Light Reading

Cox Eyes IPTV Service

Mari Silbey
11/4/2013
100%
0%

Despite cutting short its recent trial of Fanhattan’s Fan TV service, Cox Communications is planning to launch an IP video service for broadband subscribers that could closely resemble that trial.

Cox Communications Inc. CTO Kevin Hart told Fierce Cable that the third largest US MSO has a virtual cable video service under development that, like the aborted flareWatch trial, would deliver TV channels over IP. He also said that Cox received positive feedback from the flareWatch trial and that it is now in the "trial post-mortem evaluation phase."

What Hart didn't spell out, though, is how Fan TV fared in the flareWatch experiment: what consumers liked about it and what Cox and Fanhattan LLC learned from the trial. Despite the spotlight on flareWatch, useful information has been scarce. But now some details are emerging.

Fan TV on trial
The Cox flareWatch trial this summer captured the cable industry's attention for two important reasons. First, it introduced the Fan TV experience, which was built around start-up company Fanhattan's streaming hardware and custom user interface. Second, it bundled Cox broadband service with an IP video streaming package, a novel approach in an industry where TV service is typically separated from Internet delivery. (See Cox's IPTV Trial Flames Out.)

As a concept and a demo, Fan TV has gotten rave reviews. Tech editors have praised the design of Fanhattan's set-top box, the look of the Fan TV on-screen interface, and the functionality of the touch pad remote control. Recently Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) General Manager Mike Angus even told Light Reading that he (not speaking on behalf of his company) personally loves the product, and that he thinks Fanhattan's approach is "spot on… an intuitive way to bridge the CE and pay-TV world."

In conducting its Fan TV trial, Cox was mainly seeking user feedback. In an email, a Cox spokesperson explained that the MSO tried out the service on two groups of customers, "a very small group of friendlies that we personally interviewed a couple of times and then a larger commercial group of trial participants who we asked to participate in a written survey (but not all participated)." The spokesperson said the MSO was "looking for feedback on the concept and experience, although we were trying to distinguish between experience elements that were inherent to the longer term product and value proposition (e.g., Did they like the buttonless touch remote?) vs. those that were simply a function of this being a very early stage beta (i.e., did the product have any tech bugs). Also, we were looking for feature and functionality improvement suggestions."

While Hart says Cox received positive feedback from the flareWatch trial, at least one participant was not very complimentary. Speaking on condition of anonymity, this user described to Light Reading numerous problems with the Fan TV UI.

The user called the interface beautiful, but cumbersome, and said the remote was disorienting. He detailed his difficulty in jumping back and forth between different content options and cited a lack of navigational shortcuts that could have made the UI more user-friendly. He had additional issues with the search function and disliked many of the on-screen graphic effects, which he felt further impeded usability.

The remote control created even more of a challenge. According to the flareWatch user, interaction with the TV through the remote was not intuitive, and if the remote was held askew, it didn’t always respond accurately. "It felt nice in the hand, but didn’t really work," he said. Overall, he concluded, Fan TV was "very tiresome to use."

Cable companies weigh in
Now that Cox has said it will launch a commercial product, the claim that it was primarily testing the Fan TV interface, and not whether to move forward with IP video, holds more weight. Cox hasn't said if it will move forward with Fanhattan as a partner, but it likely has a better idea of what it wants to do after collecting user feedback.

Cox isn't the only cable operator exploring options for bundling broadband with IP video. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has introduced services that combine Internet delivery with a limited line-up of regular TV channels, and added access to HBO/HBO Go and Comcast's StreamPix streaming video product. Although traditional television is still part of the package, the focus is as much on the IP video features as the standard TV service. (See Comcast Set to Bundle Broadband & HBO)

IHS Inc. analyst Erik Brannon thinks there's a knock-on benefit to cable's increasing interest in IP-delivered TV service. While there may not be significant room for growth in the pay-TV market, Brannon believes the TV Everywhere trend as a whole can win subscribers back into the cable fold.

"What we're doing with TV Everywhere is we're training people back into the behavior of purchasing pay-TV," said Brannon. "I think that TV Everywhere has a significant opportunity to win back… the population of people that we consider to be cord-nevers… if you reach them when they're young enough in the household, with great enough variety and convenience."

If there's one thing that is clear, it's that cable companies do want to deliver a richer TV experience. Between IP video services, new advanced program guides, and cloud DVR features, cable operators are working overtime to compete with over-the-top (OTT) video players and other pay-TV providers.

Whether Fan TV ultimately plays a part in that effort remains to be seen.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
albreznick
100%
0%
albreznick,
User Rank: Blogger
11/4/2013 | 8:48:38 PM
Re: Courting the "cord-nevers"
Wow, that's quite a story. I hope you paid your son some commissions for his fine work. :) Anyway, I don't think cable can really draw in the cord-nevers until it drops its insistence that people still take video subscriptions too. I mean, what's the point of getting a broadband video package if you still have to pay for the traditional video package? There's no incentive there.  
bigggtom
100%
0%
bigggtom,
User Rank: Lightning
11/4/2013 | 5:35:21 PM
Re: Courting the "cord-nevers"
Is this a blink? When we started the first video over dsl in the late 90s, competing with cable seemed a pipe dream. It paid well, but it was hard to really believe. We came up with a slogan "Turn your copper into Gold". It was my idea to gold plate thousands of pennies and hand them out as reminders. I taught my 3 year old son a speech, gave him a pocket full of gold pennies and released him in trade shows. He would catch the eye of an adult, walk up and put a penny in their hand, and say, "Wanna turn your copper into gold? See my daddy." My son is now in engineering school, but many guys still have their gold pennies.
msilbey
50%
50%
msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
11/4/2013 | 12:24:10 PM
Re: Courting the "cord-nevers"
Very good point. And cablecos are experimenting with lower-priced tiers, at least for an initial promotional period. Strategy: Hook consumers at an introductory rate with a cool product, and then reel'em in later with higher prices.
Carol Wilson
100%
0%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
11/4/2013 | 12:00:10 PM
Courting the "cord-nevers"
If cable is hoping to design an IP video product that convinces those who haven't yet started paying for TV to develop that habit, it will have to be a very inexpensive offering. I'm assuming that audience isn't at the center of an IP video strategy, however, and it will be interesting to see how Cox's intentions play out and what the servcie looks like. 
From The Founder
Light Reading sits down at CES with the head of Cisco's service provider video business, Conrad Clemson, to discuss how NFV and cloud security relate to video, the challenge of managing 4K/8K traffic, the global expansion of Netflix and virtual reality.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
CLOUD / MANAGED SERVICES: Prepping Ethernet for the Cloud
Moderator: Ray LeMaistre Panelists: Jeremy Bye, Leonard Sheahan
LRTV Custom TV
Join Us at the Digital Operations Transformation Summit

2|4|16   |   03:52   |   (0) comments


The Digital Operations Transformation Summit on February 21, 2016 at the Crowne Plaza Barcelona Fira Centre will bring together 50 senior executives to engage in a unique debate on the opportunities and challenges presented by the transformative evolving digital landscape. RSVP now at events@lightreading.com.
LRTV Custom TV
Making the Test: ADVA Ensemble Connector vs. Open vSwitch

2|4|16   |   01:28   |   (0) comments


Light Reading, in partnership with EANTC, recently tested ADVA's Ensemble Connector, which replaces open vSwitch and offers carrier-grade capability and interoperability. The test results strengthen ADVA's credibility as a provider in the virtualization space.
LRTV Custom TV
Bridging the Gap Between PoCs & Deployment in NFV

2|4|16   |   31:50   |   (0) comments


Charlie Ashton of Wind River presents the keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Dublin.
Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Mike Aquino

2|3|16   |   17:34   |   (0) comments


The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
Shades of Ray
MWC: Buckle Up for 5G & the IIoT

2|2|16   |   02:28   |   (0) comments


This year's Mobile World Congress looks set to be a 5G land grab and a chance to get down and dirty with the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) – but what will the 5G discussions actually be about?
LRTV Custom TV
Case Study: Building China's Next-Gen TV Networks

2|2|16   |   5:01   |   (0) comments


With over 2 billion viewers worldwide, Shenzhen Media Group is one of China's largest content producers. By partnering with Huawei and Sobey, SZMG was able to modernize media operations with the Converged News Center, a production studio that is a model for next-generation workflows.
LRTV Custom TV
Quad Channel Modulator Driver with 46 Gbaud Capability from MACOM

1|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


MACOM's MAOM-003427 is the industry's first surface-mount modulator driver with 46 Gbaud capability to support next generation 200G and 400G applications.
LRTV Custom TV
Video Infographic: Validating Cisco's NFV Infrastructure

1|26|16   |   02:24   |   (1) comment


We all know that the network of the future will be virtual, but when will virtual become a reality? This video infographic covers the four key areas in which Light Reading, in partnership with EANTC, tested Cisco's NFV infrastructure: performance, reliability, multi-service capabilities and single pane of glass management.

For the full report, see

Between the CEOs
CEO Chat With Phil McKinney, CableLabs

1|22|16   |   13:36   |   (1) comment


At CES in Las Vegas, we met with Phil McKinney, CEO of CableLabs. Phil provides an update on the rollout of DOCSIS 3.1, his views on the future of open source and how consumer interest in virtual reality could affect network traffic.
Between the CEOs
Ericsson CTO on the Changing Telecom Market

1|21|16   |   10:26   |   (0) comments


At CES 2015, CTO of Ericsson, Ulf Ewaldsson, sits down with CEO of Light Reading, Steve Saunders, to discuss the changing telecom market, the new partnership with Cisco and the future of the telecom industry.
LRTV Interviews
Ireland's Data Dream

1|21|16   |   14:31   |   (0) comments


Host In Ireland president Gary Connolly tells Light Reading's Steve Saunders about the role Ireland is playing in hosting data for the world's largest organizations.
LRTV Custom TV
Brocade Keynote: Transitioning to the New IP

1|20|16   |   27:23   |   (0) comments


At 2020 Vision in Dublin, Andrew Coward, VP of Service Provider Strategy at Brocade, presents the transition to the New IP.
Upcoming Live Events
March 10, 2016, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 5, 2016, The Ritz Carlton, Charlotte, NC
May 23, 2016, Austin, TX
May 24-25, 2016, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Cisco's latest VNI numbers suggest the world will be using 366.8 exabytes of data on smartphones and Internet of Things devices, up from 44.2 exabytes, in 2015.
Hot Topics
Alphabet Is Serious About Google Fiber
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 2/1/2016
Did Juniper Pay 'Peanuts' for BTI?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 2/2/2016
Google's 5G Radio Ambitions Are Expanding
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/5/2016
How Data Center Outsourcing Fuels AT&T NetBond Growth
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 2/3/2016
3.5GHz Startup Gets $22M for Small Cells
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 2/2/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
The former CEO of Overture Networks, Mike Aquino, discusses why truly open virtualization solutions provide service providers with the greatest choice.
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I like to think I know a fair bit about this next-gen-comms malarkey, but there's nothing like an interview with one of the ...
Animals with Phones
Happy Groundhogs for Technology Day! Click Here
Live Digital Audio

Broadband speeds are ramping up across Europe as the continent, at its own pace, follows North America towards a gigabit society. But there are many steps to take on the road to gigabit broadband availability and a number of technology options that can meet the various requirements of Europe’s high-speed fixed broadband network operators. During this radio show we will look at some of the catalysts for broadband network investments and examine the menu of technology options on offer, including vectoring and G.fast for copper plant evolution and the various deployment possibilities for FTTH/B.