Cisco’s ExtendMedia Purchase: TV Everywhere And Beyond

Cisco (s CSCO) doubled down on TV Everywhere today, announcing the intent to acquire Massachusetts-based ExtendMedia in order to bolster its IP video delivery infrastructure. The company said in a press release that ExtendMedia’s video CMS will be “a core component of Cisco’s next-generation video architecture,” which will enable service providers to deliver programming across multiple screens.

The release didn’t mention TV Everywhere by name, but ExtendMedia has been busy working on solutions that allow media companies to deliver their programming to PCs, mobile devices, set-top boxes and game consoles. The company signed up AT&T, (s T) Bell Canada and Poland’s as customers.

TV Everywhere was the industry’s favorite buzz word last year, and a number of operators as well as cable networks from Comcast (s CMCSK) to HBO have rolled out dedicated offerings since, but consumers have yet to jump onto these services en masse. However, it looks like ExtendMedia’s vision of TV Everywhere goes far beyond what’s being offered today. From their blog:

“In 2006 Comcast bought the software infrastructure (thePlatform), and then they launched an aggressive IP network infrastructure initiative (Project Excalibur). Now with the NBCU acquisition, they control a sufficient wealth of premium content that, when combined with web content, will be enough to launch a meaningful “over the top” consumer offering. When they can’t grow their traditional business (already the case — telephone services have been powering their meager growth for the last few years) they will have the all the ingredients to distribute video over broadband – in and outside Comcast’s cable footprint – and it won’t need anyone’s permission. The new growth driver will be a broadband distributed service to new geographic markets at a lower price point. At the outset it wouldn’t have all the programming customers desire — shows from ABC or CBS, for example — but it would have enough content to drive eyeballs and attention away from subscription cable services.”

We have been talking for a while about the emerging idea of virtual MSOs and network operators. Predicting that Comcast will be the first one to make a major move in this space is pretty bold, but it’s only a question of time before someone does make a move.

Of course, such a move could have substantial effects on Cisco’s set-top box business, but company executives have been talking about a third wave of IP-based video services that go beyond the domains of service providers for a while now. In other words: Tomorrow’s TV Everywhere may not look at all like today’s TV Everywhere – and Cisco wants to have the resources to be ready for what’s next.

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