Charter Launches TV Streaming App

iOS App Starts With In-Home Access, But Will Eventually Expand Out-of-Home and Possibly Out-Of-Footprint As Distribution Rights Evolve

Charter Communications launched its first mobile TV streaming app on Tuesday, offering a lineup of more than 100 live TV channels in the home, though the plan is to eventually allow authenticated customers to access live TV streams while they are on the go as well, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said during Charter’s third quarter earnings call.

Rutledge said the MSO anticipates that the new Charter TV app, offered  first on Apple devices and coming later to the Android platform, will eventually add video-on-demand content to the mix and offer out-of-home access. He likened the initial app to a managed, IPTV cable system.

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But, in response later to an analyst’s question about the evolution of out-of-home rights, Rutledge said Charter’s “TV app is the beginning of a lot of things. It may ultimately be monetizable in ways that are different than we currently envision it.”

And how Charter makes money on it will depend on how its mobile distribution rights with programmers evolve.

“The only thing that constrains it from a technical perspective is the contracts that you enter into with content providers. There are no technical constraints on where the signal can go," Rutledge said, noting that Charter could look at a variety  of ways to price and package that content.

“We may sell download-to-go services. We may sell video-on-demand everywhere. We may sell subscriptions everywhere,” he said. “But right now our primary business and our primary objective is to enhance our service offering and to make the total value of what we sell more valuable to the consumer.”

Cloud Guide Update

Rutledge also provided an update on Charter’s cloud-based user interface, noting that tests are slated to start in Ft. Worth “in the next few days,” as the MSO makes plans to test it in employee homes first and then extend trials to  customer homes by the end of the year.

Charter, which is working with ActiveVideo Networks and Zodiac Interactive on the project, plans to offer the new guide on new IP-capable boxes with integrated DOCSIS modems as well as older boxes that rely solely on MPEG-based digital transport.

“Assuming that our theory works, we’ll begin to test that and deploy that sometime in…late second quarter of 2014,” Rutledge said. “The objective is to provide a consistent cloud based user interface across all devices and avoid customer disruption by making existing equipment work without additional capital spending for replacement CPE."

Charter Eyes Wi-Fi

Rutledge, who was a champion of Wi-Fi at Cablevision Systems, said Charter is drawing up a Wi-Fi plan of its own.

“We think that Wi-Fi makes sense,” Rutledge said, noting that the MSO intends to start off by using dual SSIDs in Wi-Fi gear installed at commercial customer locations.

“We want to start putting it out in our commercial customer base next year…While we don’t have a complete rollout plan yet, we’re working on beginning to deploy Wi-Fi at Charter,” Rutledge said.

He did not mention if Charter has any plans to join the “Cable WiFi” roaming initiative that counts five members -- Comcast, Bright House Networks, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and Cox Communications -- that have collectively deployed  more than 200,000 Wi-Fi hot spots, with more than 500,000 on the horizon.