MPTV: When cable TV met the cellphone

Slingbox isn’t the only company looking to tie the TV and mobile phone more closely together. Interactive TV service provider ITAAS
and eMbience, a provider of mobile phone applications, are working
together on a new service that delivers a graphical icon to TV sets
notifying viewers of program-related cellphone video, ringtones,
and wallpaper that can be purchased via the cable remote control.

The
service called MPTV, could hold allure for nearly every content
provider but particularly sports programmers. “Our server could be
recording a football game and then when a
touchdown is scored we could put the video of the touchdown on the
fulfillment server and make it available almost instantly,” says Jaspal
Bhasin, ITAAS co-founder and COO.

Vibha
Rustagi, ITAAS president, CEO and co-founder, says the system delivers
call-to-action icons to the TV screen letting the viewer know that a
video clip or other content associated with the program being watched
is available. The viewer then enters their cellphone number using the
remote control, confirms they want the content (and are willing to pay
for it), and then the content is sent to the phone from the viewer’s
cellular service provider.

“We made it as simple as possible,
with no SMS or short-text codes required,” says Rustagi. She says the
potential uses of the service extend from video and audio content to
Starbucks coupons.

“There is a lot of momentum right now around convergence and this is a different mechanism,” she says.
Several
content providers have already contacted the company about working
together. “If they already have pre-existing rights for delivering
content over cellphones they’re excited about this,” she says.

Bhasin says the system requires a small software application to sit on
the set-top box and pass data back to a server at the head-end or
central office. “From a management standpoint one server is much easier
to work with than servers at each headend,” he says. The cellular
network provider is then notified and sends the content automatically
to the phone.

“We
have a huge database of hardware devices used in the country so we can
dynamically reformat it for the screen size and codec the phone
supports,” he says.

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