News

Suddenlink Turns to TiVo

7/12/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

Suddenlink Communications
passed over cable’s traditional technology
suppliers, and instead has cast its lot with
TiVo to deliver next-generation TV services
and broadband-delivered content to its
subscribers.

The eighth-largest U.S. cable operator,
with 1.2 million basic-video subscribers,
Suddenlink in the fourth quarter will begin
distributing cobranded TiVo Premiere
DVRs, as well as non-digital video recorder
set-tops, to provide a multiroom DVR
solution. The companies also plan to develop
broadband-enabled services that
will let customers access Internet applications
on their TVs.

Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent said one of
the key reasons the MSO teamed up
with TiVo was to let customers access
broadband-delivered content, including
YouTube clips, right on their TVs. Ultimately,
St. Louis-based Suddenlink concluded it
could either swim against the Internet tide
or go with the flow.

“Our customers are going to get broadband
content [on TV] one way or another,”
Kent said. “We can either get on board and
bring them premier entertainment options
from many different avenues — or
we could try to ignore it and protect our
customer base.”

He elaborated: “In the end, we looked at
the experience of the music industry, which
just ignored the
Internet and that
completely demolished
their
business plan. We
looked also at the
newspaper business,
which completely
embraced
the Internet, and
turned dollars into
digital dimes.”

Suddenlink
chose to go with
TiVo rather than
its current set-top vendors, which include
Motorola, Cisco Systems and Pace, because
the TiVo user interface is better and the DVR
company is much farther along on broadband
integration, Kent said.

“Our embedded legacy set-top [supplier] base
has not been particularly innovative over the
last several years,” Kent said. “I mean, look at
what they offer. And look what we can bring
to market with TiVo.”

In addition to YouTube content, Suddenlink’s
TiVo boxes are planned to deliver music
services such as Pandora and Rhapsody,
as well as movie info and ticketing from
Fandango.

Asked about other services — like Amazon.
com, which is available through retail
TiVo DVRs — Kent said the company is still
negotiating with content partners. He said
Suddenlink would not necessarily get a fee
for Internet content the accessed through
the service. The MSO last year announced
a deal with Blockbuster to provide VOD
services under the “Blockbuster” brand,
while TiVo also has a partnership with the
movie-rental chain.

TiVo’s Premiere DVRs use an interface that
runs on Adobe Flash, which is intended to
allow third-party developers to take advantage
of the TiVo platform for new interactive-
TV applications, said CEO Tom
Rogers. But cable operators still maintain
control over the services and content they
offer to subscribers.

“What we think is critical is that the cable
operator be in a position to frame that experience,”
Rogers said.

TiVo has a similar deal with RCN, which
is offering cobranded TiVo DVRs to customers
in New York, Washington, D.C., and
other markets, and also has agreements
with the U.K.’s Virgin Media and Spanish
cable operator ONO to develop DVRs and
non-DVR set-top boxes with the TiVo user
interface.

While TiVo has distribution deals
with Comcast, Cox Communications
and DirecTV to provide
TiVo-based services, those are peripheral
to the operators’ primary DVR and guide
strategies.

Like RCN, however, Suddenlink will
not exclusively rely on TiVo DVRs and settops.
“We have an embedded legacy base
that we’re not planning on abandoning,”
Kent said.

Interactive program guides Suddenlink
currently uses include i-Guide, developed
by the GuideWorks joint venture of Comcast
and Rovi, as well as the Scientific Atlanta
Resident Application (SARA).

Kent, citing competitive reasons, wouldn’t
disclose the markets in which Suddenlink
will debut the TiVo Premiere offerings, but
said the first systems
will be in the
West, which would
indicate somewhere
in Texas or
Oklahoma. Suddenlink’s
footprint
spans Arkansas,
Louisiana, North
Carolina, Oklahoma,
Texas and West
Virginia.

Separately, TiVo
is still waiting for
resolution in its
years-long patent litigation against Dish
Network, with a decision currently pending
before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Federal Circuit. The DVR company also has
sued Verizon Communications and AT&T,
asserting patent infringement.

Highlights of Suddenlink’s TiVo deal:

• Suddenlink will begin offering TiVo Premiere DVRs and a multiroom DVR solution in Q4 2010, initially in Texas and/or Oklahoma.
• TiVo will for the first time deliver non-DVR set-top hardware to an operator.
• TiVo will integrate the operator's VOD systems, including those from SeaChange International, with the new boxes.

 

SOURCE: Multichannel News research

September