Pathfire introduces satellites to syndie

Aug 6, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Pathfire, a developer of technologies for delivering television content by satellite to video servers, is planning the television industry’s first foray into satellite-to-server transport of syndicated programming.
The privately held company is in talks with several content syndicators about potential technology licensing deals, and one such syndicator is conducting a pilot test of Pathfire’s system.
For Pathfire, courting syndicators marks its latest step in an ongoing effort to leave its footprint on the entire television industry. The company made its mark in the regional cable and broadcast affiliate industries over the past several years, providing the tools to send targeted local ads and news feeds to station groups’ servers.
Since 1998, Pathfire’s technology has been used by cable operators Charter Communications, AT&T Broadband and Insight Communications to transport targeted advertisements via satellite onto servers, replacing the multiple system operators’ former cumbersome practice of loading tapes manually into servers for digital storage.
Pathfire made its first move into the broadcast business early last year when it branched into satellite news distribution for NBC to the network’s affiliate stations. ABC followed suit several months ago, calling on Pathfire to automate its news and targeted ad feeds to affiliate stations.
Aside from the syndication initiative, Pathfire is also blazing new trails in digital cable service promotion and video on demand. Charter is beginning to deploy Pathfire’s solution to deliver targeted promotions (run as traditional TV advertisements within programs) in several regions for its digital cable services. And Pathfire is venturing into the video-on-demand business as well, emerging as a competitor against VOD satellite transport providers TVN and N2 Broadband.
“We have a [VOD] product,” said Steve Sklar, general manager of Pathfire’s cable and broadband group. “We’ve tested it with a number of server companies, and we’re in talks with a number of programmers and MSOs. Ultimately, the on-demand content arena is going to be huge. There’s going to be a lot of content that needs to be delivered, and no one source can deliver it.”
Pathfire’s investors, which include media outlets Reuters and PanAmSat, have channeled approximately $90 million into the venture since it opened its doors in 1996. In November, the company announced it had received a $66 million investment.
Now that Pathfire has wet its feet in the television industry’s waters, the company is hoping to bridge its separate projects together into a single automated content transport mechanism for all television media.
“We think there’s a need to combine a number of the areas that we have capabilities in,” Mr. Sklar said. “Our vision is an integrated solution that encompasses not just video on demand but also cross-channel promotion [such as Charter’s on-air plugs for its digital services].”