BNI Video Reveals Software That Could Better Enable Cable Companies to Compete With Internet Video Providers
With so many options for finding, managing, and viewing video available today, from Netflix to Hulu to Boxee, the traditional cable TV interface is starting to look a little old-fashioned. Boxborough-MA-based BNI Video says it has software that could help cable operators out of that bind.
Cable companies have become increasingly sophisticated in the types of and volume of content that they offer to subscribers, but have lagged in the options they offer for browsing and managing that content, says BNI CEO Conrad Clemson.
“It’s like these guys have brought knives to a gun fight,” he says, explaining that cable companies mostly rely on the traditional set-top box that has evolved little in 20 years, still requiring consumers to clumsily scroll through channels despite the increasing volume of stations, OnDemand TV shows and videos, and consumer-recorded content.
“In our view Comcast has a much richer, better, deeper content library than something like Hulu, but if you cant find it, it doesn’t matter,” Clemson says.
BNI has developed cloud-based software, called a video control plane, which manages how the cable content is organized on the operators’ back end, and would allow TV-watchers to search through their cable-based media much in the way Netflix and Hulu enable viewers to navigate their content with different search and menu functions. The system also includes a content router that creates an open standards environment for cable companies, enabling them to work with different networking technologies, as well as analytics for the cable providers to track how the video content is being consumed.
BNI’s software also allows consumers to search and manage their cable-based content on their other Internet connected devices, such as laptops, iPads, and smartphones. The company ultimately wants to help cable companies offer actual programming via these devices.
Started in 2009, BNI has raised nearly $17 million, with a $6.8 million Series A round in June of that year from Charles River Ventures, Comcast Interactive Capital, and Cisco Systems. Time Warner Cable and Castile Ventures joined those existing investors for a $10 million Series B round in July of this year, Clemson says.
We had been following the startup while the company was still in stealth mode and was filing regulatory documents under the name Beaumaris Networks. At the time of the filing for the first round funding, Beaumaris had six employees, all of whom were former engineers at Motorola, a major maker of cable set top boxes and DVR devices. BNI now has 50 employees.
In the company announcement of today’s news Time Warner Cable chief technology officer Mike LaJoie said, “BNI’s technology is simple, flexible and scalable, and we look forward to working with BNI to develop more advanced video services for our customers.” But Clemson did not confirm whether Time Warner or Comcast are users of BNI’s product. He said the software is deployed with some cable companies, but declined to reveal who those are. “We’re very strategically aligned with both of our lead industry investors, but we’re not implying any commercial relationship at this point,” he said of the Time Warner and Comcast relationships.
BNI adds to the cluster of Boston-area companies working in the Internet video space, like Westford, MA-based Verivue, which makes network switches for streaming video and other content to different user devices. Companies in the sector complement one another’s technology, says Clemson, who previously worked as an entrepreneur in residence at Charles River Ventures. “They’re the data plane. They move the bits,” he says of Verivue. “We’re the control plane. We tell them where to move the bits to.”