Canada’s Rogers Communications is planning to start employee trials of a new IPTV platform powered by Comcast’s X1 platform next month, with a “soft” commercial launch expected by the first quarter of 2018, execs confirmed last Thursday (October 19) during the company’s Q3 call.
Joe Natale, Rogers’s CEO, noted that “key elements” of the platform, including linear channels, VOD and cloud DVR functionality, are currently running in a production environment at Rogers, which announced its X1 syndication deal with Comcast in December 2016.
“We are getting ready now…to do a full-scale employee trial,” he said, noting that it’s slated to start in November and involve more than 1,000 Rogers employees.
Rogers, he added, is shooting for a Q1 “soft commercial launch” that will open it up to a larger set of employees and a portion of the MSO’s customer base. The company expects to follow with a full commercial launch later in 2018.
“At some point in 2019, we'll stop sell our legacy platform [and] continue a focused, thoughtful migration of our entire base overtime to X1,” Natale said.
Natale is optimistic that Rogers can scale quickly on X1, noting that Cox Communications, which is already licensing Comcast’s platform for its new “Contour” service, now has more than 1 million customers on it and is seeing an improvement in churn as a result.
Rogers will be looking for its new X1-powered multiscreen IPTV service to help it drive improved pay TV numbers. In Q3, Rogers lose 18,000 video subs, ending the period with 1.75 million.
Natale also talked up X1’s ability to integrate traditional pay TV services with OTT offerings and become a key aggregation point for both and win the “battle for HDMI 1” as the TV’s source of content. In the U.S., Comcast has already completed integrations of Netflix and YouTube, with Sling TV and others in the works.
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“We view it as a merchandising platform to lay out the best of content from Netflix from other studios, YouTube, etc.,” he explained. “And as we strike the right arrangements, we will be adding more streaming services to the platform. I really want to be Switzerland, when it comes to inviting and integrating streaming platforms into our X1 capability, I think that's the future of video.”
On the broadband front, Natale called Full Duplex DOCSIS as “real and capable” for delivering multi-gigabit symmetrical speeds on HFC, but stressed that the specs were released earlier this month.
“It will be, I think, 2019-plus before we see it really commercially available in the full sense,” he said.
In Q3, Rogers added 27,000 cable internet subs, extending its total to 2.21 million.
Rogers ended Q3 with 4.28 million cable homes passed, up by 10,000 for the period.