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. 
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Last week I dropped in on "Hotlanta," Georgia to moderate Light Reading's inaugural DroneComm conference – a unique colloquium investigating the potential for drone communications to disrupt the world's telecom ecosystem. As you will see, it was a day of exploration and epiphany...
Between the CEOs
Affirmed Networks CEO: Digging Into NFV

5|28|15   |   40:26   |   (2) comments


Hassan Ahmed, CEO of Affirmed Networks, is making some big claims for his NFV startup. I sat down with him at the Light Reading HQ in New York City to get the skinny on what this Acton, Mass.-based startup is up to.
LRTV Documentaries
Cable Eyeing SDN for Headend, Home Uses

5|26|15   |   05:57   |   (1) comment


CableLabs is looking at virtualizing CMTS and CCAP devices in the headend, as well as in-home devices, says CableLabs' Karthik Sundaresan.
LRTV Documentaries
Verizon's Emmons: SDN Key to Cost-Effective Scaling

5|22|15   |   03:53   |   (0) comments


For Verizon and other network operators to ramp up available bandwidth cost effectively, they need to move to SDN and agree on how to do that.
LRTV Documentaries
Lack of Universal SDN a Challenge

5|21|15   |   04:51   |   (3) comments


Heavy Reading Analyst Sterling Perrin talks about how uncertainty about SDN standards and approaches may be slowing deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Steve Vogelsang Interview: Carrier SDN

5|20|15   |   05:02   |   (0) comments


Sterling Perrin speaks to Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, about the new Carrier SDN-enabling Network Services Platform and the operator challenges it solves.
LRTV Custom TV
Carrier SDN: On-Demand Networks for an On-Demand World

5|20|15   |   20:52   |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, talks about requirements and benefits of Carrier SDN during the keynote address at the Light Reading Carrier SDN event May 2015.
LRTV Documentaries
The Security Challenge of SDN

5|19|15   |   02:52   |   (0) comments


CenturyLink VP James Feger discusses concerns that virtualization could create new vulnerabilities unless network operators build in safeguards.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Elasticity – Highly Available VNF Scale-Out Architectures for the Mobile Edge

5|18|15   |   5:50   |   (0) comments


Peter Marek and Paul Stevens from Advantech Networks and Communications Group talk about their NFV Elasticity initiative and the company's latest platforms for deploying virtual network functions at the edge of the network. Packetarium XL and the new Versatile Server Module: 'designed to reach parts of the network that other servers cannot reach.'
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Bay Area Spark Meetup 2015

5|14|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Developed in 2009, Apache Spark is a powerful open source processing engine built around speed, ease of use and sophisticated analytics. This spring, Huawei hosted a meetup for Spark developers and data scientists in Santa Clara, California. Light Reading spoke with organizers and attendees about Huawei's code contributions and long-term commitment to Spark.
LRTV Custom TV
The Transport SDN Buzz

5|12|15   |   06:01   |   (1) comment


Sterling Perrin, senior analyst at Heavy Reading, speaks with Peter Ashwood-Smith of Huawei and Guru Parulkar of ON.Lab about the evolution of transport SDN and the integration of technologies.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation CCAP: Cisco cBR-8 Evolved CCAP

5|5|15   |   04:49   |   (0) comments


John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explained the innovation design of Cisco's cBR-8, the industry's first Evolved CCAP, including DOCSIS 3.1 design from ground-up, distributed CCAP with Remote PHY and path to virtualization. Cisco's cBR-8 Evolved CCAP is the platform that will last through the transitions.
LRTV Custom TV
Meeting the Demands of Bandwidth & Service Group Growth

5|1|15   |   5:35   |   (0) comments


Jorge Salinger, Comcast's Vice President of Access Architecture, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 and multi-service CCAP can meet the demands of the bandwidth and service group growth.
Upcoming Live Events
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Procera has gathered facts, stats and customer experience feedback from a survey of 540 users from across the globe.
Hot Topics
Charter Seals Deals for TWC, Bright House
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/26/2015
Eurobites: Alcatel-Lucent Trials 400G in Czech Republic
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 5/26/2015
Will Carriers Follow Facebook's Networking Lead?
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 5/28/2015
Charter Plans Business Services, Wireless Push
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 5/27/2015
Facebook Reinvents Data Center Networking
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 5/26/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
On May 29th 1 PM ET, Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, will be drilling into the "pains and gains" of NFV with Saar Gillai, SVP & GM for NFV at Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) (HP). He has defined a four-step NFV model describing a sequence of technology innovation. It's a must-read doc for any network architect looking to get to grips with their NFV migration strategy. Join us for the interview, and the chance to ask Saar your NFV questions directly!
Hassan Ahmed, CEO of Affirmed Networks, is making some big claims for his NFV startup. I sat down with him at the Light Reading HQ in New York City to get the skinny on what this Acton, Mass.-based startup is up to.
Cats with Phones