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Digital video enabler SeaChange International (Nasdaq: SEAC ) is waist-deep in subversion as the whole entertainment sector reluctantly enters the digital age. The company just reported 13% year-over-year sales growth to $54 million, along with $0.15 in earnings per share. That's down from last year's earnings of $0.41 per share, but yesteryear's haul was buffeted by a large one-time gain. Additionally, SeaChange restarted its paused stock buyback program, and there's much better to come.
SeaChange makes both hardware and software that helps video broadcasters store, manage, distribute, and present their video content -- mainly in the form of video on demand (VOD).
I truly believe that VOD will soon replace traditional TV schedules for everything but breaking news and sporting events. If you think that TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO ) changed the game by replacing clunky old VCRs with the flexibility of digital recording, just you wait until VOD comes into its own. B-b-b-baby, you just ain't seen nothin' yet.
For the consumer, on-demand video has the twin advantages of zero storage space required and no need to schedule recordings of your favorite shows. Just pull up the VOD menu system on your cable box, surf up to the show you wanted, and entertainment bliss ensues.
Content providers like Disney (NYSE: DIS ) and broadcasters of Comcast's (Nasdaq: CMCSA ) ilk should love it, too. A consumer who strolls around the menu system can be tracked, the activity can be billed in a fine-grained manner, and the broadcaster regains some of the control that has been lost to digital video recorders.
The major roadblock to a full-scale revolution is the ability and willingness of the major TV studios to license every show for VOD display, from megahits like ABC's Dancing With the Stars to lesser lights. Heck, throw in the Snuggie infomercials, too. Everything needs to be available on demand.
But the studios are clinging to their old timetable-heavy ways, and only handing out occasional tidbits to the VOD channels. That might change soon enough. Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) just renewed its contract with SeaChange in a multiyear deal, and Comcast is already one of SeaChange's biggest customers. The big TV boys are clearly interested in bringing VOD content to their consumers -- and SeaChange is such a niche leader that it beats out giants like Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) and Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO ) in head-to-head contract negotiations.
Eventually, the studios will give in and let you throw your TV guide away. A change is coming in the way we watch and interact with our programming. And when it does, SeaChange will become huge.