Triple Play to Go Wireless

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New York— Time Warner Cable will not make wireless communications its fourth base in a “quad play” of services.

The nation’s second-largest cable operator will instead market the services in its existing “triple play” of TV, digital telephone and Internet access, and new services that will blend aspects of the three, as “Time Warner Cable on the go,” chief marketing officer Sam Howe said at a demonstration of the company’s product lineup at the Time Warner Center on Jan. 16.

The company, which now serves more than 1.6 million telephone customers amid its 13.5 million cable-TV subscribers, plans to allow its wireless customers to receive 27 different television programming services, including live feeds of Fox News Channel among others, according to executive vice president of product management Peter Stern.

Customers will also be able to pull up their home TV listings on their mobile phones and, by year-end, use handsets to instruct their digital video recorders to record programs they can watch when they get home. Subscribers will also receive alerts on their handheld phones when messages arrive in their voice mailboxes at home and be able to read and send e-mail messages using their home Internet accounts. “This is not a quad play,” said Howe.

Like other cable operators involved in deploying mobile services in a joint venture with Sprint Nextel, Time Warner Cable will sell packages of mobile communications at rates that equal those of Sprint itself, in straight comparisons of minutes used. Prices will range from $29.95 to $99.95 a month, according to Howe.

Such a pricing scheme can make it difficult to offer any sort of “quad play” that involves discounting, a hallmark of “triple-play” bundles. Typically, such offerings are priced at about $100 a month and those plays are priced as if the telephone service were free, or close to it.

Time Warner Cable is close to announcing the formal name for its “mobile access” service. Howe said the name was developed in conjunction with advertising agency TBWA/Chiat/Day, the U.S. division of TBWA Worldwide. He noted it will be a common word associated with “portability” and “mobility” and had to be acquired from another firm, which he would not identify, before it could be used.

Howe’s comments came during a tour of its 45,000-square-foot, four-story demonstration of Time Warner interactive services called “Home to the Future,” on display through Feb. 6 at the Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle here. The show, curated by Edwin Schlossberg of ESI Design, ties together 50 Samsung LCD TVs with nearly a mile of cabling.

The exhibit, which is scheduled to tour a number of other Time Warner Cable markets later this year, showcases an array of the latest digital technologies and applications via Time Warner Inc. properties, including video-on-demand; HD programming; DVRs; interactive-TV polling, through New York 1 News; Internet access via Road Runner High Speed Online; Digital Phone service; AOL Video; In2TV; and TMZ.

Moreover, Time Inc.’s SI.com, People.com and Time.com; CNNMoney.com, CNN.com and CNN Pipeline; plus content from Turner Broadcasting System’s Cartoonnetwork.com, Very funnyads.com, NASCAR.com and GameTap are on display.

During the pre-show tour, Stern, Howe and Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt also said:

  • A video channel bearing the Road Runner high-speed Internet brand is expected to debut online by the end of January. The service will include video that is pulled from Web sites, but not video-sharing sites such as YouTube and Revver;
  • Its Road Runner portal on the Web gets 5 million different visitors daily;
  • A TV-screen display identification of incoming phone calls is now available in half of its cable systems;
  • One-third of the customers that subscribe to its digital TV services have DVRs and one-fourth have high-definition TV sets;
  • It’s delivering 100 million streams of video programming on demand to its TV customers each month;
  • Interactive polling is now available to 3.6 million of its digital customers; and, typically, 25% of viewers respond when a poll is presented.

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