Euronews: AlcaLu Catches Merger Mood
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Euronews: AlcaLu Catches Merger Mood
Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Telekom Austria AG (NYSE: TKA; Vienna: TKA) and Naguib Sawiris shuffle into view for today's lineup of EMEA telecom headlines.Following the comments of Neelie Kroes (reported yesterday) about the need for European telcos to consolidate, here's more of the same philosophy from AlcaLu Chairman Philippe Camus. In an interview with Bloomberg, Camus said that Europe needed to drop its anti-merger stance and "do more to promote and less to repress ... It's not about pouring money in, it's about allowing and encouraging companies to adopt common standards, co-invest in research and develop products together." (See Euronews: Telcos Should Eat Each Other.)Carlos Slim's attempts to grab a large slice of KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN) have been getting a lot of coverage, but it now transpires América Móvil S.A. de C.V. , Slim's Latin American cash cow, has been holding a stake in Telekom Austria for some time now. That stake, reports Reuters, has now reached 4.1 percent. (See Euronews: Slim Makes His Move on KPN, Slim's Dutch Drama and Euronews: Telekom Austria's Revenues Slide.)More M&A-related mania: The Financial Times (subscription required) reports that Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian telecom magnate, has lent his support to a new European fund management group set up by former Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA and VimpelCom Ltd. (NYSE: VIP) executives that is specifically looking to raise money to buy underperforming telcos.Openet Telecom Ltd. , the Ireland-based purveyor of Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) systems, has raised US$21 million in its fourth funding round. This brings the total investment in Openet since 1999 to around $55 million. (See Openet Raises $21M and Openet 'Surprised' by Amdocs Legal Action.)BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) has been asking the U.K. government's Lords communication committee if in the long term the company can continue to have freedom from restrictions on what it charges for access to its fiber network, reports The Guardian. Ofcom , the U.K. regulator, sets the price at which BT sells access to its copper network but as things stand BT sets its own prices for fiber network access -- a state of affairs that some rivals are less than thrilled about. (See Euronews: BT Speeds Up FTTX Rollout.)Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is close to a sale of its Vertu "luxury" handset unit, reports Business Week. The deal is said to value Vertu at about $250 million. (See Euronews: Nokia to Offload 'Bling' Brand and The Vertu Vanishes .)The European Data Protection Supervisor -- a European Union data watchdog that sounds like a sort of Robojanitor -- has expressed disquiet over the potential threat to consumers' privacy that smart meters pose. It wants to see safeguards put in place before the number times we open the refrigerator during the night becomes common knowledge.
Comcast Cozies Up to PayPal
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and PayPal are exploring ways to let customers pay for products directly via the television and other devices as the operator looks to generate more revenue from its interactive advertising platform.Comcast EVP and CTO Tony Werner announced the partnership at this week's The TV of Tomorrow Show in San Francisco, and noted on the company's blog that Comcast sees TV-based commerce as "a natural extension of our advanced advertising products."He wrote that discussions are at the "very early stages" and did not say when or how Comcast intends to begin supporting PayPal. X1, Comcast's new video platform that will first launch in Boston, has IP capabilities, so it would be a logical candidate for PayPay integration. Comcast already uses the Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), an interactive apps platform that can run on any class of digital cable set-top, to support HSN's "Shop By Remote" product. (See Comcast's X1 Video Platform Lands First in Boston and HSN’s 'T-Commerce' App Gains Traction.)And Comcast is just part of PayPal's new, ambitious plan for the TV world. Also on Tuesday, PayPal struck a deal with TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) that will let viewers buy products being advertised in 30-second spots. TiVo said the capability will be launched this fall and will be available to some of its cable operator partners, including RCN Corp. and Suddenlink Communications .And expect more of this sort of thing from PayPal. Former Canoe Ventures LLC CTO Arthur Orduña confirmed a Multichannel News report that he has joined PayPal. Orduña told Light Reading Cable via email that he came on board last week as a full-time consultant focused on helping PayPal "develop relationships with MSOs and other TV ecosystem players."Why this matters The cable industry has been hyping the idea of letting customers buy products with the click of a remote for many years -- once, the most oft-cited example was enabling TV viewers buy the sweater that Jennifer Aniston was wearing on an episode of Friends. Yes, it's been that long.The hype certainly appears to have returned, but cable now has an interactive platform to back it up and, apparently, the motivation, as it seeks out new ways to bring in more ad dollars to offset what it's been losing to other sources, such as over-the-top video.
ActiveVideo Breaks In at Comcast
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) could end up teaching some old set-tops some new tricks after securing a license for ActiveVideo Networks Inc. 's CloudTV H5, a platform that's capable of bringing advanced video navigation features and applications to QAM-based set-top boxes. (See Comcast Licences ActiveVideo.)In the early going, Comcast will use ActiveVideo's technology to run an enhanced video-on-demand (VoD) user interface in Chattanooga, Tenn., where the operator uses Motorola Mobility Inc. (NYSE: MMI)'s digital video platform. A Comcast spokeswoman said the trial got underway earlier this year and involves an undisclosed number of Comcast employees and "friendlies."ActiveVideo CEO Jeff Miller says the interface being tested shares some similarities with the cloud-based UI that Comcast is using for Xcalibur/X1, the MSO's next-generation video product that relies on a new hybrid QAM/IP gateway from Pace plc . (See The Cable Show 2012: Comcast Flies the X1.)The latest incarnation of CloudTV H5 is an HTML5 Webkit browser that runs in the cloud (or the cable headend, in this instance), and is capable of delivering apps to both QAM- and IP-based set-top boxes. In the QAM example, the ActiveVideo platform converts the native HTML5 content into an MPEG transport stream that the set-top box can read using a relatively small (about 100 kilobytes) client application. (See ActiveVideo Connects With HTML5.)"An operator could write the user experience in HTML5 and still render it on any set-top box," Miller says. "It's literally pixel-accurate." He adds that the latency between a button press on the remote control and something changing on the TV screen is "minimal" (less than 200 milliseconds), meaning the "user of the device has no idea that the UI is running remotely."Why this matters Comcast has 20.7 million digital video customers, and the vast majority of them still use QAM-based boxes that can't take advantage of the company's new, fancier X1 platform, which it's deploying first in Boston, followed by a handful of additional markets, including Chattanooga, in the second half of 2012 and into early 2013. If Comcast decides to deploy ActiveVideo more broadly, it could use the platform to bring an X1-like experience to older boxes that don't speak IP.For ActiveVideo, the deal finally gets the 22-year-old company in the door at the world's largest cable operator, offering it some significant potential for growth. For now, it claims to have its CloudTV technology available on about 10 million screens, and currently counts Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) as its largest customer.And ActiveVideo is facing some competition as operators try to spruce up the navigation systems that run on legacy, non-IP boxes. Among recent examples, SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC) introduced Nitro Now, a graphically rich UI that runs on QAM-based boxes and serves as a bridge to the company's new HTML5-based Nitro platform for IP-connected set-tops, tablets and smartphones.
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