The Online Reporter 822 – March 22-28, 2013

Issue 822   

March 22-28, 2013



   Zenverge’s Transcoder Gives Pay TV Services a Multi-screen Solution

   Tvinci Has Signed 10 OTT Deals in 12 Months

   Cutting the Cord: A Year Later

   Follow Up with Tivo’s New Mini

   Intel Media Aims to Attract the ‘Cordless’

   Corporates Sluggish to Take to Windows 8 PCs




   Set Makers Ramping up Production of 4K TVs

   The Technology that Makes 4K Practical

   Galveston Theater Gets Qube’s 4K Servers

   4K Coming But Will Be 2016

   Netflix Expects to Have 4K ‘Within a Year or Two’




   BT Racks up 2 More All-Fiber/Part-Fiber Deals

   Google Fiber Creeps Outside the Two Kansas Cities

   Telcos Beware: DOCSIS 3.1 Coming to Market Quickly

   Broadcom Land ZTE & Sumavision for C-DOCSIS




   New Access Browser for TV Allows Sharing with Tablets & Smartphones

   New Broadcom Chips Help Cablecos Compete against Telcos & OTT




   Both Surface Tablets Off to Slow Start, esp. RT Models

   The State of the US Broadband Industry

   Pay TV USA: Telcos & Satcos Up, Cablecos Down Again

   29% of Viewing Now Is from the DVR

   Fewer New Pay TV Subs in 2012 than the Increase in Households




   European Cableco’s Wi-Fi Ambitions Dwarf Those of Their Telco Rivals




   Samsung Revs up Pressure on Apple & TV Set Makers

   Alaskan Cableco to Deploy TiVo Mini




   Viewster Streams 50m Shows in UK in February

   BBC to Stream 40 hours of Premiere Shows Before They Air

   Yahoo May Be Negotiating to Buy DailyMotion




   Cablecos Started Winning the Broadband Battle in 2005

   Liberty Media Buys 27.3% of Charter

   Verizon Wants Viewers to Pay for Only What They View

   Rovi Licenses Patents to LG

   Intel Adds Hillcrest Lab’s Technology to Atom-based RDK

   Hulu Redoes Apple TV Interface

   YouTube Hits a Billion & Runs Ads from Top 100 Brands

   Redbox by Verizon Goes Nationwide

   Can’t Ignore that Viewers Skip Pay TV Commercials


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Stat of the Week

Last year we served up over a billion videos in 120 countries,

representing a 700% increase on 2011 and proving that consumers want

an alternative to pricey pay-to-view or subscription services,”

Kai Henniges, CEO at Viewster.


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Zenverge’s Transcoder Gives Pay TV Services a Multi-screen Solution


Supports 4 Simultaneous HD Streams

 -5 to 15X More Storage Space in Gateway

 -Any Video Format, Streamed to Any Device, Anywhere

Zenverge is a transcoder company that says it has an answer for pay TV operators looking to offer subscribers a multi-screen solution. “Everyone is talking about multi-screen today, we’ve had that vision since 2006,” Shawn Saleem, EVP of marketing and strategy planning at Zenverge, told The Online Reporter. Zenverge makes content networking integrated circuits (ICs or chips). Saleem said the company has built one of – if not the – best transcoders available for use in STBs and gateways.


“To do multi-screens, they [service providers] are going to need this kind of IC,” he said.


Zenverge has built a transcoder chip that can be used in either the cloud or the gateway, though Zenverge has focused more in the gateway market. The gateway approach to multi-screen takes a multi-room DVR, a router and a transcoder module together, combines the functionality of those three devices into one gateway. “Instead of sharing content using a traditional STB, you can incorporate tablets, gaming stations, smart TVs,” Saleem said. “The operators benefit in the sense that their capital costs are reduced, they don’t have to buy all this hardware and lease it out to customers. Subscribers benefit because they can take their devices, and access broadcast content where they want, when they want.”


Instead of having three pieces of hardware to give the customer, operators will only have one single piece of hardware. Zenverge’s chips are being used in TiVo’s Stream product and Comcast’s Arris STBs, and investors include Entropic, Motorola and Verizon. The company will announce a few more big pay TV services later this year.


“I think you’ll find that the hybrid gateways in the home are the way that operators are going to adequately supply whole-home coverage to multi-screen,” Saleem said. “In the next two to three years you’re going to see Zenverge products shipping in a lot of the gateways shipping in North American cable and the operators worldwide.”


The ZN200 Chip


Zenverge’s transcoder, called ZN200, delivers content to any IP-connected device, whether it is a smartphone, tablet, smart TV or IP-connected STB.


The transcoder has a level of efficiency that the company says is unmatched among its competitors. Zenverge has developed a unique architecture that offers an efficient and fast transcoder.


The Zenverge transcoders are able to


-Process content very quickly. Saleem said a one-hour HD clip can be processed in 15 minutes, and a standard definition clip can be processed in minutes.


-Minimize memory requirements. “Typically when you do an encode-decode, you need a lot of memory, but we’re able to transcode with a fraction of the memory that anyone else would have to utilize,” Saleem said. “That gave us a huge competitive advantage, and that’s also the reason we’re winning so many designs today in the cable space.”


-Transcode content into any format. “We can transcode that content into any format, any resolution, or any ABC or MPEG format that’s out there,” Saleem said. “That will cover 90% of the products that are out there today.”


Zenverge chipsets are being used both in the professional space and the consumer space. “We can reduce the amount of space – the amount of servers or the amount of rack unit space,” Saleem said. “We have professional systems that have put 10 of our chips on a single board and all of the sudden you’re doing 160 HD streams on a one rack unit.”


Zenverge also recently announced it is integrating its transcoder with Entropic’s MoCA circuitry.


Benefits of Content Networking ICs for Multi-screen


Saleem said the benefits of a content networking IC multi-screen solution are:


-Transcoding content to various devices and formats. Zenverge’s transcoder supports 90% of the video formats, and can be streamed to most devices.


-Streaming a lower bitrate for devices that cannot support full HD. For example, Saleem said, iPhones can only support 720p.


-Supports legacy devices, such as STBs: “There’s a huge installed base of MPEG boxes and the operators don’t want to throw away that hardware,” Saleem said. “They can use a gateway to transcode the content in a reverse manner for legacy boxes.”


-Sync-and-go or content-to-go features available. Zenverge’s transcoders are able to process content at high speeds, Saleem said. “If you have a one hour HD clip, we can process that clip in 15 minutes, if it’s an SD stream, we can do it in a matter of minutes,” he said. Using TiVo Stream, for example, the viewer can select the show he or she wants to watch later; it will transcode it and store it on your tablet in a matter of minutes.


-Universal access to content. Subscribers can access and stream content from anywhere there is an Internet connection. Multi-screen streaming is not limited to the home.


-Video bitrate adjustments stay in line with available bandwidth. “Wi-Fi is a very hostile environment for bandwidth,” Saleem said. Streaming HD video, for example, can quickly exceed the bandwidth available, which causes the video to stutter and the audio to pop. “By adjusting the bitrate, there’s a softening of the video, but it never stops playing,” he said. “That’s a much more important and valuable experience.”


-Storage efficiency. Zenverge’s transcoder can increase storage capacity of a gateway hard drive by fivefold for HD content and 15 times for SD content.


-Encryption for content. “We build a full encryption-to-encryption piece of the processing in our chipset,” Saleem said. “The studios would not be happy if this was in the clear. So you get the content, we have to be able to de-scramble, or decrypt and then re-protect it.”


Cloud Solutions to Multi-screen Face Obstacles


Saleem said operators are finding that a cloud-based multi-screen solution isn’t ready for primetime quite yet. “The capital costs to do OTT are horrendous for the operator,” Saleem said. “It’s going to take a while; I don’t expect a full multi-screen solution via the cloud just yet.”


Saleem listed three issues with cloud-based multi-screen solutions that a content networking IC can overcome:


-Limited bandwidth. “Most of the operators don’t have the available bandwidth to process that many screens to each subscriber,” Saleem said.


-Content licensing issues. “Most operators haven’t got all their licensing deals [for multi-screen],” Saleem said. “Typically you don’t go to the operator; you go to the ESPN site or HBO site.” By using a gateway solution, the subscriber is able to access the content, either streaming or download, with the same freedom subscribers enjoy with a DVR or Slingbox.


-Limited access to content. “If you are leaving a jurisdiction or leaving a country, you won’t get access [to content via the cloud],” Saleem said. “If you have a home gateway, you would have full access because technically that is your content to use however you want. You can stream it to where ever you are in the world.”


Competitors Are Years Behind


Zenverge’s co-founder and CTO, Tony Masterson, told The Online Reporter the unique, patented architecture of Zenverge’s transcoding chips are years ahead of its competitors. Comparing Zenverge’s transcoding chips with those of Broadcom, he said, “We’ve done a dedicated chip focused on this problem. Because of that, we’ve come up with patented some technology to make it more efficient than what anyone else has – including Broadcom.”


“We require fewer DDR parts with our chip; the board area is smaller, the solution costs less, and we can do it with much higher performance,” Masterson said. “You can have four tablets in your home streaming HD simultaneously. Companies like Broadcom just can’t do that today.”


Zenverge uses two DDR units instead of the typical four to eight most other transcoders use.


Masterson said Broadcom’s transcoding component is treated “as an afterthought,” and consequently runs into issues with bandwidth. “Their chips are rendering the channels, the interface, what shows are on, and streaming content to a tablet – that’s a big overhead,” he said.


“We have a better solution all around than what Broadcom has today, and what we think Broadcom will have for quite a while,” he said.

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Tvinci Has Signed 10 OTT Deals in 12 Months


– Touts OTT 2.0 Platform at OTT Con


– Raised $4.5m, Too


Multi-screen solution provider Tvinci has had a great 10 months since we’ve spoken to them. The company enjoyed a $4.5 million round of funding in October of 2012, and a wave of second generation TV Everywhere implementation, which has led to a number of service provider partnerships for Tvinci.


“We’ve had a crazy 12 months, we signed 10 contracts with tier one operators,” Yaffa Finkelstein told The Online Reporter.


Singapore-based MediaCorp announced it had selected Tvinci to power its OTT multi-screen service, called Toggle. It’s the first pan-Asian partnership for the company. MediaCorp is the largest operator in Singapore, and Finkelstein described Toggle as “a Netflix of Asia.” The service includes both on-demand and live channel streaming, and is available across Asia. “I think that is the first time someone has deployed a service using multiple DRMs across both live and VoD content,” Finkelstein said. She said Tvinci went from contract to fully deployed service in only six months.


Finkelstein said the company has just signed another large deal, but didn’t give any more information on it.


Ofer Shayo, CEO of Tvinci said the company has “an established footprint in Europe,” and is “now gaining traction in Asia, Latin America and the US,” which may give us a hint about the next announcement.


Last year, Tvinci announced two European deals. Finnish telco Elisa selected Tvinci to power EpicTV, an extreme sports-focused VoD service available as an app for the iPad. Tvinci’s platform offers viewers interactive social features, personalization and the ability to download content to watch offline. Liberty Global’s international content distribution division, Chellomedia, announced it would use Tvinci for an online movie service for Film1, a Dutch premium content network.


Tvinci offers a backend multi-screen software solution for service providers to use to deliver content over the top and across connected devices. Finkelstein said there are three main pillars to the solution:


-Social integration and recommendation: Tvinci allows users to sign in with Facebook, and allows users to interact with friends and see what other friends are watching. “The core issue we’re looking at is: how do we create an interactive TV experience that maintains that lean back feel?” Finkelstein said. She said that social feeds and curated lists of tweets about a show could be distracting. Tvinci’s platform aims for a more targeted social experience. It also uses Facebook as a primary means of recommending content. “We’ve found our customers like because it’s more effective,” she said.


-Personalization: By signing in with a personal device using a Facebook account, Tvinci is able to track the multiple users within a single subscription household. Finkelstein said personal accounts are better able to deliver personalized recommendations, and can allow parents to set limits on VoD spending or block channels for children.


-Monetization: Tvinci’s platform also works to help service providers monetize their content and services more effectively. “We offer a platform to manage premium content and monetize it across different connected devices,” Finkelstein said. For example, operators can set limits on device use, and ask subscribers to pay to access the service on additional connected devices.


For more on Tvinci’s OTT 2.0 platform, see the article in TOR 806 at:


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Cutting the Cord: A Year Later


By Charles Hall


About a year ago, I cut the pay TV cord completely to see if I could survive with only the local channels, which I bought an antenna to receive, and OTT. The end result is that I could not and I expect that most other pay TV subscribers also would not be able to completely abandon pay TV.


There are many more channels being broadcast locally than merely the national TV channels. Each local station broadcasts one or two additional channels, many of them being 24-hour weather and traffic main channels. However, local stations do not want to promote cord cutting or they would promote the use of antennae and DVRs other than the ones the pay TV services offer.


Without any pay TV stations the situation was tolerable with an Apple TV and Google TV adapter and more TV shows than I could watch. I watch about an hour of business news in the morning, which Bloomberg TV supplied over-the-top at


The first thing I missed was a DVR so I tried both the Channel Master and a TiVo connected to the antenna. I decided on the TiVo because of its reliability and the fact that I had used one for over a decade — back even before DirecTV started offering it. I was delighted to see that TiVo’s DVRs, unlike the ones you get from pay TV companies, come with apps for several OTT services such as Netflix. Yes, the TV and Blu-ray player I have also offers OTT services, but TiVo goes them two better:


– A search done on the TiVo looks through content that will be on the pay TV channels that you subscribe to plus the OTT services Netflix, Hulu Plus and the two Amazon OTT services as well as the shows that are recorded on the DVR.


– One remote control operates both the pay TV/DVR and the OTT channels. It’s not quite as good at handling Netflix as the Apple TV remote is, but it’s good enough that you don’t need it.


The next hindrance was not being able to watch business news on CNBC in the morning. Bloomberg TV is good but many of its anchors are very young and inexperienced plus it does not get as many name-brand guests to interview. The pay TV companies should be willing to pay CNBC, which Comcast owns, enough that CNBC is never available live as an OTT service.


So, I subscribed to the cableco’s basic TV service for $22 a month. That also brought me other stations that I like such as the History Channel and ESPN plus more channels with movies and documentaries that I could record. I rarely watch live TV except for news, sports and weather — too many commercials about products that have no interest for me. I don’t mind commercials — in fact I love some — but not for products and services that don’t appeal to me. It’s a major disadvantage the pay TV and national TV networks will have as more people watch OTT delivered content that either has no ads or runs ads that are targeted to the viewer’s demographics.


The move to basic pay TV brought me close to a sustainable situation, but then I realized that other than the local channels, all the others were in standard definition, not in HD. The SD quality was far less than what you get on Netflix. Once you’ve watched movies, sports and many TV shows in HD, you never want to go back, so the next step was to get an intermediate pay TV bundle. That required that a CableCard be installed in the TiVo, something that the pay TV installer said the local office had very little experience doing. But after a call to his tech support group and a second trip, the CableCard was successfully installed.


That’s the situation I have been in for about six months and it seems acceptable:


Continuing expenses



$ per month




Intermediate pay TV






including CableCard


TiVo on-screen guide






A lifetime subscription is available for a one-time payment of $500


Netflix streaming






The additional DVD service brought too many shows to watch









Note: I was purchasing about the same in movies prior to cutting the cord so that’s not an additional expense.


Purchased/rented shows






Apple TV’s iTunes and/or Vudu


Prior to cord cutting, I had been paying DirecTV about $120 a month, but that was for a much higher picture quality and premium channels such as HBO that pay TV services offer and for a bundle that included most all pro football games each weekend.


So, I’m paying less than I used to and getting more content in terms of TV shows and movies, less in live sports and a lower picture quality. The fact is the pay TV service is getting about $60 a month less than I was before cord cutting, a significant amount if multiplied by the number of pay TV subscribers.


TiVo Keeps Its End of the Bargain


TiVo has continued to upgrade its product offering.


Its TiVo Stream lets users watch both live and recorded shows on iPhones and iPads — Android devices to come later. Users can also copy shows to their iOS devices to watch them when away from home. Its only downside is that the stream stops at the end of each show and the next show has to be loaded. It’s not a “true” TV with continuous play.


Its brand new $100 Mini lets TiVo’s 4-tuner DVRs serve as whole-home DVRs, accessing live and recorded content from TV sets in other rooms.


Observations from the Cord-Cutting Experience


Cutting the cord, even if only temporarily, has brought some OTT factoids to the fore:


           – There is more to watch on Netflix than I originally thought. That’s not even including original shows such as “House of Cards.” HBO and Showtime are not missed, especially now that Netflix has some of their older-but-ever-new shows such as “The Tudors.” It’s unlikely that I will ever go back to paying for premium channels because I can get more than I can watch on the OTT services. Pay TV channels such as AMC are putting first-run original content such as “Breaking Bad” on Netflix as soon as each season ends. For those that don’t want to wait, pay-to-view OTT services such as iTunes sell those shows for delivery the day following when they first appear.


– It was interesting to watch intermittently the original “House of Cards” with Ian Richardson and the new one with Kevin Spacey.


           – Twice I have added Netflix’s DVD service (at an additional $8 a month), but subsequently cancelled both times because there were too many DVDs piling up unviewed.


           – I have become a major supporter of UltraViolet after being amazed at how many old shows it has, some going back to the 1940s. Previously a mainline iTunes purchaser, I now use Vudu almost exclusively to buy shows because most of them are eligible to go into my UltraViolet library. (There are only a very few Disney flicks that I want permanently.)


           – Local stations broadcast some channels that the cable TV company does not offer but the number of times I have accessed one of them with the antenna has significantly diminished.


           – The cable TV company recently provided a free broadband upgrade to higher speeds, no doubt prompted by the telcos’ offering higher speeds. Higher speeds are needed, of course, to better watch OTT services, something the pay TV services like because they make much more off of broadband than from pay TV.


Lessons for the Pay TV Services


           – HD is a must and the pay TV services should keep it out of their basic TV services except for the local channels that offer the broadcasts of the national TV networks in HD.


           – Pay TV services should keep “must see” channels such as CNBC and the History Channel out of their basic bundles or subscribers will downgrade to basic.


           – Sooner or later, the pay TV services are going to have to offer a Netflix-like OTT service, not just TV Everywhere.


The pay TV services are not going away. They own the rights to lots of content and have cordial relationships at the highest levels of the content companies. They are also increasingly producing their own content.


The pay TV companies are being enriched by their takings from broadband services, none of which they have to pay to content companies. OTT services pay for all content. They get to keep it all minus some that’s needed for network deployment and upkeep, half of which they can charge to their pay TV operations. We wonder what will happen with the cable TV services when they see that their broadband service brings more profit to their bottom line that pay TV does.


Although we at The Online Reporter are major boosters for OTT, we know that most of the frequent viewers of TV could not live off of OTT alone. At least not until sports, news, weather and reality TV shows are more widely available as OTT services.

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Follow Up with Tivo’s New Mini


No story is ever finished so we followed up on last week’s report on the TiVo Mini with some questions to TiVo spokesman Steve Wymer.


The Online Reporter: Can the Mini access the apps for the OTT services that are on the DVR? Or does it have its own set of apps?


TiVo’s Wymer: No, the Mini has its’ own set up of apps and services which it runs independently, thus the service fee for the unit. The tuner in the DVR is used for access to recordings stored at its location, but does not perform any of the service functions in place of the TiVo Mini.


Q: If it has its own set of apps, can it be used as a standalone device a la Apple TV and Roku? If not, are there plans to do that?


A: Even though the apps are run using the TiVo Mini hardware, they cannot be launched as stand-alone devices [like an Apple TV or Roku]. The core functionality of the TiVo Mini is to provide an extension of TiVo experience to other rooms at a low cost to consumers.


[Please note that Wymer did not rule out the possibility of a standalone Mini as an OTT-only device somewhere down the line.]


We also asked Wymer about DTAs, for which Broadcom last week announced chips.


Q: What are DTAs and how do they impact TiVo?


A: DTAs or Digital Tuning Adapters are used to help tune channels in markets using a particular type of cable signal called Switched Digital Video (SDV). The new type of cable signal is an effort by cable companies to conserve bandwidth by only sending the channels requested down the cable line rather than sending all of them at once. TiVo requires a digital tuning adapter to correctly operate in markets using switched digital video, and it can be acquired along with a CableCard from the cable company. The CableCard and tuning adapter work in tandem to tune cable signals for third party devices.


Back to Headlines


Intel Media Aims to Attract the ‘Cordless’


– Crafting ‘Smarter Bundles’ and Adding Personalization


– Counting on HEVC/H.265 to Lower Bandwidth Requirements


Intel Media’s VP and general manager of content and services Eric Free did not reveal much at the Next TV Summit put on by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable about the company’s plans to launch a broadband-delivered pay TV service later this year, but there was a glimmer, as reported by Light Reading at:


  1. Free said the Intel service will expand the pay TV pie. It will offer “smarter bundles” and personalization that appeals to the younger, more connected set. He did not say it, but many in that younger set have not had pay TV since they left home. They have become accustomed to getting all their video entertainment over the Net and on smartphones, tablets, PCs, smart TVs and smart TV adapters.


  1. Its cloud-based service will launch later this year with live TV, on-demand content and interactive apps for discovery and watching on all viewing screens.


  1. Intel Media will offer its own broadband-connected device. That will add to the home’s nest of wires unless it uses 11ac or HomePlug to access the home network and wireless HDMI adapters to connect to the set.


Free said Intel Media’s pay TV service, as yet unnamed, will not undercut traditional pay TV’s pricing of its competition or deliver video on an a la carte basis.


It expects the upcoming H.265/HEVC compression standard will reduce the size of the streams so as to minimize the impact on subscribers’ bandwidth usage and monthly fees.


Free said Intel Media is testing the service in three West Coast markets with Intel employees.


Nothing that Free described is new or of a breakthrough nature. The “smarter bundles,” for example, could be done by existing pay TV services. Pay TV services’ broadband delivery of older content is called TV Everywhere and they could, after some negotiations with content owners, start delivering live TV.


Maybe, like the song, “it ain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.” Apple has certainly proven that to be true. “The time is now for change,” Free said.


Back to Headlines


Intel Media Adding Employees


Separately, Intel Media spokesman John Carvill said it’s adding 60 people to its current staff of over 300 and the total number could hit 400 within the next three months.


Intel media wants specialists in Hadoop, which is used to mine big data looking for trends. Netflix is regarded as being particular adept at mining subscribers’ viewing preferences.


Intel’s Web site says it’s looking for customer support people, which it calls “audience representatives.” They would communicate with customers by phone, chat, email and video.


As to acquiring content, Carvill would only say the company is in negotiations with content owners.


Back to Headlines


Corporates Sluggish to Take to Windows 8 PCs


The corporates haven’t shown much interest in Windows 8 PCs, according to Nomura Securities analyst Rick Sherlund. On the other hand, most corporates don’t get too interested in new versions of Windows until at least after the first update, and even then they go through a long and arduous series of product testing. Intel-based Surface Pro tablets may be the Trojan horse that opens the gates for Windows PCs. Corporates that are evaluating tablets will certainly evaluate the Surface Pro model because it is compatible with the software they have purchased and developed.


Microsoft has said it had sold 60 million Windows 8 licenses as of January 24, 2013, not exactly earth shattering, but not an insignificant number.


Sherlund expects sales of Windows 8 for PCs to pick up later this year, which of course they would as corporates begin to get serious about it.


Microsoft will do everything it can in terms of new releases and marketing efforts to help Windows 8 succeed in the corporate marketplace. Consumers, on the other hand, are buying tablets and smartphones, holding off as much as possible at buying a new PC.


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Set Makers Ramping up Production of 4K TVs


– As Yet Unanswered: Where’s the Content? How Will It Be Delivered to Homes?


It now looks like there’ll be plenty of 4K TV sets by year-end even though they’ll still be painfully pricey. The next worries are where the 4K content will come from, not just upscaled Blu-ray, but real 4K.


NPD DisplaySearch, usually a reliable forecaster, predicts that panel makers will ship 2.6 million 4K Ultra HD TV panels worldwide to TV set makers in 2013, up from the meager 63,000 that were shipped in 2012.


“To date, Innolux Corp has been the most aggressive panel manufacturer in this market segment, developing a full line-up of 4K×2K panels in the 39-inch to 85-inch range,” said David Hsieh, NPD DisplaySearch vice president for the greater China market. “Despite this, 4K×2K panel manufacturers’ shipments are primarily focused on 50-inch, 55- to 58-inch and 65-inch sizes, which are expected to have the highest volume shipments, especially in China.”


Hsieh added, “4K×2K LCD TV is the newest TV technology available, and in order for it to be successful, it will be critical for the supply chain to avoid falling behind when making their purchases, even if content is still scarce. Some panel makers are also working with design houses to develop circuits built into the panel, to enable up-scaling of HD to 4K×2K content. This will help to drive the 4K×2K LCD TV market and encourage panel makers, especially those that have already started design-in work with TV brands in 2013.”


The list of companies ordering 4K displays includes the usual suspects plus some that are not so well known: Sony, Toshiba, Panasonic, Skyworth, Hisense, AOC/Philips, Konka, Changhong, Haier, Vizio, TCL, Sharp, Funai, LG, Samsung and some unnamed China TV makers


Assuming that content producers are already doing much of their work in 4K, the next big question is how 4K videos will be delivered to the home.


The choices are:


– Blu-ray: It doesn’t seem likely, at least initially because the Blu-ray Disc Association has not publicly announced that it has even started developing the technology — except for what its members are doing on their own. The Blu-ray 4K DVRs like the Samsung model BD-F7500 actually use upscaling of HD instead of playing true 4K. Samsung said the player would be able to play 4K video when and if it ever appears on Blu-ray discs. We’re not optimistic about that because, barring some major technology breakthrough, it will take a brand new Blu-ray player design to watch an entire 4K movie without changing discs. The results with upscaling are actually quite good, visibly superior to HD video.


– Pay TV: 4K is a natural for pay TV services such as DirecTV that tout video quality as one of their main attractions. It can be used to upsell their existing subscribers, helping it compete against the OTT crowd.


– OTT: 4K is a natural for OTT services, which can take advantage of increasing broadband and home network speeds. RED has already announced a $1,500 REDRAY adapter for 4K TV sets. It receives 4K streams over the Internet for playback and even has an HD for recording them. It has an agreement with a 4K OTT service called Odemax that appears to be looking for 4K content, but so far has none on its Web sites.


Back to Headlines


The Technology that Makes 4K Practical


What makes 4K practical is the technology industry’s development of compression/decompression (encoding/decoding) technology called HEVC (for High Efficiency Video Coding). Its formal name is H.265.


Raw 4K video contains four times as much data as 1080p, but HEVC reduces the amount of bandwidth needed by about 50%. The net result is that 4K that’s compressed with HEVC at its transmission point and decompressed with a device in the home only needs about two times as much as bandwidth. Of course, with HEVC, 1080p streams will require only half the bandwidth they do now.


Recent HEVC events include:


– At CES Broadcom announced it would start shipping next year its BCM7445 HEVC chips for use in CE devices.


– The new Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone supports HEVC video decoding.


– At CES Samsung said its F8500 series of plasma TVs would support HEVC video decoding.


– Ittiam Systems announced HD HEVC encoder and decoder solutions. Its encoder, which runs on Intel-based servers, is aimed at broadcasters. Its decoder, which runs on ARM-based devices, is aimed at smartphones, tablets, STBs and smart TVs.


– NTT DoCoMo is licensing its HEVC decoding software, which can play 4K on PCs and 1080p on smartphones and tablets.


– Elemental Technologies has announced a HEVC/H.265 encoding upgrade for its AVC/H.264 video server systems.


It’s clear that the technology industry will be able to enable widespread use of 4K:


– Pay TV and OTT services will be able to select the 4K encoding servers they need to transmit 4K content.


– CE makers will be able to embed 4K decoders in their devices — from TV sets to smartphones. Samsung already is.


– Content in 4K is already being shot by producers.


– Increased broadband speeds will be available thanks to cablecos’ DOCSIS 3.0 and 3.1, as well as VDSL2 Vectoring and fiber from the telcos.


– Faster home networking speeds will come from MoCA 2.0, HomePlug AV2 and the 11ac version of Wi-Fi.


We believe that 4K will succeed especially in homes because it a) does not require glasses that interfere with other activities such as talking, browsing and reading; b) looks more realistic than 3D ever did; c) will be available on tablets and smartphones and d) has a three-dimensional look without being something that is so noticeable as 3D.


Back to Headlines


Galveston Theater Gets Qube’s 4K Servers


Qube Cinema has installed its 4K 3D system at the theater in the Moody Gardens amusement park in Galveston. Its Qube XP-I server delivers 4K video to two Barco 4K projectors, each of which has an embedded Qube Xi 4K Integrated Media Block. Brandon Compton, theater director at Moody Gardens, said, “The results of audience surveys are consistently great, with high marks for image clarity.” Qube said other places with its 4K servers are the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the Peoria Riverfront Museum, the Milwaukee Public Museum and the National Museum of the United States Air Force. They use Qube Cinema gear to show true 4K 3D movies, such as “The Last Reef” and “Flight of the Butterflies.”


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4K Coming But Will Be 2016


“We certainly need to see the development of HEVC, the follow-on from MPEG-4 encoding, and to have enough scale to bring the pricing down. It’s much too expensive. We have to have the programming to go along with it. But we are talking from going from 4K, which is four times the throughput of standard HD to 8K, which is 16 times. So the question really is: do we really have big adoption at the 4K level or do we jump right to 8K and how long does that take? Plus, people have bought a lot of HD sets and they want to use them. So I think it’s going to take a while.” — Intelsat CEO Dave McGlade, who predicted a market for Ultra HD in 2016 in a panel discussion on a Satellite 2013 “Big Four” panel as reported by Broadband TV News at:


Back to Headlines


Netflix Expects to Have 4K ‘Within a Year or Two’


Netflix expects to offer 4K content “within a year or two,” according to its chief product officer Ted Sarandos in an interview with The Verge. Sarandos said, “Clearly we have much work to do with the compression and decode capability, but we expect to be delivering 4K within a year or two with at least some movies and then over time become an important source of 4K. 4K will likely be streamed first before it goes anywhere else,” a point we have been making.


Sarandos said Netflix’s new Netflix original series “House of Cards” was shot in 4K format and so could be streamed in 4K. That of course depends on getting it decoded by devices in the home, none of which exist yet, plus sufficient broadband and home networking speeds.


Let’s say Netflix announces 4K streams will be available by year-end and says it has a library of “must see” 4K content. There would be:


– An immediate scurry by CE makers to launch 4K adapters in the short run. Roku would probably be the first to add 4K decoding, but Apple could not ignore Netflix’s move.


– Makers of TV sets, Blu-ray players, tablets and smartphones would scramble to launch models with 4K decoders.


– Subscribers would check to see if they had sufficient broadband and home networking speeds. Even with HEVC’s compression, 4K streams will be twice the size as 1080 p streams are now.


The launch of 4K by an OTT service would be a boost to the economy because, as those events coalesced, subscribers would begin purchasing 4K viewing devices. Many would upgrade the speeds of their broadband and buy or lease faster modems/gateways as well as purchase new home networking gear.


Back to Headlines




BT Racks up 2 More All-Fiber/Part-Fiber Deals


– Bringing Fiber to the Neighborhood and/or Home


– Kent & Northhamtonpshire Sign Up for Joint Government/BT Financed Rollouts


BT continues to rack up wins with the County Councils throughout the UK. The latest two are with the Kent County Council and the Northamptonshire County Council. Both deals are countywide and both deals are similar. BT installs fiber to a cabinet in the neighborhood and uses existing copper telephone wires from there to the residence. It also makes all-fiber connections available for an installation fee to some residences.




The video shows Dr Ranulf Scarbrough, BT’s director of Superfast Cornwall explaining the installation process of FTTC (cabinet). AT&T and other telcos are deploying similar broadband networks that are based on various xDSL technologies. BT is also testing FTTP (premises or home) where copper wires in the “last mile” from the cabinet to the home is replaced by fiber, turning it into an all-fiber network.


Financing for the Kent County Council-BT agreement is:


In terms of government supplied financing, the only thing similar in the States is the FCC’s Connect America Fund, which aims to help telcos and local governments bring broadband to sparsely populated areas.


The Kent County initiative is being marketed under the banner “Make Kent Quicker.” BT said that without this partially government-financed venture, “many rural business and communities would continue to have either no or very slow broadband services as there are no market-led plans to upgrade infrastructure in many rural parts of the county.


Kent County is located southeast of London and includes Canterbury (where Henry the II allegedly had four knights murder Thomas a Becket, the then head of the Church in England, in 1170), Dover and towns on the Medway River such as Gillingham, Chatham and Rochester that are on the southeast outskirts of London.


The goal is to make sure that at least:


– 95% of properties in Kent have access to higher-speed fiber broadband by the end of 2015


– 91% have access to speeds of 24 Mbps and above


– Every residence will have access to at least 2 Mbps.


The deployment will require the deployment of hundreds of miles of fiber.


The justification for the expense is a promised increase of £1.5 billion to the county’s economy. It will also financially benefit companies outside of Kent that are selling OTT videos (like Netflix and LoveFilm) and goods and services like eBay and Amazon plus UK merchants.


Roger Gough, Kent County Council Cabinet member, said the project is about “making sure that no one misses out on broadband.” He said, “Just as the thousands of miles of rail and roads are essential in bringing the county together, this is an essential network for Kent.”


Bill Murphy, BT’s managing director for next generation access, said, “This beautiful county, home to the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, will now start to see high-speed fiber broadband roll-out extended and this will enable more local businesses to think global as well as enhancing education and transforming the way consumers use the Internet.” It will also help BT sell its pay TV service, which it has recently been bulking up by adding “must see: content, especially sports. It recently acquired much of ESPN’s UK operations.


Communications Minister Ed Vaizey acknowledged that fast broadband will “make things like gaming, watching BBC iPlayer or downloading films much quicker and hassle-free.”


Like the other deals BT has done with county councils and used UK government money, the network in Kent will be “open access,” which means other broadband service provider can pay BT for access to the network and provide consumers with services.


Source Amount in millions


Kent County Council £10.00             $15.17


UK central government         £9.87   $14.97 (as part of the government’s   Broadband Delivery   UK (BDUK) program)


BT       £19.60 $29.73


BT said the average downstream speed in Kent is currently around 11 Mbps. It provided these expected speeds for the new network:


– Fiber-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC), which will be what most residences get, delivers downstream speeds up to 80 Mbps and upstream speeds of up to 20 Mbps.


– Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP), where available, provides speeds up to 330 Mbps. It said that the FTTP would start to be available on demand from the Spring throughout the whole of the fiber footprint. Resellers at their discretion may or may not offer the full FTTP speeds.


BT said it will use satellite and “advanced copper” wire technologies to achieve the speeds it promises.


The Northhamtonpshire Deal


BT has announced a similar deal with the Northamptonshire County Council that will cost £16.2 million ($25.5 million). Details of deployment and scheduling are similar to the agreement with Kent County.


The venture will provide “world class fiber broadband speeds” to 53,000 Northamptonshire homes and businesses.


At least 2 Mbps will be available to every premise. Almost 3,000 Northamptonshire business premises will have access to fiber by September 2015.


The Northamptonshire County Council commissioned an economic impact study that showed 1,700 jobs would be added by 2026/20277 and an additional £110 million ($167 million) in additional annual Gross Value Added by 2026/2027.


Andre Gonzalez De Savage, Northamptonshire County Council cabinet member for infrastructure and public protection, said the project “will make an enormous difference in bringing prosperity to the county,” adding that “superfast broadband is essential if we are to compete in the digital global economy.”


Financing Source       Amount in millions


BT       £8.10   $12.25


BDUK and Northamptonshire


County Council           £4.08   $6.17


As usual in such government-funded projects, BT’s network will be open to all service providers on an equal wholesale basis.


Cornwall County Too


Last week we reported that BT had signed a similar deal with the Cornwall County Council. Its goal is to provide fiber broadband to 95% of the homes and businesses in Cornwall. Financing for that project was:


BT       up to £78.5 million     ($117 million)


European Regional Development Fund         up to £53.5 million     ($80 million)


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Google Fiber Creeps Outside the Two Kansas Cities


It’s not exactly a nationwide rollout, but Google Fiber is expanding outside of the two Kansas Cities to nearby Olathe, Kansas. The Olathe town council this week approved a deal that will allow the deep-pocketed Google to expand its all-fiber network.


In Olathe Google Fiber will compete against Time Warner Cable and AT&T’s U-verse.


Google Fiber Community Manager Rachel Hack hinted in a post that there will be other expansions in nearby locations, “Hopefully, this is the first of several announcements that we’ll be able to make about bringing Google Fiber to additional cities in the KC metro area.”


The announcements we’re waiting for are Google’s number of subscribers and its fiber expansion to non-contiguous areas. Pre-launch it said its intent was to show what could be done. It’s not clear what lessons it has taught them — or shown other communities why all-fiber networks are a must for their future.


Back to Headlines


Telcos Beware: DOCSIS 3.1 Coming to Market Quickly


Confirming what CableLabs CTO Ralph Brown said at Cable Congress in London, Europe two weeks ago, Dan Rice, the VP of access network technology at CableLabs, said the specs for DOCSIS 3.1, capable of 10 Gbps, are expected to be finished this year with initial 3.1 products coming in 2014, according to Light Reading.


We don’t expect rollouts of 3.1 gear to begin until 2015 or 2016, except for testing. For one thing, the cablecos have to be sure that 3.1 works, does not interfere with prior versions and is fully backwards compatible with gear that’s based on prior versions of DOCSIS. Additionally, there does not appear to be lots of subscriber demand for speeds in excess of 40-50 Mbps. That may change as more smartphones and tablets are used to watch OTT services. Additionally, except for Verizon’s FiOS, telcos are not yet even capable of offering the speeds that cablecos are already successfully deploying.


However, if the telcos begin upgrading their copper wire networks to VDSL2 Vectoring, they would be able to offer speeds of up to 100 Mbps. Of course, cablecos can already beat those speeds with their current DOCSIS 3.0 technology.


Rice said DOCSIS 3.1 would give cablecos a broadband platform that would last a decade or so.


Black Swans


There are two potential black swans that might arrive to disrupt the market:


           – G.Fast, another copper wire technology, but it is not expected to be completed for another two years or so. It will also be costly to deploy, not as much as all-fiber, but G.Fast does require telcos to install fiber even closer to the residence than VDSL2 Vectoring does.


           – A nationwide all-fiber network, which could be deployed by number of technology companies such as Google, Intel and Apple, all of which have TV ventures that could benefit from an all-fiber network. Each of them has the resources to cover densely populated areas with all-fiber networks, much as Google is doing in the two Kansas Cities. It’s not beyond belief that any two or all three of them might band together in such an effort as Intel and Google did in Clearwire’s WiMAX venture. Who knows? Microsoft might even be tempted to join in. Such a venture would probably be ended before it started if US cablecos announced they were deploying DOCSIS 3.1 nationwide — and without any costs for deploying new cables to residences.


Spectrum Efficiency


Light Reading quoted Comcast’s VP of Access Architecture Jorge Salinger as saying that cablecos are as concerned, maybe more so, about the efficient use of the spectrum in their cables as they are about speed. DOCSIS 3.1 increases spectrum efficiency by about 50%.


Salinger said, “It’s all about efficiency. The quicker we can have it [DOCSIS 3.1], the faster we can use our spectrum more efficiently. You can’t just have more spectrum.”


Back to Headlines


Broadcom Land ZTE & Sumavision for C-DOCSIS


Broadcom has landed two of the largest Chinese equipment makers, ZTE and Sumavision, who will use Broadcom’s C-DOCSIS (C-Data over Cable Interface Standard) chips in network gear that Chinese cable TV operators are purchasing in large quantities. The product category is called Ethernet-over-coax (EoC) and EoC equipment is used for Building Area Networks (BANs) that connect residences in MDUs to the buildings’ fiber network. The network provides pay TV, broadband and telephony services. C-DOCSIS devices serve as the residence’s gateway/modem. In most cases, BANs are not used within the residence to connect individual devices. That can be done by home networking technologies such as HomePlug, MoCA or Wi-Fi.


Broadcom’s main competitor for this application is Qualcomm Atheros’ EEE 1901 compliant HomePlug AV-based EoC version, which according to reports, has the leading market share. MoCA chipmaker Entropic has told The Online Reporter that equipment with its c.LINK chips are winning deals with Chinese cablecos. Makers of chips have told us that they are working with Chinese equipment makers and cablecos to sell equipment with their chips.


Broadcom says its C-DOCSIS technology uses standard DOCSIS protocols and devices, the same ones that cable TV operators deploy worldwide on their hybrid fiber/coax (HFC) networks. That, it says, makes DOCSIS the most widely deployed form of Ethernet over Coax (EoC) worldwide.


Chinese equipment makers are also developing an EoC technology called HiNOC (High Performance Network Over Coax) but, so far as we know, no HiNOC equipment has been installed.


The ZTE and Sumavision deals are considered major wins for Broadcom and indicates that ZTE and Sumavision believe there is a very large market for C-DOCSIS in what is the world’s largest broadband market and could soon be the world’s largest home networking market.


Broadcom said ZTE and Sumavision were showing C-DOCSIS gear this week at the 2013 China International Broadcasting and Television Information Network (CCBN) Exhibition in Beijing.


Broadcom offers an architecture that is a complete chipset and software solution that includes Coax Media Converter (CMC), DOCSIS 2.0 & 3.0 cable modem and set-top box (STB) system-on-a-chip (SoC) devices. Equipment with its chips can provide speeds of up to 1 Gbps.


Chinese cable TV operators that have already begun mass deployment of C-DOCSIS EoC products include Zhejiang Wasu Digital TV Media Group, Jiangsu Broadcasting Cable Information Network, Jiangsu Kunshan Information Hub Network Technology and Inner Mongolia Radio & TV Network.


Ernie Bahm, Broadcom’s senior marketing director for head-end products and who is spearheading the company’s C-DOCSIS venture in China, said his company is working closely with ZTE and Sumavision to convince China’s cablecos to adopt C-DOCSIS.


Broadcom and ZTE may be thinking about taking C-DOCSIS beyond China. Zhu Yongxing, ZTE’s general manager of access networks, said “We believe that C-DOCSIS will be successful in China. The cooperation between Broadcom and ZTE will promote the C-DOCSIS technology to the global market.”


A key to the Chinese market is SARFT, the country’s regulator for such matters. Broadcom said Sumavision’s Topvisions CC8800 series product is the first C-DOCSIS product that SARFT has certified for use by provincial and municipal cablecos. CC8800 series products provide a Chinese consumer’s dream: 800 Mbps down, 160 Mbps up and a 64-channel 10 Mbps bitrate IPTV service, VoD and both voice and video communications.


ZTE’s ZXA10 EC9026 is a C-DOCSIS box with broadband, VoD and VoIP, plus it has GE/GPON/EPON/10GEPON for connecting to the fiber network. One or more are needed for each MDU. It is rated for outdoor installation, which means it operates successfully in temperatures from very cold to very hot. Each box provides C-DOCSIS services to all the residences in an MDU. Each residence will have an STB or cable modem.


Back to Headlines




New Access Browser for TV Allows Sharing with Tablets & Smartphones


Access showed its TV-centric HTML5 browser, NetFront Browser NX 3.0, at TV Connect in London this week. New features include mush faster speed — Access called it “lightning quick,” an improved YouTube Leanback for remotes, expanded STB and TV chip support and seamless sharing of content and UIs from a DVR with smartphones, tablets and other STBs that use Access’s Remote User Interface. Access has integrated NetFront Browser NX with Intel and Broadcom chipsets. NetFront Browser NX is based on WebKit and HTML5, which it called the language of TV’s future. Kiyoyasu Oishi, chairman and CEO, of Access Europe, said, “NetFront Browser NX is the best route for operators looking to retain control of the consumer experience while providing users with the multi-screen media sharing they increasingly expect.”


Back to Headlines


New Broadcom Chips Help Cablecos Compete against Telcos & OTT


– Streams Videos to Multiple Screens in the Home


– Meet SARFT’s Network Content Protection Standards


– Compatible with 11ac Version of Wi-Fi


Broadcom this week announced its new BCM7583 and BCM7584 chipsets. They will go in low-cost, entry-level HD STBs and DVRs to provide cablecos with features they can use to compete against both telcos and OTT services such as streaming Internet-delivered videos to multiple viewing devices simultaneously. An interface for adding the 11ac version of Wi-Fi is included as is network content protection that meets SARFT’s standard.


Aware that cablecos are competing against both telcos and OTT services, Dan Marotta, Broadcom’s EVP and general manager for its communications group, said, “Global operators [cablecos] can now effectively compete against IP [the telcos’ IPTV pay TV] and OTT service providers with a high-performance yet lower cost platform that combines the very latest industry technologies in an entry-level solution.”


The company said telcos with their IPTV technology and OTT services are attracting subscribers because they can deliver multiple videos to multiple devices. The boxes in which its chips are used allow cablecos “to provide cost-effective, advanced services to increase ARPU and support streaming services in the home.” Cablecos are demanding low cost, high-performance HD platforms that run HTML5 browser-based user interfaces, it said, something that boxes with its new chips can provide.


Broadcom called them “the industry’s first low cost, high definition (HD) digital cable set-top box SoCs with integrated Full-Band Capture and IP video server technology.” It described the STBs and DVRs in which the chips will go as cost-effective mini-servers that deliver videos simultaneously to multiple screens within the home.


They were on display at this week’s 2013 China International Broadcasting and Television Information Network (CCBN) Exhibition in Beijing.


The chips are intended for the global market. Broadcom was showing them at the Chinese trade fair because of their low cost and they meet China’s SARFT DCAS network content protection requirements. Broadcom said the chips are intended for STBs and DVRs that will be sold “to enable operators throughout the world to provide cost effective and advanced video experiences to subscribers.”


Included in the chips are Conditional Access (CA) and Digital Rights Management (DRM) security, that converts content from CA to an IP-DRM streaming content and protect the rights of content providers.


Four QAM demodulators in the BCM7584 and three QAM demodulators in the BCM7583) support multi-tuner experiences for use to simultaneously other record channels while watching.


Both have interfaces that support:


– The new 802.11ac version of Wi-Fi


– DOCSIS 2.0 plus C-DOCSIS for the Chinese market


– Broadband and VoD


– Direct-RF DOCSIS modem for optional VoD and Internet services


Broadcom said it’s shipping the chips in sampling quantities now and equipment makers with multiple reference designs.


Back to Headlines




Both Surface Tablets Off to Slow Start, esp. RT Models


Initial indications are that sales of Microsoft’s ARM-based Surface RT only number about 1 million since it launched last October, according to a report cited by Bloomberg, and only about 400,000 Surface pros, the Intel-based model since it launched last month. Microsoft has not announced any sales numbers.


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The State of the US Broadband Industry


– Cablecos Dominate Booming Broadband Industry


– Leichtman Ranks 2012 Results


Three conclusions jump out of the US broadband numbers that Leichtman Research Group published this week:


  1. The broadband business in the US is still growing in numbers of subscribers and probably even more so in revenue. Service providers that represent about 93% of all broadband subscribers added a net of over 2.7 million subscribers in 2012, 90% of what they added in 2011.


  1. Cablecos are winning the fight for market share, hands down. The cable TV companies, as we predicted when they launched DOCSIS 3.0 in April 2005, added 88% of the net adds. Leichtman’s list of top broadband providers now account for over 81.4 million subscribers, with cablecos leading with 46.8 million broadband subscribers to the telcos 34.6 million.


  1. It’s a money-spinner. Broadband is a very profitable business, maybe already more profitable than pay TV for most providers. At a guesstimated $40 per residence it’s over $3 billion a year. There is no content cost in operating a broadband network, so after deducting half the cost of new deployments and maintenance (the other half being charged to the pay TV business), it’s very, very profitable. It’s the OTT services that have all the content costs, not the broadband provider.


The cablecos on Leichtman’s list added 2.4 million broadband subscribers in 2012, slightly more (105%) than they added in 2011.


The cablecos’ rout of the telcos was massive. Comcast’s net new 1.2 million broadband subscribers in 2012 alone was more than all the telcos, which added 320,000 broadband subscribers. Things were not improving for the telcos as they only added 43% of the number of broadband subscribers they had added in 2011.


AT&T and Verizon were treading water in broadband in 2012. They are deploying fiber, AT&T with fiber-to-the-neighborhood and copper wire from there to the residence and Verizon with fiber-to-the-home for 70% of the residences in its footstep. Together they added 3.08 million broadband subscribers to their partial (AT&T) or full fiber (Verizon) networks, but lost 3 million of their DSL subscribers. Some of the telcos’ losses were to themselves as they upgraded existing DSL subscribers to U-verse and FiOS. That no doubt resulted in increased revenue, saved subscribers from switching to cablecos and helped sales of pay TV and telephony.


Verizon has invested well over $22 billion in building its all-fiber network but cablecos against which it competes keep upping the broadband speeds with DOCSIS and, in at least one place that we know of, an all-fiber network.


Telcos need new technologies and marketing to accelerate the conversion of their DSL customers to U-verse and FiOS. They could use their might in mobile networks to help by selling quad play bundles, but so far have not.


Verizon has indicated that it will not upgrade its copper wire network to VDSL2 Vectoring’s 100 Mbps download speeds. For the 30% of its footprint where it does not have FTTH, it will not replace copper with copper. It will replace copper with fiber as needed such as when tropical storm Sandy damaged some of its copper wire networks. In sparsely populated areas we expect that Verizon will use higher speeds LTE broadband to fixed LTE/Wi-Fi modems in the home. Verizon and CenturyLink have both said they intend to deploy VDSL2 Vectoring.


Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for Leichtman Research Group, said the US broadband companies have added about 19 million subscribers over the past five years. “Even with the high level of broadband penetration in the US, the top broadband providers added 90% as many subscribers in 2012 as in 2011,” he said.


Broadband Internet Provider



Subscribers at End of 2012



Net Adds in 2012


Cable Companies














Time Warner
















































Cable ONE








Other Major Private Cablecos**








Total Top Cable








Telephone Companies






















































Cincinnati Bell








Total Top Telephone Companies













Total Broadband








Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group.


* LRG estimate


** Includes LRG estimates for Bright House Networks and RCN


^ LRG estimate, does not include wireless subscribers


^^ Windstream no longer reports the number of non-residential subscribers


Company subscriber counts may not represent solely residential households


Totals reflect pro forma results from system sales and acquisitions


Top cable and telephone companies represent approximately 93% of all subscribers


Sorted by number of subscribers, Leichtman’s list of US broadband providers looks like this:

Comcast       19,367,000 1,223,000

AT&T 16,390,000 -37,000

Time Warner          11,395,000 486,000

Verizon        8,795,000    125,000

CenturyLink^         5,848,000    192,000

Cox* 4,620,000    120,000

Charter        3,978,000    323,000

Cablevision 3,055,000    90,000

Other Major Private Cable Companies**       1,978,000    53,000

Frontier^     1,757,000    22,000

Windstream^^      1,214,500    6,700

Suddenlink 1,002,100    53,400

Mediacom    915,000       64,000

Cable ONE    459,235       8,153

FairPoint      326,367       12,232

Cincinnati Bell       259,400       2,100


Sorted by percentage increase over 2011’s year end numbers, Leichtman’s list looks like this:

Charter        3,978,000    323,000       8.8%

Mediacom    915,000       64,000         7.5%

Comcast       19,367,000 1,223,000    6.7%

Suddenlink 1,002,100    53,400         5.6%

Time Warner          11,395,000 486,000       4.5%

FairPoint      326,367       12,232         3.9%

CenturyLink^         5,848,000    192,000       3.4%

Cablevision 3,055,000    90,000         3.0%

Other Major Private Cablecos**          1,978,000    53,000         2.8%

Cox* 4,620,000    120,000       2.7%

Cable ONE    459,235       8,153           1.8%

Verizon        8,795,000    125,000       1.4%

Frontier^     1,757,000    22,000         1.3%

Cincinnati Bell       259,400       2,100           0.8%

Windstream^^      1,214,500    6,700           0.6%

AT&T 16,390,000 -37,000        -0.2%


Charter’s lead in percentage added might indicate why Liberty Media anted up $2.62 billion for 27.3% of Charter this week. Liberty Media CEO Gregory Maffei said on CNBC that his company was very satisfied with Thomas Rutledge’s management of Charter. Liberty Media also paid for the rights to buy over time up to 35% of Charter.


AT&T and Verizon may be satisfied that their investments in U-verse and FiOS kept them “in the game,” but they can’t be happy that the cablecos kept increasing their lead.


Back to Headlines


Pay TV USA: Telcos & Satcos Up, Cablecos Down Again


Despite dire forecasts from some in the press, US pay TV companies added over 170,000 subscribers in 2012 although that was about 230,000 less than they added in 2011. Leichtman Research Group (LRG), which researched the numbers said thirteen largest pay TV services now have over 94.7 million subscribers. By comparison they have about 81.4 million broadband subscribers.


The nine largest cablecos have 51.3 million pay TV subscribers, satellite TV companies have over 34.1 million subscribers and top phone companies have 9.3 million.


Telcos and satcos continue to take away pay TV subscribers from the cablecos. The top nine cable companies lost about 1,415,000 video subscribers in 2012, fewer than the 1,600,000 subscribers they lost on 2011.


The telcos that LRG measured added 1,300,000 pay TV subscribers 2012, up from the 1,505,000 they added in 2011.


The satellite services added 288,000 video, down from their 496,000 net adds in 2011.


Bruce Leichtman, president and principal analyst for LRG, pointed out that the pay TV service providers it measured increased pay TV subscriptions by a meager 0.2% (two tenths of one percent). He said, “In this saturated and competitive market, it has become a contest over market share. Cable providers now have a 54% share of the top multi-channel video subscribers in the US, compared to a 58% share two years ago.”

Pay TV Services     Subscribers at End of 2012       Net Adds in 2012

Cable TV Companies       


Comcast       21,995,000 (336,000)

Time Warner          12,218,000 (525,000)

Charter        4,158,000    (156,000)

Cablevision 3,197,000    (53,000)

Suddenlink 1,211,200    (37,800)

Mediacom    1,000,000    (69,000)

Cable ONE    593,615       (27,808)

Other Major Private Cablecos *           6,935,000    (210,000)

Total Top Cable TV          51,307,815 (1,414,608)

Satellite TV Companies (DBS)  


DirecTV        20,084,000 199,000

Dish Network         14,056,000 89,000

Total Top DBS       34,140,000 288,000

Phone Companies




Verizon FiOS          4,726,000    553,000

AT&T U-verse        4,536,000    745,000

Total Top Phone    9,262,000    1,298,000






Total Pay TV Services      94,709,815 171,392


Sources: The Companies and Leichtman Research Group.


* Includes LRG estimates for Cox and Bright House Networks


Net additions reflect pro forma results from system sales and acquisitions


Top multi-channel video providers represent approximately 94% of all subscribers


Top cable companies do not include WOW


Company subscriber counts may not solely represent residential households


Note that LRG consumer research finds that about 1% of households subscribe to both cable and DBS

Ranked by number of subscribers

Comcast       21,995,000 -336,000

DirecTV        20,084,000 199,000

Dish Network         14,056,000 89,000

Time Warner          12,218,000 -525,000

Other Major Private Cablecos* 6,935,000    -210,000

Verizon FiOS          4,726,000    553,000

AT&T U-verse        4,536,000    745,000

Charter        4,158,000    -156,000

Cablevision 3,197,000    -53,000

Suddenlink 1,211,200    -37,800

Mediacom    1,000,000    -69,000

Cable ONE    593,615       -27,808


Ranked by Percent Gain/Loss

AT&T U-verse        4,536,000    745,000       19.7%

Verizon FiOS          4,726,000    553,000       13.3%

DirecTV        20,084,000 199,000       1.0%

Dish Network         14,056,000 89,000         0.6%

Comcast       21,995,000 -336,000      -1.5%

Cablevision 3,197,000    -53,000        -1.6%

Other Major Private Cablecos* 6,935,000    -210,000      -2.9%

Suddenlink 1,211,200    -37,800        -3.0%

Charter        4,158,000    -156,000      -3.6%

Time Warner          12,218,000 -525,000      -4.1%

Cable ONE    593,615       -27,808        -4.5%

Mediacom    1,000,000    -69,000        -6.5%


The two telcos are the fastest growing with the two satcos in third and fourth place in growth. All the cablecos suffered losses in the number of subscribers.

Ranked by Net Adds/Losses

AT&T U-verse        4,536,000    745,000

Verizon FiOS          4,726,000    553,000

DirecTV        20,084,000 199,000

Dish Network         14,056,000 89,000

Cable ONE    593,615       -27,808

Suddenlink 1,211,200    -37,800

Cablevision 3,197,000    -53,000

Mediacom    1,000,000    -69,000

Charter        4,158,000    -156,000

Other Major Private Cablecos* 6,935,000    -210,000

Comcast       21,995,000 -336,000

Time Warner          12,218,000 -525,000


Looking at the pay TV and broadband numbers, it appears the cablecos have the technology edge in broadband with the DOCSIS 3.0, but the telcos have the edge in pay TV with their IPTV technology. DirecTV, which added most of the net adds for satcos, keeps launching satellites, adding TV channels and increasing video resolution.


The question may be whether you would rather be king of broadband (the cablecos) or the leader in adding pay TV subscribers (the telcos). The bottom line says broadband. The OTT services and their offering of greater video resolution to more devices in the home may help the cablecos become the most profitable of the triple play companies (pay TV, broadband and telephony).


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29% of Viewing Now Is from the DVR


As most every DVR owner knows, much (29%) of what a person watches is recorded, according to Motorola Mobility in its latest Media Engagement Barometer. Also, much (about one-third) that is recorded is never watched. That’s not a problem, of course, because the consumer can record over unviewed shows anytime they find something better so it’s not clear why Motorola Mobility even asked the question. The study was based on the video consumption habits of 9,500 consumers in 17 countries. US consumers watched the most video per week at 23 hours of TV shows and six hours of movies. Japan and Sweden tied for the lowest at 15 hours of TV and two hours of movies. What we’d like to know is how much TV viewing is OTT and DVD/Blu-ray so we could gauge how many commercials viewers are skipping.


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Fewer New Pay TV Subs in 2012 than the Increase in Households


Numbers from SNL Kagan confirmed those from Leichtman Research Group about US subscriptions to pay TV. Kagan said the number of pay TV households at the end of 2012 was 100.4 million, up slightly, but not up as much as the increase in the number of households. Those numbers could indicate that, as Intel Media said this week, there’s an opportunity to increase the size of the market by appealing to the younger set, many of whom do not have pay TV.


Even though the US economy was slightly better in 2012 and there were 974,000 new households, only 46,000 households added pay TV.


Kagan’s take on pay TV market share is about the same as Leichtman’s.


– Cable TV     56.4 million, a slight decrease


– Satellite TV   34.1 million


– Telcos           9.9 million, an increase video subs.


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European Cableco’s Wi-Fi Ambitions Dwarf Those of Their Telco Rivals


– Europe’s Cable TV Operators Emulate US Blanket Wi-Fi Strategy


– May Think Even Bigger, Looking to Overshadow FON and Work with Cellcos


– As ‘Homespots’ Become Central to Cable Strategy, Cross-Atlantic Deals Could Ensue


The massed ranks of cablecos at the European Cable Congress event in London two weeks ago seemed obsessed with a mobile strategy based on the provision of almost ubiquitous Wi-Fi, emulating the process already underway in the US where the major cable operators Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cox, Cablevision and Bright House Networks all agreed, last May, to work towards seamless roaming across their respective Wi-Fi networks, a deal that has already resulted in availability of 100,000 hotspots across the US for their customers.


But key comments made by senior European cable TV industry figures point to even deeper commitment in this region.


Daniel Hennessy, CTO of Virgin Media, talked about converting 120,000 street cabinets to hotspots, and then using the 500,000-a-year new home router installations, to scale Wi-Fi beyond the cable TV footprint to a system far larger than anything that already exists.


Meanwhile, Matthias Kurth, new executive chairman of Cable Europe, talked about being close to roaming agreements similar to those that operate in the US and Peter Percosan, director of Cable Europe Labs, referred to trials at “homespots” in Belgium, where already 15,000 people in the city of Ghent have had software installed, allowing home Wi-Fi to operate as a hotspot.


European Cable TV Wi-Fi Trials


Telenet, which has been working on the Belgium project since late 2011, and said it would add a half a million extra free Wi-Fi locations for its customers. In a country of 11 million people, that’s one for every 22 people; it will probably take just two or three years.


This approach, where subscribers open up part of their WLan access to passers-by to widen the hotspot network well beyond coffee shops, is also being harnessed by some telcos — as in BT’s and Deutsche Telekom’s agreements with community Wi-Fi pioneer FON — and cellcos, like Free Mobile in France.


The cablecos’ idea has borrowed from the FON concept, but with a huge difference from the original FON concept. FON customers with home-based Wi-Fi routers can give their spare broadband capacity away to other subscribers when traveling within range, in return for being able to use other people’s bandwidth when they, in turn, were on the road. Today that concept is mutating to the point where telcos are backing FON, and of course, in the process, controlling that spare roaming access and offering it only to their own customers or partners. So customers only get the free broadband on the run, when they subscribe to a telco for something else.


That makes FON, for all intents and purposes, like TV Everywhere for the cable operators – the same service you have at home for free when you are out and about, and on other devices. But cablecos are looking beyond the FON model, which has drawbacks — limited bandwidth, cumbersome passwords and so on. They aim to dwarf the telcos’ FON efforts with better performance and more hotspots. FON has about 7 million contributing hotspots in Europe, and recently signed up Deutsche Telekom, which will add 2.5 million more by 2016. That still implies FON will have only one access point for every 50 people or so in the European Union by 2016 — far less dense even that cable’s first experiment in Belgium.


The cable strategy will rely on similar roaming agreements and technology to those used in the US projects, and enabling standards like Hotspot 2.0 and the 3GPP’s ANDSF (access network discovery and selection function). Cablecos are also likely to want to emulate FON in using a software update to existing routers to ease build-out — once roaming software is installed, whole countries of cable modems might be ‘lit up’ overnight and used by cable TV subscribers. If every cable modem with Wi-Fi in Europe were lit up in this way, it would total 40 million to 50 million devices overnight. The Telenet pilot is using software downloads.


From Value-Add to Full Mobile Strategy


Such strategies, like TV Everywhere, make sense for adding value and keeping cable customers loyal. But even if a giant like Liberty Global activates each of its 21 million European TV homes as “homespots,” how exactly is that a mobile strategy? It becomes that when the basic rollout is followed up with two other initiatives, which add up to a killer strategy.


First the cableco sets up a full MVNO, with its own handsets and branded experience. And second, that massive Wi-Fi capability does not need to be left in the hands of their own customers. The cable TV providers might offer this to their cellco partners’ customers or to all cellular operators to support Wi-Fi offload. Cable Wi-Fi then becomes part of the European cellcos’ networks, at least for those that are cellular-only. We can’t see cable wanting to work with Deutsche Telekom or KPN, because they compete head-on across the board — but perhaps with Vodafone. So, if Liberty Global signed an MVNO with Vodafone across Europe, it might offer Vodafone customers free access to 21 million homespots at a stroke, in return for cost reductions on the virtual network deal. It could choose also to offer the access points to T-Mobile and Telefonica customers, for a cash payment or some other consideration.


Finally, when the CTOs of all the major cable operators on both sides of the Atlantic — including Comcast and Time Warner from the US — met for an onstage discussion at the London show, the idea of roaming between these two continents was also brought up. So, not only might Liberty Global offer roaming rights to visitors from the US who have Comcast Wi-Fi at home, but it might also sign deals with the likes of T-Mobile USA and Verizon, if it so chose, for reduced cost roaming across much of Europe. Since most major US cable operators have a Verizon MVNO, then those cable customers might find that Europe’s Wi-Fi opened up for them.


Of course, the telcos of Europe could tidy up the way FON works and brandish this weapon, offering it to their own respective cellular arms for offload. Meanwhile, pure cellular operators who have little or no fixed line capability have to consider strategies to put Wi-Fi into heterogeneous small cell networks, to reach out using Wi-Fi in their own way and a manner they control. The current systems do not deliver true video quality roaming in the US or Europe, but if you add LTE and LTE Advanced, and these HetNet small cells to the mix, and perhaps eMBMS mobile broadcast for live sporting events, then maybe we are only two or three years away from Wi-Fi clouds that cover entire metropolitan areas without gaps, and which carry video with as much ease as a phone call.


This appeared in Wireless Watch.


Back to Headlines




Samsung Revs up Pressure on Apple & TV Set Makers


Samsung heaped more pressure on Apple and TV set makers this week by launching a new line of smart TVs, which it had previewed at CES.


Samsung has redesigned its SmartHub smart TV platform so it has five panels for navigating: what’s playing now, movies and TV available from apps, personal content, social content and SmartTV apps.


There’s a recommendation menu that provides recommendations, based on the user’s viewing history, from the user’s pay TV service, Netflix, Hulu and other content providers. The TV will learn a user’s viewing habits so it can make personalized recommendations, according to Samsung Electronics America EVP Joe Stinziano.


The new Smart TV line uses a quad-core chipset and expanded memory to quicken its operations. For the first time with a TV, users will be able to upgrade hardware in the future. With what Samsung calls a Smart Evolution Kit that plugs into the rear of the set. It started shipping upgradeable sets in 2012, so those owners can upgrade to the new quad-core chipset and added memory. Evolution kits for last year’s models will be available in May for $299.


Oh! There is a “floating wall” S9 UHD/4K TV that plays 4K and upscales HD to 4K. It will sell for $39,999 and up in sizes from 85-inches to 110-inches.


There’s a demo at:


Samsung said it would launch 100 new TVs this year counting those that come in several sizes. More than half will be smart TVs. The number of sets that are 60-inches and over is increasing by 50% over 2012.


Samsung’s ruthless pursuit of being the world’s largest maker of TV sets has left once-giants Sony, Panasonic and Sharp gasping for breath and with money-losing TV manufacturing. Its new products for 2013 continue that tradition and threaten to stop Apple’s TV set efforts before they start.


Stinziano said at the New York launch, “We’re working harder than ever to push technology to the edge, and more importantly to give people what they want. And what they really want is simplicity.” Sounds like Apple.


Back to Headlines


Alaskan Cableco to Deploy TiVo Mini


Alaska’s General Communication will start offering to all its subscribers TiVo’s Premiere Q DVR and the TiVo Mini, its whole home DVR adapter. Other cablecos that sell TiVo DVRs and the TiVo Mini are Suddenlink and RCN.


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Viewster Streams 50m Shows in UK in February


Switzerland-based Viewster Media said 3.7 million UK viewers watched more than 50 million films and TV episodes on its subscription-free network of sites and syndication partners in February, which put Viewster in ComScore’s Top 20 Video Metrix.


“Last year we served up over a billion videos in 120 countries, representing a 700% increase on 2011 and proving that consumers want an alternative to pricey pay-to-view or subscription services,” said Kai Henniges, CEO at Viewster.


In the US, 8.3 million viewers watched 198.6 million videos in February.


It has new deals with KinoNation, Renderyard and Moviehouse Entertainment to add over 20 new titles to its library of 5,000 or so titles from 150 or so providers. Viewster is available in 120 countries.


Back to Headlines


BBC to Stream 40 hours of Premiere Shows Before They Air


In 2013, the BBC will stream 40 hours of premier programming to iPlayer viewers before the BBC broadcasts them, according to Daniel Danker, general manager for the BBC’s iPlayer operation, at Connect TV in London. He also said iPlayer viewing was up 46% in the period Christmas 2012 to January 2013 compared to the same period a year-ago.


Only 2% of all iPlayer shows are watched on smart TVs, he said. By comparison viewing on smartphones and tablets has increased from 13% to 36% and declined from 58% to 41% on PCs. Danker said there is a separation between live and Internet TV that should be made into a seamless experience for viewers. The whole industry will have to work together to accomplish that, he said.


Back to Headlines


Yahoo May Be Negotiating to Buy DailyMotion


Yahoo may be in talks to buy as much as 75% of DailyMotion and its very popular video Web site from France Telecom, according to the Wall Street Journal. It would put Yahoo in the running to compete against Google’s YouTube and against AOL. The deal is far from a certainty, but if it does go through, Yahoo would become even more of a factor in online video. ComScore ranks Dailymotion as number 12 in online video with 116 million unique monthly visitors and more than 2 billion videos viewed. YouTube leads the pack and Yahoo currently is at number 10.


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Cablecos Started Winning the Broadband Battle in 2005


“What the battle is about, say cable TV proponents [in 2005], is ‘dig versus not dig.’ The cablecos will use next-generation cable modems [with DOCSIS 3.0] and the same coax cable that’s already in the ground. The telcos are faced with the huge up-front costs of deploying a whole new physical network based on fiber optics while the cable TV companies already have wiring ‘in the ground’ that can take their broadband subscribers up to 100 Mbps, more than enough for delivering multiple channels of high-definition video.” – The Online Reporter in April 2005:


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Liberty Media Buys 27.3% of Charter


Liberty Media (not the European cableco Liberty Global) has agreed to buy 27.3% of cableco Charter for $2.62 billion from Apollo Management, Oaktree Capital Management and Crestview Partners. Crestview kept 7.4% of Charter and Oaktree kept 2.2% of Charter. Liberty Media gets four seats on Charter’s board, a minority. Liberty Media agreed not to increase its stake in Charter beyond 35% until January 2016 and after that must stay below 39.99%. Back in 1999 John Malone, who controls Liberty Media and Liberty Global, sold the US’s then number one pay TV service, Tele-Communications, to AT&T. Subsequently, AT&T s sold the cable TV assets to Comcast and Charter, so in a way it’s Malone’s return. Charter is the US’ fourth largest pay TV subscriber based on year-end 2012 numbers. Malone said he was attracted by Charter’s investments in its digital network for HD broadcasting and on-demand television.


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Verizon Wants Viewers to Pay for Only What They View


Verizon wants to pay for TV channels on its FiOS pay TV service based on how much people watch them, according to the Wall Street Journal. It would not use Nielsen’s measurements. Instead, it would use its STBs to measure viewership, counting only increments that last longer than five minutes. That would certainly shake up the prosperous pay TV industry.


Back to Headlines


Rovi Licenses Patents to LG


Rovi has licensed its patents to LG in a deal that ends their patent dispute. No terms were announced.


Back to Headlines


Intel Adds Hillcrest Lab’s Technology to Atom-based RDK


Intel has added Hillcrest Labs’s Freespace mouse technology to its reference design kit for Atom CE5300-based IP STBs and media servers. Roku, LG and Logitech have licensed Hillcrest’s technology.


Back to Headlines


Hulu Redoes Apple TV Interface


Hulu has redesigned its Hulu Plus user interface for the Apple TV to make it faster and easier to navigate. A navigation for content categories has been added with categories such as “Kids,” “Movies” and “Latino Movies.” The new “Shows You Watch” menu alerts subscribers when new episodes appear for series they have watched. Subscribers get the new interface when they update their Apple TV software.


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YouTube Hits a Billion & Runs Ads from Top 100 Brands


YouTube said this week it has more than a billion unique users every single month and that all of the Ad Age Top 100 brands are running ads on YouTube. It said the one billion means that nearly one out of every two people on the Internet visits YouTube.


Back to Headlines


Redbox by Verizon Goes Nationwide


At last! Redbox Instant by Verizon has launched nationwide a beta version that offers lots of premium and classic movies but no TV shows. For $7.99 a month subscribers get unlimited streaming and credits for four DVDs for 24 hours from 38,000 or so at Redbox kiosks. Consumers can start with a one-month free trial. Supported devices include the Xbox 360, some Samsung smart TVs and Blu-ray players, PCs plus iOS and Android devices.


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Can’t Ignore that Viewers Skip Pay TV Commercials


“We see the advertising model changing. With the advent of the Internet and the way you can target commercials, we think we can’t, as an industry put our head in the sand to that. All models of DVRs and all pay-TV providers’ [executives] skip commercials. Customers skip commercials. We can’t ignore that fact,” said Charles Ergen, Dish chairman and co-founder in a conference call with analysts.


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