Charter Tests Cloud UI in Fort Worth

CEO Tom Rutledge IDs First Trial Market

Charter Communications is kicking the tires on new cloud-based user interface in Fort Worth, Texas,  as it continues to work on a platform that will eventually allow the operator to deliver a unified experience across its footprint.

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge revealed the identity of Charter’s first test market for the UI Thursday during Liberty Media’s annual Investor Day meeting in New York. According to Rutledge, the interface Charter is developing is being made to work on IP devices as well as legacy, MPEG/QAM boxes, paving the way for an interface that can spread to all systems.

Rutledge didn’t mention any vendors, but Charter has already announced that it had selected ActiveVideo Networks’ cloud platform to underpin its new guide strategy. ActiveVideo’s approach allows operators to write the UI once, in HTML5, and manage its deliver from the network to each supported device. For QAM-based set-tops that don’t speak IP, the vendor’s system essentially stitches the UI into the MPEG video transport stream that’s delivered to the box. A small software client in the set-top collects remote control clicks, relays them to the network servers, and sets up the server sessions.

During a demo conducted in June in New York, ActiveVideo showed how its cloud-based system could deliver the TiVo guide as well as Comcast’s new X1 interface to a wide range of devices, including IP-connected Roku boxes and TVs, as well as a vintage, QAM-only DCT-2000 digital set-top box.

Coincidentally, Dallas/Ft. Worth is where Charter had been leasing TiVo boxes, the initial product of a multi-year deal announced in January 2011. Charter stopped supporting leased TiVo boxes on Sept. 10, urging those customers to swap them out for other Charter-supplied DVR equipment. Charter has not announced its going-forward strategy with TiVo, though ActiveVideo has already shown that it’s technically possible to deliver the TiVo UI to an array of box types.

Charter also has not named who will supply its next-gen boxes, but sources have told Multichannel News that the operator is working on a “World Box” that will place a heavy emphasis on cloud-based services and closely mimic the plan underway at Cablevision Systems. Humax and Samsung are said to be among the leading candidates for that part of Charter’s new box business.

-- Multichannel News senior finance editor Mike Farrell contributed to this story.