Video on demand

Seven consumer electronics and technology firms have formed a new company to allow enhanced video-on-demand and interactive TV services to be delivered to subscribers.

Seven consumer electronics and technology companies have formed a new company that will enable cable television system operators to deliver enhanced video on demand and interactive TV services to subscribers.

Based in Tokyo, e-BOX Corporation has been formed from five publicly traded companies – Pioneer, Sharp, National Semiconductor, Sigma Designs, and CMC Magnetics – as well as two privately held companies, iVAST and Modern VideoFilm.

Targeting North American and Asia-Pacific cable operators, the joint venture partners aim to deliver a complete infrastructure that includes head-end equipment, system software, content-protection systems and digital set-top boxes. Their new digital cable solution, based on MPEG-4 technology enables video-on-demand, e-commerce, high definition television and high-capacity personal video recording (PVR).

The companies claim that their technology will provide an economical means for cable operators to make a move to next-generation entertainment services. Most importantly, cable companies will not have to replace their existing digital cable infrastructure to take advantage of the consortium’s MPEG-4 system architecture.

Each member of the joint venture will provide products and services reflecting their area of expertise.

Pioneer and Sharp will contribute their knowledge of cable infrastructures, head-end equipment and digital set-top boxes. National Semiconductor will provide silicon processors for the advanced set-top boxes based on its Geode technology.

Sigma Designs will provide the MPEG-4 decoder and video processing technologies for the advanced set-top boxes.

CMC Magnetics will provide manufacturing expertise for the design and development of the head-end equipment and set-top boxes, while iVAST will provide the encoding, authoring, distribution, playback and system software.

Modern VideoFilm will provide post-production services and MPEG-4 compression and authoring. In addition, the company will provide the hub for the various ‘Movie on Demand’ and other MPEG-4 encoded entertainment content that will be offered by the new platform.

Comcast Cable Communications, the third largest cable company in the US, is advising the joint venture partners on the technical requirements of the system, and intends to conduct field trials of the new services early next year.

In addition to providing a complete system, the partners are consulting with several content providers, including some Hollywood studios and KCTS/Seattle Public Television.