TWC Testing Cloud-Based UI in Employee Homes

Marcus: New Guide, to Run on Hybrid Gateways, ‘On Track’ for Launch in 2013
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A new cloud-based navigation system that will play a central role in Time Warner Cable’s next-gen video strategy is undergoing trials in a small batch of employee homes and is "on track" for a commercial launch later this year, company president and COO Rob Marcus said Wednesday at the Nomura Global Media Summit in New York.

“I saw yet another iteration of it just last week. It looks fantastic,” he said. “It’s being tested in employees’ homes right now and we’re on track for a launch later this year. I think that’s really going to be maybe the most significant change in the video experience that we’ve had in as long as I can remember.”

TWC has not revealed a name for it or shown off the new interface publicly yet, but the MSO is already utilizing a cloud-based UI to power the apps it’s running now on iOS and Android tablets and smartphones.

The coming guide will run on an advanced hybrid IP/QAM gateway that, Marcus said, will contain six tuners, a terabyte of storage, a DOCSIS 3.0 modem, and a transcoders that can distribute IP video to devices hanging off the home network, such as IP client boxes, tablets and smart TVs. Among vendors, Motorola (now part of Arris) has offered some technical detail on such it's making for TWC that can be configured to run as a "headed" or "headless" gateway.

The new gateways “cost a little bit more than an existing DVR,” Marcus said. Although this new gateway-client architecture could reduce TWC’s reliance on traditional set-tops, the change likely won’t have a near term, meaningful effect on the MSO’s capital spend. “I think that’s something that, if anything, will be a positive for us over time,” he said.

Comcast is also using a cloud-based guide for X1, a new IP-capable video product that’s been rolled out to 10 markets so far and is expected to be in all Comcast systems by year-end. 

MSOs are looking for these new products to drive customer acquisition and trim back video subscriber losses.

Marcus also addressed TWC’s recent decision to deemphasize the triple play in its customer acquisition strategy.  

“Candidly, not all customers are looking for phone,” Marcus said. TW Cable lost 35,000 phone subs in the first quarter. “What we were finding was customers were taking phone as part of the triple play bundle, but didn’t really want it.”

Using an “attractively priced” two-product bundle, TWC has found that customers are going with higher speed Internet tiers. “Net-net of that is positive for us because the margin on the [high-speed data] tier is better for us.”

But he said some have misinterpreted that the strategy means TWC is abandoning the triple play and “sort of throwing in the towel on phone” service.

“I would argue that neither of those things is true. We still, in Q1, sold 20% of our new connects triple plays.”