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Speedy, secure delivery

Mar 4, 2002  •  Post A Comment

A year ago, the standard method used to transmit content from a video-on-demand provider to a cable operator was decidedly low-tech. The content provider would simply record its material on digital linear video tapes and mail or hand-deliver them to affiliates.
Today, a company called N2 Broadband is beginning to change that by offering equipment designed to send content digitally via satellite or landline networks. Its MediaPath system uses a “pitcher-catcher” approach that works when a content provider agrees to employ MediaPath’s Creation Tool, Pitcher and Manager at the sending end, while the cable operator’s MediaPath Catcher would “catch” it and play it back at the receiving end. The process can save time and money, not only because it’s faster and more efficient than analog delivery but also because the content is more secure during transmission, said N2 principal architect and co-founder Darryl DeFreese.
“We use triple DES,” said Mr. DeFreese. “We make sure from the time the content is in our system it doesn’t appear over any network link and that it doesn’t sit on the headend in the clear. We encrypt it all the way out to the disk drive.”
According to N2, MediaPath’s ability to encode digital titles at one end and decrypt them on the receiving end is a boon to studios whose piracy concerns may keep them from releasing films in earlier windows. In addition, its technology is based on the Interactive Services Architecture (ISA) specification, which was initiated by Time Warner Cable in an effort to facilitate compatibility among newly created back-end services and applications. Compliance with ISA has allowed N2’s system to become integrated with VOD servers from some of the industry’s leading providers, including Diva Systems, Concurrent Computer Corp., nCUBE and SeaChange International.
N2 opened its doors in January 2000 and sold its first MediaPath systems to Warner Bros. Technical Operations and VOD provider iN Demand, which began using MediaPath last spring. John Vartanian, senior VP, technology and operations, for iN Demand, said N2’s solution came just in time.
“We would create DLTs of movies and Fed-Ex them to each cable headend that deployed video-on-demand. As the number of headends and titles supplied grew, that became very cumbersome. [MediaPath] allows us to take an MPEG-2 compressed movie that has been compressed to spec, package it with metadata, a trailer and box cover art, and deliver that package once through a satellite IP multicast system to an unlimited number of cable headends.”
N2 is making headway with a number of MSOs, having signed Cablevision Systems Corp., Cox Communications, Comcast Communications and Time Warner Cable as clients. The Duluth, Ga.-based startup is also involved in test deployments with other MSOs that may bode well for future success. Also promising is backing the company has received from high-profile investors in the venture, including a round of strategic financing that closed in July. Backers include AOL Time Warner Ventures and Paul Kagan, founder of Kagan World Media.
According to Mr. DeFreese, N2 isn’t going to stop at asset delivery-the 70-person team is also working on an asset management and a business management system and plans to work on additional interactive television solutions.
“Our mission is to make those types of applications as inexpensive and easy to deploy as possible,” Mr. DeFreese said.