WideOpenWest Taps Into TiVo

Teams With Evolution Digital on DVR-, CableCARD-Free Approach
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WideOpenWest (WOW) has struck a joint development deal with TiVo and Evolution Digital that will enable the MSO to offer a blend of traditional linear TV and VOD services and over-the-top content via a new low-cost hybrid IP/QAM device and through Web and mobile apps powered by the TiVo platform.

In another twist, the hybrid HD box, to be supplied by Evolution, will not come with an on-board DVR or be equipped with a CableCARD slot. While DRM will likely be used for the OTT side of the device, the QAM side will use the same kind of security that’s being used today in “universal” HD-Digital Transport Adapters (DTAs) that can run on digital cable plant that uses either the Cisco Systems or Arris platform.

TiVo said the deal marks the first time it’s providing a non-DVR box that can handle both traditional and OTT video without a CableCARD.

Although the new hybrid box can run independent of a DVR, operators will be able to deploy it in multiple modes – as a stand-alone HD client, a client to a TiVo DVR, or a client that’s connected to an IP-distributed cloud DVR.

But the new approach involving a low-cost hybrid device represents a new path for TiVo to pursue as it looks to lock in more deals with MSOs or expand on current agreements. TiVo ended its fiscal first quarter with 5.75 million subs, including 4.81 million subs via MVPD partnerships.

“It gives us an opportunity to pursue other business…this is a good way to get a lower-cost option to market,” Jeff Klugman, TiVo’s executive vice president and general manager of products and revenue, said, reiterating that TiVo will also power WOW’s Web and mobile video platforms (iOS and Android).

WOW has not announced an expected launch date, but Klugman said he expects trials of the new platform to get under way later this year.  “The product is well understood…and software development is well underway,” he said.

The hybrid path will also enable WOW to deliver OTT fare, including Netflix, Amazon and YouTube on its leased platform. That will expand on WOW’s historic embrace of OTT, as it currently offers access to Netflix on leased boxes – via the Arris-made “Ultra TV” HD-DVR platform. WOW, which serves nearly 800,000 customers in  parts of Illinois, Michigan, Kansas, Indiana and Ohio, is also one of several MVPDs that have inked deals to distribute Hulu.

WOW believes the new TiVo-powered platform will position it to serve the evolving viewing habits of consumers.

“The new WOW! offering from TiVo will serve the next generation of millennial and skinny bundle subscribers seeking video solutions to complement our leading broadband offerings,” Cash Hagen, WOW’s chief technology officer, said in a statement. “This Evolution Digital STB, powered by TiVo, delivers a simpler way to experience WOW! video offerings and access to a world of live broadband content and a growing slate of OTT content offerings aggregated by TiVo such as Netflix, Vudu, YouTube, Pandora, and Spotify.”

Elsewhere, TiVo is also working on a non-CableCARD approach with Comcast that would enable TiVo’s retail boxes to access the MSO’s full linear TV lineup and its VOD service. The companies have not announced the technical path they are taking, though Comcast has been pushing hard on an IP video transition. 

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