AT&T U-verse has offered video “mosaics,” which it calls Multiview, for quite some time. And other pay-TV operators, including satellite and cable, have dabbled with mosaic technology.

Video mosaics provide thumbnails of different cable channels simultaneously on one screen. Perhaps the best description comes from AT&T’s Web-site promotion of Multiview, which asks, "Why watch just 1 show when you can follow 4?" This is enticing for those who like to talk on their cellphones, eat and drive at the same time.

Now, Cablevision is upping the ante with its new offering on iO TV, permitting digital-cable customers to watch as many as nine of their favorite TV channels at once and to create 20 separate mosaic screens (each with as many as nine channels). The mosaic interface also allows subscribers to see what’s coming up and to schedule DVR recordings.

Personalized iO TV Quick Views is available at no additional charge on Cablevision Channel 600. Customers can select from more than 140 channels to create mosaics displaying 2, 6 or 9 TV channels, each mosaic viewable on every TV in the home.

Quick Views also offers sample pre-set and consumer-editable mosaics featuring news, sports and children’s programming to help customers get started.

The Technology

IPTV providers like AT&T have an easier time developing such advanced applications as mosaics in their all-IP environments. It’s more challenging for traditional cable operators.

The iO TV Quick Views technology was developed by Cablevision with ActiveVideo Networks’ CloudTV platform. Quick Views joins more than 25 applications Cablevision has deployed on CloudTV during the last two years. (For more, see Cablevision Leverages the Cloud with ActiveVideo Games).

While viewing the mosaic, the audio of the highlighted channel box is activated, and customers can rotate the view or tune to the selected channel by pressing the “Select” button.

Tarun Kripalani, platform product manager with ActiveVideo, says a very thin client on viewers’ set-tops catches keystrokes and sends those keystrokes back up to the cloud, where applications run outside the cable network. The requested content is then delivered in an MPEG stream to the end device.

In the cloud, ActiveVideo uses its own mark-up language (similar to HTML), which Kripalani describes as "a Web browser running in the cloud."

A YouTube video demonstrates how it works from the customer’s perspective. In the video, the remote control seems pretty clumsy, even for the simple task of setting up a customized mosaic screen.

"With our platform, I can build this application once and then take the same personalized mosaic and deliver to a tablet or smartphone," said Kripalani. "This is a first step for Cablevision. You could control (the application) using your iPad."

Cablevision has said it’s working on an application to use the iPad as a remote control and as a second screen. (For more, click here).

-Linda Hardesty

The Daily

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