Cable Operators

Cable Ops Work Web

12/20/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Could “over-the-top” video actually
be an ally for cable operators?

Suddenlink Communications last week
debuted the TiVo Premiere digital video recorder
in two Texas markets. The broadbandconnected
boxes will serve a healthy dollop of
Internet-delivered content ranging from You-
Tube video clips to Facebook status updates,
although for now Suddenlink isn’t offering other
popular services such as Netflix and Hulu
Plus.

Meanwhile, Comcast is kicking the tires on a
system, code-named “Xcalibur,” that lets subscribers
access a limited amount of Web video
and social-networking features through a cable
set-top box, The Wall Street Journal reported
last week.

‘PARKER’ IN PLAY

The Comcast test in the all-digital Augusta,
Ga., system is limited to a few dozen people,
most of whom are employees, according to
a source familiar with the project. Currently
the MSO has no plans to launch Xcalibur
commercially.

The set-tops in the test, code-named “Parker”
after Spider-Man protagonist Peter Parker,
provide a redesigned user interface. While
Web content is part of the Xcalibur test, and is
seen as a precursor to delivering video over Internet
protocol, the main purpose of the project
today is to test out search and discovery
features, according to the source.

For Suddenlink, one of the key features the
TiVo box provides is the ability to search across
TV listings, Web content and Suddenlink’s video-
on-demand library — 6,000 titles, 500 of
which are in HD — through a single interface.

The MSO’s customers in Lubbock and Midland,
Texas, will get first crack at the TiVo box,
offered for $15 per month, the same rate as
Suddenlink’s other DVR set-tops. Suddenlink
plans to expand to additional markets in 2011.

Suddenlink chairman and CEO Jerry Kent,
in an interview with Multichannel News this
summer, said the MSO decided to offer “overthe-
top” options to customers rather than try
to fight against them. “Our customers are going
to get broadband content [on TV] one way
or another,” he said.

Other pay TV operators already offer Internet-
delivered content.

Verizon’s FiOS TV, for one, lets customers access
YouTube clips, other Web video content
and Internet radio stations. The telco does not
charge extra for the Web video features, which
require users to install software on a PC.

MORE CONTENT COMING

Web content available in Suddenlink’s initial
launch includes YouTube videos, the Pandora
music service, Google’s Picasa photo-sharing
service, Music Choice videos and thousands
of TiVoCast Web videos. Suddenlink’s Premiere
users can use widgets to access local
news, sports and weather, as well as Facebook
and Twitter updates, and access personal
photos and music from a networked PC.

Suddenlink promises to add more content
options: The operator said it is negotiating
with Blockbuster, Amazon, Rhapsody and
Hulu Plus to add those services “in the months
ahead.”

However, Netflix is currently prohibited under
its deals with movie studios from making
its service available on the TiVo devices offered
by operators. A Netflix spokesman confirmed
that TiVo’s rights to offer the streaming capabilities
“don’t extend to devices distributed via
MVPDs [multichannel video programming
distributors].”

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