of “prior art.” That has kept me very busy almost from the very beginning of my consulting after leaving Time Warner Cable in September of 1993. I have never looked for or solicited work. Expert witness work is intellectually stimulating and very challenging, but also very rewarding. It’s been a great education in how patents are written, attacked and defended. That has proved very valuable in some of my entrepreneurial adventures. I’m also on the board of directors of Microtune, the silicon tuner company, and on some advisory boards. I’ve been with Microtune since it was an idea by a few engineers. It’s been quite an experience seeing it grow, go public, and experience the current regulatory environment. You were an early advocate of advanced advertising technology. That category seems to be emerging at last. Where do you think it’s headed? I am a co-founder of HBA Matchmaker Media. It’s a company founded by advertising execs who had an early conviction that advertising could be made addressable, down to the individual, to overcome the clutter of a massive medial universe. Our patents also covered addressable advertising with PVRs, VOD, SDV, and other modes and media. We are in final negotiations on a limited exclusivity, field of use license with one entity. Other discussions are in progress. Digital devices with addresses make addressable advertising possible. Digital devices also make possible nonlinear consumption of media. Addressable advertising will make it possible to get the message through this challenging environment to the consumer who will use it. I believe that consumers have a love/hate relationship with advertising. If the ad pertains to an interest, it is welcome information that helps in decision-making. If the ad is irrelevant to the consumer’s interests, it’s an annoyance. So all benefit if the ad is well-targeted. All addressable ads are well-targeted, but not all targeted ads are addressable. Could you give us a quick update your EnCamera dNTSC technology and how it has been applied? dNTSC is a technology developed by EnCamera Sciences, a company I co-founded to embed up to 4.5 Mbps of data in an analog TV signal without damaging the TV signal. It was originally envisioned to be a way to get more digital information into cable systems while continuing to serve the existing population of analog TV sets. For a variety of reasons, that did not come to pass. But dNTSC works in broadcast signals. EnCamera had an FCC experimental TV broadcasting license and had dNTSC on the air in Scottsdale, AZ, on its own facilities.  EnCamera was sold to Dotcast in October of 2000, before our patent issued (August 13, 2002) and, importantly, before the “dot-com bubble” burst. Dotcast licensed the technology we developed to Disney who used it as the basis for its MovieBeam service. MovieBeam currently delivers the dNTSC signal in 31 cities in the PBS and/or ABC analog broadcast signals. The MovieBeam receiver comes with a hard drive loaded with a hundred movies in MPEG-4, some in HD.  Every week, 10 movies are replaced using the dNTSC signal. Viewers only pay for the movies they watch; there is no monthly fee. There is a plan to migrate to the digital ATSC signals. Are cable operators prepared to cope with—if not exploit—the proliferating array of consumer electronic devices? No one is able to cope with the vast array of consumer electronic devices and their embedded features. Consumer electronic innovation runs way ahead of the consumers’ demand or their ability to comprehend the products. Essentially, all of the electronic devices I have include multiple capabilities I’ve never used. The fiercely competitive nature of consumer electronics results in products brought to market before the development is finished. Why do we have DVD+R and DVD-R as well as DVD+RW? Why do DVDs need to be “finalized”? And should I choose HD DVD or Blu-Ray?  Making your customer feel stupid is not a good marketing strategy! Cable technologists must constantly keep aware of these developments and attempt as best they can to accommodate them in the services offered. The goal is to make the services easy to use on the consumer’s hardware. This is challenging and is getting more so! If you were the CTO on the operator side, what would be your areas of focus? Innovate, innovate, innovate! Strive for a well-defined sustainable comparative advantage against the competition, because competition is going to be more intense. It is clear that the old paradigm of linear TV will be a decreasing part of the offering over the next few years. Making “everything on demand” easy to understand and use is critical. “Time shifting” and “place shifting” (shift happens!) are a growing part of modern media. A critical part of this will be addressable advertising. Technology that facilitates these trends should be the focus. What advice would you have for anyone just beginning a career on technical side of this industry? Your career in this industry will require “life-long learning.” If you love learning and technology, you are in for a great career. If not, run away, don’t walk! The technology is exciting and compelling, and it’s accelerating. There is no slowdown in sight. Any plans for a third edition of Modern Cable Television Technology? I am not aware of any plans for a third edition. Writing the book was serious work. It couldn’t have been done without the co-authors, particularly the second edition, which was their work entirely because of some health concerns (that are now completely resolved). The response to the book has been immensely gratifying. It’s a wonderful thing to have done. But I don’t think there is a third edition left in me!

The Daily

Subscribe

At the Commission

The FCC adopted a NPRM seeking comment on how to maximize efficient use of the 500MHz of mid-band spectrum available in the 12.2-12.7GHz band. The hope of the proceeding is to further a conversation as to

Read the Full Issue
The Skinny is delivered on Tuesday and focuses on the cable profession. You'll stay in the know on the headlines, topics and special issues you value most. Sign Up