Verizon, Cable Scuttle Tech JV - Multichannel

Verizon, Cable Scuttle Tech JV

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Add another item to the growing list of cable/mobile joint ventures that didn’t pan out.

Verizon Wireless and three of its cable-operator partners — Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks — have terminated a technology innovation joint venture that was born out of a larger deal signed in December 2011 involving the sale of MSO-owned spectrum to the mobile carrier. That deal also paved the way for them to co-market cable and wireless services.

The commercial agreements of the deal, including the spectrum sale and service-bundling component, will remain in place. Cox Communications also sold spectrum to Verizon and latched onto the co-bundling piece, but was not formally part of the tech JV.

Verizon Communications chief financial officer Fran Shammo broke the news last Thursday (Oct. 17) on the telco’s third-quarter call, noting that the tech JV had been “terminated,” a decision that comes into play amid Verizon’s pending deal to snap up U.K. cell provider Vodafone’s 45% stake in Verizon Wireless for $130 billion.

Verizon Wireless and its cable partners were using the JV to develop integrated wireline/wireless products and services, but apparently decided they could develop those on their own. The venture was dissolved in late August.

“Evolving technology and market changes since the joint venture was formed have led all parties to conclude that a joint venture, per se, is no longer needed to deliver innovative services to customers,” Verizon Wireless said in a statement.

The move spells an early-but-expected end to the tech venture. As part of the conditions set on the deal by the U.S. Department of Justice in August 2012, Verizon Wireless and its cable partners were to dissolve the JV by December 2016, unless they received government permission to extend it. The JV had kept quiet since its inception and did not formally announce any specific products.

At the 2012 Cable Show, Verizon Wireless and Comcast unveiled “Viewdini,” a mobile search/discovery portal optimized for Verizon Wireless’s 4G/LTE network that provided access to movies, TV shows and other content from Comcast, Hulu Plus, Netflix and other content sources. Verizon Wireless confirmed that Viewdini was a product of Verizon Wireless, and not part of the innovation JV, adding that the app was shut down in October.

A casualty of the terminated JV, according to GigaOm, is “NUON,” a secretive project that aimed to offer over-the-top video services and promote Verizon and cable services via a dedicated device to be made by China-based Huawei Technologies. It was reportedly slated to launch before the end of 2013 and, according to a leaked mock-up of a sign-on page, was expected to also involve TWC, Cox, Bright House and Verizon FiOS.

Comcast declined to comment on NUON, referring questions to Verizon Wireless, which did not respond by press time. However, the mobile carrier told GigaOM that NUON was simply a “brand,” but would not comment on services that were under development at the now-defunct JV.

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