Charter Tunes Up TV Streaming App

ALSO MOVES AHEAD ON CLOUD UI, WI-FI PLANS
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Charter Communications’ first mobile-TV streaming app streams more than 100 live TV channels to authenticated customers in the home, but company CEO Tom Rutledge hinted that it eventually could morph into an out-of-foot-print subscription platform.

Speaking on Charter’s thirdquarter earnings call last Tuesday (Nov. 5), Rutledge said the MSO expects the new Charter TV app, offered first on Apple devices and slated for a future debut on the Android platform, will eventually add video-on-demand content to the mix and offer out-of-home access.

But, in response later to an analyst’s question about mobile distribution 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.”

Those future money-making models will be dependent on how Charter’s 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.”

Rutledge also provided an update on Charter’s cloud-based user interface, noting that tests in employee homes are slated to start soon in Fort Worth, Texas, with trials in customer homes foreseen by the end of the year.

Charter, which is working with ActiveVideo Networks and Zodiac Interactive on the project, plans to offer a new guide on IP-capable boxes with integrated DOCSIS modems as well as on 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.”

Rutledge, a champion of Wi-Fi when he was with Cablevision Systems, said Charter is drawing up a wireless broadband plan of its own.

“We think that Wi-Fi makes sense,” the CEO said. Charter intends to start off by using dual service set identifiers (SSIDs) in Wi-Fi gear installed at commercial customer locations.

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

He did not mention if Charter has any plans to join the “Cable Wi-Fi” 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.

TAKEAWAY

Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge indicates the MSO’s new TV Everywhere app could lead to an out-of-the-home subscription plan.

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