Charter Passes Over the Cable-Tech Duopoly

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Why did Charter cast its lot with TiVo, instead of turning to Cisco or Motorola? (See Charter Tags TiVo For DVRs, Next-Gen TV.)

“We just didn’t feel like the pace of innovation in the existing world, in which we operate, was fast enough — and we think TiVo has that sense of urgency,” said Charter vice president of product management Rich DiGeronimo.

Both Suddenlink and RCN — which have opted to use TiVo DVRs for next-generation services — cited similar dissatisfaction with the pace of innovation among cable’s entrenched vendors.

“Companies that are beholden to Motorola and Scientific Atlanta are not truly going to be able to embrace the convergence of TV and the Internet,” RCN’s CFO Mike Sicoli said in 2009 (see RCN Will Follow TiVo’s Path).

And here’s Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent: “Our embedded legacy set-top [supplier] base has not been particularly innovative over the last several years. I mean, look at what they offer. And look what we can bring to market with TiVo.” (See Suddenlink Turns to TiVo.)

For its part, Charter also was looking to quickly roll out a product that would deliver a “wow” to customers.

“First and foremost we really wanted to change the dynamic in our TV business,” DiGeronimo said. “It really felt like we needed to get back up to speed with our TV product…. We weren’t looking for an incremental step. We wanted something that would really change things for the customer experience.”

He added, “There’s no shortage of products out there. But we wanted a proven product.” A reference, perhaps, to Google TV?

As examples of how TiVo has taken a lead, DiGeronimo cited its recent iPad app (see TiVo Latest to Turn iPad Into a $500-Plus Remote Control). “That’s just the starting point. You can envision more social networking apps that can be plugged in over time.”

DiGeronimo next week will head out on a “road tour” to meet with apps developers and content companies, to discuss partnerships on the new TiVo platform.

“I want to see what kinds of apps will play in the living-room environment,” he said. “The beauty of the platform is, I don’t have to have the answer right now. Over time we have the platform to innovate.”

But wouldn’t adding access to Amazon.com or Netflix (if the rights can be cleared) eat into Charter’s video business?

“From our perspective, there is certainly some level of cannibalization from our VOD platform that could occur,” DiGeronimo acknowledged. “But we also recognize that if you go to Best Buy right now, there are all kinds of TVs and devices that have all those apps on it. Consumers can access all that today. Why fight that trend? We’d rather provide an integrated experience that has our content as well.”

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