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Boston techies envision TV's on-demand future

Page 2 of 3 -- Advertisers on shows like ABC's hit drama "Lost" pay big bucks because they reach a large audience. With on-demand programming, the audience is smaller, but SeaChange will serve up narrowly targeted ads. "You're getting fewer eyeballs, but they're the eyeballs you want," Kelso says.

By delving into the same databases that direct-mail marketers use, SeaChange will be able to insert an ad for the new Corvette into an on-demand episode of "Lost,' because it will know that your current car lease is just about up.

Navic Networks.
This Needham company makes software that renders your set-top box more interactive. During the final presidential debate this fall, for instance, digital cable subscribers in Arizona could rate each candidate's answer to each question. Want to view your current cable bill, including all those pay-per-view movies your daughter ordered? Navic can help. And while this feature hasn't been launched yet, the company will eventually support impulse purchases from QVC or Home Shopping Network using your clicker.

Akamai Technologies.
The Internet will be used to deliver video to your home, which may be stored on your PC, your TiVo server, or another specialized home media server. Some of this video content may be incredibly specialized -- imagine a half-hour of instruction in Ashtanga yoga, or an "Ebert & Roeper"-type show about live theater in Boston. Cambridge-based Akamai, which already helps to distribute large video files over the Internet, is extremely well-positioned here.

Jeremy Allaire's new company.
In the mid-1990s, Allaire's first company, Allaire Corp., helped to simplify the process of building and maintaining a website. Last year, Allaire joined the Cambridge venture capital firm General Catalyst as technologist-in-residence. Now, he's starting a company with backing from General Catalyst. He won't say much, but he's interested in what he calls the democratization of video. "We have this situation where the number of people who can produce video programming is poised to explode, with inexpensive digital cameras and editing tools, and the existing distribution systems can't support it," he says. "You can't have 100,000 people producing shows for cable television. The only thing that can support it is the Internet." We're all familiar with the Internet of text. Coming soon: the Internet of video.

Ucentric Systems.
Once you have one digital PVR (personal video recorder) in your home to store your favorite shows, you suddenly realize that it's tied to just one TV set. How can you start watching last Thursday's "The Apprentice" in the living room but finish in the bedroom? Ucentric allows one main PVR to send shows to smaller, $50 client units attached to other TVs. But the company has been unfocused and slow to gain traction, and competitors like TiVo and Scientific Atlanta are trying to tackle the same problem.   Continued...

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