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VOD Glossary



VOD Glossary

**Note: There are many different kinds of interactive TV technologies and services. The definitions below will clarify and help you differentiate between such things as "enhanced TV", "individualized TV", "hypervideo", "NetTV", "personal TV", and may other terms.

ADSL- Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line. ADSL is type of DSL that provides T1 rates or higher in the downstream (towards the customer) direction and 64 KBPS or higher in the upstream direction.

ADVANCED TELEVISION ENHANCEMENT FORUM (ATVEF)- A commercial technology organization or "cross-industry alliance" formed by many different companies from the broadcast and cable networks, television transports, consumer electronics, and PC industries. The goal is to develop HTML-based protocols to promote the standardization of enhanced TV. Tools and other supportive technologies that will be "ATVEF-compliant" will enable the creation and distribution of enhancements through the analog and digital signal. The URL for the organization is: ATVEF. ATVEF (pronounced "atvehf,") representatives developed a technology specification that enables broadcasters to send data (based on Internet standards) through the "Vertical Blanking Interval." If the viewer's set-top box has the proper software to receive and interpret ATVEF data, whatever was designed and sent will show up on the TV screen. That data might appear as raw data or complex interactive interfaces.

ANALOG - Analog data is expressed in the form of continuously variable waves (e.g. amplitude or frequency of sound waves or electromagnetic waves). Susceptible to noise and are not easily compressible.

ARPANET- Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. DARPA was founded in 1957 in response to a successful launch of a Russian satellite. ARPANET was a project intended to maintain communications within the country via important government computers in the eventual threat of nuclear war.

ASPECT RATIO-The width-to- height ratio of the picture frame. TV broadcasts at a 4:3 (1.33:1) aspect ratio; digital TV will be broadcast with a 16:9 (1.78:1) ratio; and most feature films are shot in at least a 1.85:1 ratio.

ATM - Asynchronous transfer mode. A high speed data transmission and switching technique that uses fixed size cells to transmit voice, data, video which greatly increases the capacity of transmission paths, both wired and wireless.

BACKBONE - A fat pipe within a network. The term is relative to the size of network it is serving.

BACKCHANNEL - Term commonly used to describe the action of sending data back to a host server over a phone wire or cable pipe.

BANDWIDTH- 1. (broadcast) The range of frequencies available for signaling. The difference expressed in cycles per second (Hertz) between the highest an lowest frequency of a band - James Martin 1971. 2. (data wire) Analog telephone lines measure capacity in Hertz (the difference in the highest and lowest frequency in the channel). Digital channels measure capacity in bits per second. A T3 connection is approximately thirty times as fast as a T1 connection, which is 50 times as fast as a 28.8 modem, which is twice as fast as a 14.4 modem.

Broadcast: 6 MHz analog
Cable: 450 MHz analog signal
Cable Modems: up to 27 mps downstream - shared
Internet data: 14.4k - 26 MBPS with VDSL
VBI: 4 Mbps
Digital Signal: 19.2 Mbps

BLOOMBERGTV - Brought to market by Michael R. Bloomberg in 1994. BloombergTV terminals were distributed to financial institutions and were first to incorporate television with one-way data streams (sent over the "Vertical Blanking Interval"). These data streams were constantly updated. Bloomberg television focuses primarily on financial news and analysis. BloombergTV is making plans to transform their services into an interactive television network.

BROADBAND - A network capable of delivering high bandwidth. Broadband networks are used by Internet and cable television providers. For cable, they range from 550 MHz to 1GHz. A single TV regularly broadcast channel requires 6MHz, for example. In the Internet domain, bandwidth is measured in bits-per-second (BPS). See DSL.

CABLE MODEM- A device that permits one-way or two-way high speed data communication over a cable television system for purposes such as Internet access at speeds of around 1.5 MBPS. Download rate is 27 Mbps.

CABLE PLANT - Term which refers to the central equipment and broadcasting headquarters of a cable operator. All initial broadcasts from the content providers are sent to the cable plant, aggregated, reencoded, and broadcast to its set-top box network.

CABLE TELEVISION - The system network for the distribution of the television signal and now digital data by cable (co-axial, twisted pair or fiber optic).

CALBE TELEVIDSION LABORATORIES (CABLELABS) - A non-profit research and development organization for cable operators in North and South America. CableLabs organizes member meetings and develops standards for all manner of cable equipment and software.

CEEFAX - The branded "teletext" service from the BBC still in use today across analog systems in the UK.

COFDM (CODED ORTHOGONAL FREQUENCY DIVISION MULTIPLEXING) - a modulation scheme for digital television broadcasting which competes with 8VSB.

CONDITIONAL ACCESS TECHNOLOGY - Technology embedded on the set-top box and satellite receiver that enables the cable or satellite broadcaster to filter out content the subscriber has not paid for or provide them with movies or special programs they have purchased on a pay-per-use system.

DECODER - Term sometimes used for set-top box.

DIGITAL SUBSCRIBER LINE (DSL)- Modem telecommunications technology that enables broadband, digital data to be transmitted over ordinary telephone line. DSL comes in many flavors, known collectively as xDSL, see ADSL, HDSL, SDSL, VDSL.

DIGITAL SIGNAL TELEVISION (DTV)- A new broadcast approved by the Federal Communications Commission, which will ultimately replace the analog NTSC (United Sates) television signal we receive today. DTV allows for high-resolution and wide screen presentation and will require new television receivers as well as new broadcast facilities. Because of the scope of this conversion, the changeover from analog to digital TV will be gradual and take place from 1998 - 2006.

DIGITAL VIDEO BROADCASTING - MUTIMEDIA HOME PRODCUTS PROTOCOL (DVB-MHP) - See Digital Video Broadcasting. DVB-MHP is a standards based software layer developed by members of the DVB that allow ITV producers to develop applications that will run on all DVB-compliant set-top boxes.

DIGITAL VIDEO RECORDER (DVR) - A high capacity hard drive that is embedded in a set-top box, which records video programming from a television set. These DVRs are operated by personal video recording software, which enables the viewer to pause, fast forward, and manage all sorts of other functions and special applications. TiVo, ReplayTV, and UltimateTV are commercial examples of a DVR.

DIGITAL VIDEO SERVER - A robust, dedicated computer at a central location that receives command requests from the television viewer through a video-on-demand application. Once it receives this request, it then instantly broadcasts specific digital video streams to that viewer. nCUBE, SeaChange, and Concurrent are examples of companies that provide this kind of equipment and software services.

DIRECT BROADCAST SATELLITE (DBS) - Satellites powerful enough (approximately 120 watts on the Ku-band) to transmit a signal directly to a medium or small receiving dish (antenna) at 18" and 3 feet in diameter. DBS does not require reception and distribution by an intermediate broadcasting facility and transmits directly to the end user.

DIRECT-TO HOME (DTH) -Term used to describe satellite broadcasting to the home to 18" dishes. (See Direct Broadcast Satellite).

DOWNLINK - The action of transmitting analog or digital signal to a satellite dish receiver on earth via a transponder on a satellite

DOWNSTREAM - To send information from the network to the user.

DIGITAL VIDEO BROADCASTING (DVB) - A digital television standards development body with its primary influence in Europe. Standards developed include digital broadcasting for cable, satellite, and digital terrestrial.

ELECTRONIC PROGRAMMING GUIDE (EPG) - A application that allows the viewer to interactively select their television programming. The development of applications enhancing the EPG such as dynamic video selection, recording options, and more is a high growth area. Currently, the EPG allows the viewer to also access summaries of shows, the ability to set recording times, show program length and names of crew members, as well as the ability to select content via categories. More advanced EPG (also called Interactive Programming Guides -IPGs) applications enable the viewer to select shows to record over several weeks every time a show or a selected movie star appears on the schedule Ultimately, EPGs will enable the TV set to learn the viewing habits of its user and suggest viewing schedules.

ENHANCED TELEVISION (ETV) - A type of interactive television technology favored by network broadcasters. This technology allows content producers to send HTML data and graphical "enhancements" through a small part of the regular (US) NTSC analog broadcast signal called the Vertical Blanking Interval (see below). These enhancements appear as overlays on the video and allow viewers to click on them if they are watching TV via special set-top box/software services like WebTV, Wink, WorldGate, and more to come. One major problem associated with enhanced TV today is that producers must pay close attention to timing information. When the Digital Signal (see above) is more widely available, content producers won't have to worry about that.

EXTENSIBLE MARKUP LANGUAGE (XML) - A language which acts as a "metalanguage," XML allows programmers to use it to create their own markup languages for specific uses. XML is written in SMGL or Standard Generalized Markup Language.

FLASH DOWNLOADING - The ability to automatically send software upgrades to a set-top box network.

FOOTPRINT - A term used to define a logistical area in a region covered by a cable or satellite operator, though not necessarily served directly by them. This term is also used to define the amount of space a particular piece of software or hardware takes up inside a set-top box.

HEADEND - The electronic control center of a cable television system- generally located at the antenna site of CATV system. The headend takes incoming signals and amplifies, converts, processes, and combines them into a common coaxial or optical cable for transmission to cable subscribers.

HIGH BIT RATE DIGITAL SUBSCRIBER LINE (HDSL) - HDSL is a type of DSL that Transmits 2 Mbps bi-directional signals over one or two twisted copper pairs. HDSL is used in applications such as corporate Internetworking, video conferencing, and remote data center access.

HIGH-DEFINITION TELEVISION (HDTV) - A higher quality signal resolution using a digital format for the transmission and reception of TV signals. The HDTV provides about five times more picture information (picture elements or pixels) than conventional television, creating clarity, wider aspect ratio, and digital quality sound.

HOST - Any computer on a network that offers services or connectivity to other computers on the network. A host has an IP address associated with it.

HYBRID FIBER-COAXIAL (HFC) - A local cable TV or telephone distribution network. An HFC consists of fiber optic trunks ending at neighborhood nodes, with coaxial cable feeders and drop lines downstream of the nodes.

HYPERTEXT - A term invented by Ted Nelson in 1965, hypertext was at first a concept and then a real hyperlinking technology enabling users of computers and the Internet to link from one page to another by simply clicking from word to word. Hypertext technologies evolved over many years and through the inventions of many people.

HYPERVIDEO - A type of interactive television technology invented by a company called Veon located in San Francisco, California (this company was recently bought by Philips 2001). Hypervideos are, essentially, digital video clips embedded with hotspots and markings, links to the Web or to other movies and media formats, and/or other triggers leading the viewer in different directions. Veon has created authoring and backend tracking tools that allow the content producer to create these clips using complex object tracking and key frame interpolation algorithms and then track in detail how viewers interact with them. In some ways, this technology is closer to the ideal realization of interactive TV as it allows the fabric of the video to become completely dynamic. At the moment, this technology is only available over digital broadband networks. A competitor, ISurfTV, develops similar technology; although, their authoring tools focus on key frame interpolation and 3D techniques .

INTERFACE - A set of textual or graphical symbols that allow a computer user to communicate to underlying software. Computer Interfaces work in many ways. Some are text-based and communicate only in letters, numbers, and other keyboard symbols. Others are graphical and require the use of a mouse. Still others are touchscreen.

INTERLACED SCANNING - The rectangular area of the TV screen is scanned by an electronic beam (raster) as it is deflected horizontally and vertically and creates an interlaced video display we see as the TV picture. Referred to as interlaced scanning because the raster skips every second line on the first pass and then fills in those lines on a second pass. The interlaced scanning system may result in a screen flicker.

INTERNET PROTOCOL (IP) - A protocol telling the network how packets are addressed and routed.

INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDER (ISP) - Telecommunications companies that sell Internet access. Users either dial-up to an ISP server or have a broadband connection such as DSL. Once connected, they can branch out onto the Web.

JAVATV - Sun invented this application programming interface (API) called JavaTV, which enables the development of more complex functionality and interfaces to launch from the set-top box if this Java layer is embedded in the device.

Mb or MEGABIT - 10^6 bits of information (usually used to express a data transfer rate; as in, 1 megabit/second = 1Mbps).

MHz- Megahertz - A frequency equal to one million Hertz, or cycles per second.

MPEG- Motion Pictures Expert Group - A proposed International Standards organization (IS) standard for digital video and audio compression for moving images. Responsible for creating standards 1, 2 and 4.

MPEG -1 1/4 broadcast quality which translates to 352 x 240 pixels. Typically compressed at 1.5 Mbs.

MPEG-2 - Similar to MPEG-1, but includes extensions to cover a wider range of applications. MPEG-2 translates to 704 x 480 pixels at 30 frames per second in North America and 704 x 576 fps at 25 fps in Europe. Typically compressed at higher than 5 Mbs. The primary application targeted during the MPEG-2 definition process was the all-digital transmission of broadcast TV quality video.

MULTI-CAMERA ANGLE OR INDIVIDUALIZED TELEVISION - This technology allows viewers to control camera angles during live events, select which commercials they want to watch, and generally control a selection of choices content producers provide as part of the broadcast. Ecommerce and interaction with those commercials is possible. In the backend, servers collect choice information and offer viewers further selections based on those choices.

MULTIPLE SYSTEM OPERATOR (MSO) - Term used often for cable operators that own a number of different networks and services.

NATIONAL TELEVISION STANDARDS COMMITTEE (NTSC) -The committee formed to determine the guidelines and technical standards for monochrome and color television. Also used to describe the 525-line, 59.95Hz color television signal used in North America and several other parts of the world.

NET TV - NetTV's are televisions which have the ability to dial up to the Internet. Often, a manufacturer has integrated or offers a special set-top which permits the viewer to connect online over telephone wires.

NVOD or NEAR VIDEO ON DEMAND -The service of providing a movie to subscribers on multiple channels and staggering its start time (for example every fifteen minutes). Subscribers can then tune in to the next available showing.

ON-DEMAND - The ability to request video, audio, or information to be sent to the screen immediately by clicking something on the screen referring to that choice.

OPEN - A company affiliated with BSkyB's Sky Digital set-top box network in the UK, Open offers viewers a special dedicated channel inside which they can interactively shop, play games, get information about entertainment, travel, and more on the TV screen. Open was originally owned by several companies, but it is now primarily owned by Sky. To use Open, the viewer must click the Interactive button on the remote control, which brings up the Open home page offering various categorized selections. Video clips and audio often accompanies most screens alongside clickable data.

PAY-PER-USE - One pays a fee for every service, product, and download often on a tiered basis.

PAY TV - Television programming that requires payment upfront usually on a monthly basis as a subscription fee. Cable and satellite operators bundle content programming under packaged names like "Gold," "Silver," and so on.

PERSONAL COMPUTER (PC) - The device which enables anyone to compute, word process, or perform more complicated functions.

PERSONAL VIDEO RECORDING (PVR) - Software and data services combination that allow the viewer to interactively select programming choices from an electronic programming guide they want to watch or record on their digital video recorder. Data services are provided on a daily basis from the PVR provider. Companies leading this technology include ReplayTV, TiVo, and others like WebTV, DirecTV who integrate hard drives in their boxes and digital receivers.

PICTURE-IN-PICTURE - The ability to view a television broadcast in a small window on top of another broadcast or within a larger interactive interface.

PORTAL - See "Walled Garden." PROTOCOL - The "language" spoken between computers to help them exchange information. More technically, it's a formal description of message formats and rules that two computers must follow to communicate.

REMOTE CONTROL - Remote controls today serve as the front-end warrior in the evolution of the TV. Today, they enable the viewer real ease-of-use and simplicity of control. Because of that and the wide adoption by the television industry, the addition of many more channels over cable and satellite, and the introduction of the universal remote, viewers can "channel surf" or become "couch potatoes" or when on the Internet users are "Web surfing" and are "mouse potatoes". Will eTV explorers go "Web channeling" and become "couch mouses"? The first remotes were invented, in fact, by the German navy to help ram enemy ships in World War I. Later, in World War II, everybody used remotes to set off all kinds of bombs. In the 1940's, the garage door opener remote was invented. In 1952, the first TV remote appeared and it was called, aptly, the "Lazy Bone". Manufactured by a company called Venus (Note: Microsoft's new set-top box project in China is called "Venus"), the Lazy Bone control came with a 10-foot or 100 foot cable. When clicked, a command would rotate the tuner inside the TV set and change the channel. Throughout the years other remote systems explored different technologies, but always seemed to encounter some problem. For example, light sensitive cells on the TV set were sensitive to sunlight, which would turn up the volume at random. Later, ultrasonics built into remote controls would cause dogs to bark when they came into the room. Eventually infrared (individual digital codes of light pulses) would become the standard today; however, they still don't work when pointed at objects in between it and the TV set.

SET-TOP BOX (STB) - An electronic device that sits on top of your TV set and allows it to connect to the internet, game systems, or cable systems.

SMART CARD - Plastic cards the viewer can insert in the set-top box, which intelligently trigger the box to decrypt content programming. These cards are a bit thicker than charge cards and sometimes contain special chips or code.

SPECTRUM - The range of electromagnetic radio frequencies used in transmission of voice, data and television.

SYNCHRONIZED TV (SYNCTV) - Often called "two screen TV", this term defines the simultaneous broadcast and use by the viewer of an Internet application directly related to a regular television broadcast of a show. For example, during the Oscar's in 2000, ABC prepared an application that enabled the home viewer, while watching the program, to play along and vote for their favorite star, movie, or director. Producers "pushed" application content and data updates to all logged in computers. Usage of the application was fairly dynamic with trivia questions, polls, voting, pictures of the reactions of the stars, special offers, chat, and more. SyncTV applications require a complex configuration of standard and proprietary broadcasting and monitoring techniques.

SYMMETRICAL DIGITAL SUBSCRIBER LINE (SDSL) - SDSL is a type of DSL that uses only one of the two cable pairs for transmission. SDSL allows residential or small office users to share the same telephone for data transmission and voice or fax telephony.

TCOMMERCE - A word based on "ecommerce," this term describes interactive commerce on television. The word "shopping" also suffices.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1996 - U.S. Legislation passed in 1996, which overhauled the telecommunications industry. This bill also put in place important deadlines for the digital transition affecting every commercial and public TV broadcaster in the country. The final deadline for the transition is 2006.

TELETEXT -Teletext is a series of static pages on the television that offer all sorts of text news and community services. Invented by BBC engineers in the 1970's, Teletext remains popular today across all UK television networks. Text pages are offered in carousel in order to keep things fresh. A viewer can request different pages using the number pad on their remote control. Only recently has this technology been upgraded to digital.

TERMINAL - A device that allows user to send commands to a computer that is somewhere else.

TERRESTRIAL - Broadcasting analog or digital signal via a large antenna that stands on the ground.

TRANSPONDER - Located on the satellite in the sky, the transponder receives programming uplinked by the content provider and then downlinks it to the broadcaster. Signal space on a transponder is very expensive.

TRIGGERS "Transport A" & "Transport B" - A command from the host server that notifies the viewer's set-top box that interactive content is available at this point. A trigger shows up as an icon or some kind of clickable text seamlessly within the television broadcast program. Once clicked by using the remote control, the trigger disappears and more content or a new interface appears on the TV screen. Transport A triggers travel over the VBI first and then sends the following content though the Internet (mostly in use now). Transport B triggers and content travel over the digital broadcast signal.

TV ANYTIME FORUM - A commercial consortium developing open standards to take advantage of high volume digital storage devices (most likely digital video recorders). Members companies will derive the benefits from those technologies.

TV TUNER CARD - The TV tuner card enables the PC user to receive television signals, which are then converted to digital format for viewing on screen.

TWO-WAY - The term used to describe data as it travels both from the broadcaster's headend (cable) or central office (telecommunications) from the viewers location and then back to the headend of central office. Two-way always connotes the presence of an interactive infrastructure.

UNIFORM RESOURCE LOCATOR (URL) - The address of a document or other resource available on the Internet by clicking a link. A URL has three components, the protocol ("http:"), server domain name (""), and the file location on their server.

UPLINK - To transmit analog or digital signal to a satellite so it can then be transmitted back down to earth.

UPSTREAM - Information which travels from the user to the Internet or to a central office or headend.

VERTICAL BLANKING INTERVAL (VBI) - Part of the TV signal that is not used for video information and left available to transmit other data such as captions, Web data, current stock market prices. Visually the VBI is the black stripe at the top and bottom of a TV picture and physically it constitutes 21 lines' worth of the total 525 lines transmitted per second in the NTSC TV signal. In detail, the Vertical Blanking Interval is a portion of the analog TV signal embedded inside two rectangular fields on the TV screen that are comprised of 262.5 imperceptible horizontal lines. Each line is made of 427 pixels that form the video images on the screen through a process called electron beam called "interlaced scanning". The first 21 lines of each of the two horizontal fields (a black stripe - only seen when the picture loses its vertical hold and rolls) is called the Vertical Blanking Interval. In this interval, data of any kind can be broadcasted, received by any TV set, and interpreted with special software if the TV set is hooked into a set-top box or the data is received by a TV tuner card on a computer. The first 9 lines of the VBI are used for timing information of the shows, but lines 10-20 are pretty much unused. Line 21, however, is used for closed captioning text and now in use for HTML data. See HTML.

VERY HIGH BIT RATE DIGITAL SUBSCRIBER LINE (VDSL) - VDSL is a type of DSL that is primarily intended to be used as the last transmission system section in a network. VDSL can serve as the primary transmission element for video-on-demand (VOD) and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) applications over the existing infrastructure of twisted copper pairs in the local plant and used to carry multiple television channels, HDTV and ATM to the Home for interactive services (home banking, shopping, remote medical care).

VIDEOPHONE - This future device promises to incorporate real time video transmissions with telephony. Although this technology was promised and available many years ago, it has never been fully realized. Today, Internet Telephony or Cable Telephony may offer this service.

VIDEO-ON-DEMAND (VOD) - The ability to interactively select videos whenever one wants to watch them. Videos are streamed in MPEG format.

WALLED GARDEN - A term that appeared in the mid- to late 90's to define interactive content offerings contained or walled-off from direct access to Internet users. Walled garden users may link to the Internet from walled gardens, however, but not vice versa. America Online is an example of a very successful walled garden. Certain interactiveTV middleware software solutions enable cable and satellite providers to create their own walled gardens or "portals." Inside an ITV walled garden an interface allows the viewer to have access to news, sports information, one's email on TV, and other applications.

WARNER BROS. - Cable operator that funded the first interactive set-top box network in the mid-1970's called QUBE. QUBE was located in Columbus, Ohio.




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