Charter Wants to Expand Video Cloud to Bright House

MSO Also Talks Up Deal's Other Technology Implications
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Charter Communications was eager Tuesday to talk about the benefits of scale that it expects to achieve via its proposed $10.4 billion acquisition of Bright House Networks, and a good piece of that will include the MSO’s next-gen video platform and its budding wireless aspirations.

During Tuesday’s call with reporters and analysts, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said its proposed acquisition of Bright House and transactions tied to the pending Comcast/Time Warner Cable will give Charter an opportunity to extend the reach of its new cloud-based user interface and its strategy involving the “Worldbox,” a new class of device that can run on Arris- and Cisco Systems-based cable systems thanks to its use of a new downloadable security system (Cisco and Humax are the known suppliers of Charter’s Worldbox). Charter is also using technology from ActiveVideo and Zodiac Interactive to offer the new UI across its box base, including older QAM-locked set-tops that are two-way, but don’t speak IP.  

“So our strategy from a guide and new set-top box perspective… integrates with Bright House, Time Warner and with Comcast assets pretty universally,” Rutledge said, noting later that “a scaled company investing in a centralized cloud based UI and service architecture can [create] better products than our competitors have.”  

But Rutledge did acknowledge that those integrations will still present a challenge due to the presence of different billing and provisioning systems across those properties. To resolve that, Charter is developing an “abstraction layer” over those myriad billing and provisioning systems, Rutledge said. 

“We have the knowhow and skill internally to manage all of this…but it’s very complex,” he said, noting that there will be a “period of latency” before Charter could come out of these deals with a completely uniform platform.

Rutledge also believes that Charter’s integration of Bright House will be eased partly because Bright House has deep knowledge of the systems and software that are consistent with TWC’s structural make-up.

Rutledge said Charter also has a plan to run its own interface on X1 boxes that Comcast has rolled out in systems that are poised to become part of GreatLand Connections, a new MSO that will be spun out of the pending Comcast/TWC deal.  GreatLand will own and operate systems serving about 2.5 million customers in the Midwest and MidSouth regions, but the operator will be managed by Charter, which will also own a one-third interest in GreatLand.

Charter also believes an acquisition of Bright House deal will deliver a jolt to its own wireless ambitions. Charter has plans to get more aggressive with WiFi this year, but Bright House has already deployed more than 45,000 access points. Bright House is also a member of the “Cable WiFi” roaming alliance (Comcast, TWC, Cox Communications, and Cablevision Systems are the other participants).

Bright House also has an MVNO agreement with Verizon Wireless that came way of its sale of Advanced Wireless Services spectrum to the carrier. If Charter is successful in acquiring Bright House, that MVNO could also be applied to Charter’s business, Rutledge said.

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