Suddenlink Goes Over-The-Top With TiVo


Suddenlink Communications' debut of the TiVo Premiere DVR in two Texas markets will serve a smorgasbord of Internet-delivered content ranging from YouTube video clips to Facebook status updates -- but lacks other popular services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus.

The MSO's customers in Lubbock and Midland, Texas, will get first crack at the TiVo box, offered for $15 per month, the same rate as Suddenlink's other DVR set-tops. Suddenlink plans to expand to additional markets in 2011.

One of the key features Suddenlink is touting is the ability to search across TV listings, Web content and Suddenlink's video-on-demand library -- 6,000 titles, 500 of which are in HD -- through a single interface. The MSO announced its partnership with TiVo in July.

"We chose to partner with TiVo because of its award-winning user experience, reputation for innovation, and ability to help us launch quickly," Suddenlink chairman and CEO Jerry Kent said in announcing the launch.

Suddenlink's TiVo Premiere

In an interview with Multichannel News this summer, Kent said the MSO decided to offer "over-the-top" options to customers rather than try to fight against them.

"Our customers are going to get broadband content [on TV] one way or another," he said. "We can either get on board and bring them premier entertainment options from many different avenues -- or we could try to ignore it and protect our customer base."

Web content available in the initial launch includes YouTube videos, the Pandora music service, Google's Picasa photo-sharing service, Music Choice videos and thousands of TiVoCast Web videos. Suddenlink's Premiere users can use widgets to access local news, sports and weather, as well as Facebook and Twitter updates, and access personal photos and music from a networked PC.

Suddenlink promises to add more content options: The operator said it is negotiating with Blockbuster, Amazon, Rhapsody and Hulu Plus to add those services "in the months ahead."

However, according to the cable company, Netflix is currently prohibited by some of their contracts with movie studios and other content providers from making its service available on the TiVo devices offered by operators like Suddenlink.

"If Netflix is able to renegotiate its contracts and make its service available to cable operators like Suddenlink, we'll certainly consider adding that service," the operator said in a notice on its site.

A Netflix spokesman confirmed that TiVo's rights to offer the streaming capabilities "don't extend to devices distributed via MVPDs [multichannel video programming distributors]." Only TiVo units sold in the retail channel are licensed to offer the instant streaming functionality from Netflix.

Unlike TiVo's deals with Comcast, Cox Communications and DirecTV to provide TiVo-based services, Suddenlink is looking to offer the Premiere box as its primary DVR. In the U.S., TiVo has a similar deal with RCN, which is offering cobranded TiVo DVRs to customers in all its markets.

Suddenlink's Premiere set-top also provides remote scheduling to let users search and schedule recordings from the Web or from a mobile phone. Other notable TiVo features include WishList searches to find and record suggested programs based on customer interests, and multiroom DVR features to play back content to another TiVo (but only for video programming without copy restrictions).

The Premiere DVR provides storage for up to 45 hours of HD programming or up to 400 hours of standard-definition programming. The box supports 1080p and 1080i HD formats.

Suddenlink, the seventh-largest U.S. cable operator, has 1.3 million residential customers primarily in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia.