Video service providers that have been using Echostar’s ViP-TV offering have only about two months to transition to an alternative video programming delivery platform—and according to Avail-TVN, provider of an alternative platform, that timeline requires service providers to make a decision about what alternative they will use almost immediately.

ViP-TV uses satellite to deliver programming to smaller video service providers, including companies such as Canby Telcom and BTC Broadband. But Echostar advised customers that it plans to shut down that offering within “a couple of months.”

In a webcast today, Avail-TVN chief operations officer Jon Romm said the company has established “an accelerated timeline” that could enable service providers to transition from a ViP-TV platform to Avail-TVN in five weeks from contract approval to completion.

Romm reviewed the similarities and differences between the Avail-TVN and ViP-TV offerings—and the steps that service providers would need to take to ensure a smooth transition—on today’s webcast. One key advantage of the Avail-TVN platform is that, like ViP-TV, it uses MPEG4 encoding, which should help simplify the transition, Romm said.

Avail-TVN currently serves 58 million homes and more than 250 service providers, delivering 350 standard and high-definition channels, as well as 16,500 hours of video-on-demand and pay-per-view, Romm said. Certain ViP-TV channels are not available via satellite from Avail-TVN, but Romm said some of those may be available through a fiber-based distribution network.

Romm referred service providers to the Avail-TVN web page to use the Channel Lineup Builder to build a lineup “as you see fit for your marketplace.” If necessary, he said Avail-TVN would “take channels to the edge and deliver them.”

The company’s goal, he said, is to “find capabilities to make sure [customers have] content-rich opportunities.”

Noting that many service providers are using ViP-TV to support high-definition overlay services, Romm said a key consideration is that Avail-TVN delivers service over the C-band, while ViP-TV uses the ku-band. If a service provider does not have a C-band antenna available for use, it will be critical for the service provider to order one soon because the lead time between antenna purchase and installation is about 28 days, Romm said.

The type of receiver that a service provider uses is also critical. Anyone using Comtech or IDC SuperFlexPro receivers should have no problems using Avail-TVN. But Romm advised service providers using any other type of receiver to send an email to to advise how many receivers they will need to replace.

Romm also asked service providers to send emails to the Transitionsgroup address to advise whether they need one or two feed control managers, which content providers require in order to blackout certain content, such as local sports programming that is not intended to be shown in certain areas.

As for service providers that may be offering “second and third-screen applications,” Romm said Avail-TVN is “a platform that can be used for next-generation services and capabilities.” Here, too, he encouraged service providers to communicate their needs using the email address provided.

While Avail-TVN may be the most aggressive competitor pursuing transition business from ViP-TV customers, there may be at least one other alternative, as Light Reading has reported.  Comcast is also in discussion with some Avail-TVN customers. Potentially Comcast’s Headend in the Sky (HITS) offering also could be another suitable replacement platform.

A HITS spokesman confirmed those discussions but said no definitive agreements have been reached yet. One concern is that HITS uses MPEG-2 encoding, although the spokesman noted that the company has supported some IPTV companies so “there is a way.”

The spokesman was not able to say whether HITS offers every channel that ViP-TV does. He noted, however, that HITS offers more than 300 channels, including more than 70 HD feeds. Accordingly, he said, “it’s likely that much, if not all of it, matches” what Avail-TVN offers.

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