Light Reading
Cox has a next-generation TV service in the works, and it could look a lot like Fanhattan's flareWatch.

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
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
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview

10|30|14   |   2:54   |   (0) comments


Sifang has been working with Huawei on several projects. JingTao Wu, Assistant President of Beijing Sifang Automation Co. Ltd., believes that the cooperation with Huawei can facilitate Sifang's process of internationalization.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
A Better Connected Smart Grid: Powering Laos

10|30|14   |   5:38   |   (0) comments


Representatives of Electricite Du Laos (EDL), a state-owned corporation, discuss the importance of ICT solutions in serving their country's energy needs.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Junwei Lu

10|30|14   |   4:50   |   (0) comments


Professor Junwei Lu of Griffith University Australia describes his work with micro grid technology and the future of the power industry.
LRTV Documentaries
The Next-Gen Network Disconnect

10|29|14   |   01:23   |   (0) comments


There's a lot of talk about making networks more simple with SDN, NFV and next-gen broadband technology – but what about the complexity of introducing such capabilities?
LRTV Custom TV
Grow Your VPN Service Revenue

10|27|14   |   4:00   |   (0) comments


Watch how CSP product managers can better differentiate and maximize the value of their Internet, VPN and cloud services for business services customers, by adding premium application performance visibility to their data services.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Add SmartSense to Make Your Network Ready for 4K

10|27|14   |   3:23   |   (0) comments


To make current networks ready for the coming 4K TV challenges, Huawei SmartSense solution will conveniently add experience and operation capabilities to boost telcos' future business.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
NetMatrix: Orchestrate the SDN & NFV World

10|27|14   |   4:11   |   (0) comments


Orchestrator is important in SDN/NFV world to make Telcom network automate, open and efficient. NetMatrix, as Huawei SDN/NFV orchestrator solution, has been in deployment and is showing its' value in real scenarios.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei FusionSphere Enabling ICT Transformation

10|27|14   |   3:21   |   (0) comments


Jeffrey Gao, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer of Huawei West Europe Region, talks about the company's future-oriented cloud strategy. Huawei is providing full portfolio of IT architecture and building an open cloud ecosystem with innovative cloud OS FusionSphere to support customers' ICT transformation.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partner Interview: StorIT

10|27|14   |   4:20   |   (0) comments


An interview with Suren Vendantham of StorIT, a value-added distributor for Huawei in the Middle East region.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partner Interview: Optimus

10|27|14   |   3:14   |   (0) comments


An interview with Nehul Goradia of Optimus, a value-added distributor for Huawei in the Middle East.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Partner Interview: Enterprise Solutions

10|27|14   |   4:57   |   (0) comments


An interview with Pouya Parsafar of Enterprise Solutions, a valued distributor partner with Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Customer Interview: OETC

10|27|14   |   2:35   |   (0) comments


An interview with Saif Albadi, of the Oman Electricity Transmissions Company, a government utility in that company that partners with Huawei.
Upcoming Live Events
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 30, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Microsoft's Skype Embraces WebRTC on IE
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/27/2014
FTC Slaps AT&T With Throttling Lawsuit
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/28/2014
China's MVNOs Hit the Wall
Robert Clark, 10/27/2014
Roku Raises $25M, But for What?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/23/2014
Let's Not Kill SDN & NFV With Silos
Francois Locoh-Donou, Senior VP, Global Products Group, Ciena, 10/28/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed