CenturyLink Getting Down With OTT

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If there’s more than one way to skin the video cat, CenturyLink is going to find out.

The telco is pushing ahead with a multifaceted video strategy that will lean on its primary Internet-protocol TV platform, Prism TV, and also factor in a pair of over-the-top offerings that CenturyLink plans to offer inside and outside of its wireline footprint.

Following up on comments made in August, Century- Link president and CEO Glen Post said last Wednesday (Nov. 4) on the company’s Q3 earnings call that it is nearing the trial debut of new OTT-based video services that will focus on “skinny” bundles and coveted but tough to reach millennial viewers.

ROLLING OUT TO NEW MARKETS

Under the current plan, CenturyLink will introduce those OTT offerings in two or three markets later this year and into early 2016. Those services, Post said, “will help us with the millennials and be a lower-cost option” and complement Prism TV, a managed, more traditional IP-delivered subscription service that is currently powered by Ericsson’s Mediaroom platform.

Post said CenturyLink is finalizing content agreements to “enable a robust and competitive video offering for customers, both within and outside our Prism TV market footprint.”

Aamir Hussain, the former Liberty Global executive who joined Century- Link as executive VP and chief technology officer last fall, said CenturyLink is working on two different types of OTT products.

“One is a skinny bundle with local, linear and premium that will have upsell opportunity for a kids package [and] entertainment package,” Hussain said. “The second product that we are looking to do is in our franchise markets where we have Prism [TV] rights … just taking the same content and offering it on an over-the-top platform, along with an aggregation of other video services which are used by our customers today.”

CenturyLink will be far from alone. Sling TV, Dish Network’s OTT TV service for cord-cutters, is already out with a national skinny bundle offering, while Sony looks to get more aggressive with PlayStation Vue, a fuller-freight video streaming service that, importantly, will soon add broadcast and cable networks from the Disney-ESPN stable.

PAY TV COMPETITIVE SERVICES

Traditional pay TV operators are also jumping in with new video services focused on millennials. Comcast, one of CenturyLink’s biggest competitors, is nearing the commercial launch of Stream, a contract-free, IP-delivered video service that will feature the major broadcast networks, HBO and the MSO’s cloud DVR for $15 per month. Charter Communications has been testing Spectrum TV Stream, a service for broadband-only customers that starts at $12.99 per month and features the major broadcast networks plus Showtime or HBO.

CenturyLink, which has been evaluating the Reference Design Kit (a set-top software platform being managed by Comcast, Liberty Global and Time Warner Cable), is also looking to expand the reach of Prism TV. Prism is currently offered in Seattle; La Crosse and Platteville, Wisc.; Columbia and Jefferson City, Mo.; Tallahassee and central and southwest Florida; Las Vegas; central North Carolina; Phoenix; Omaha, Neb.; Denver and Colorado Springs, Colo; Portland, Ore.; Salt Lake City, Utah; and Minneapolis.

Post said the telco added 360,000 addressable Prism TV homes in the third quarter, expanding its total to 3 million. It ended the period with about 269,000 Prism TV subscribers.

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