Cox Flirts With Fanhattan
Here's one for the history books. Cox Communications Inc. is testing an IPTV service in Orange County, Calif. with the Fanhattan Fan TV set-top. Dubbed flareWatch, the service includes 97 channels and 30 hours of cloud DVR storage. It comes with a beta price of only US$34.99 per month.
While limited to Cox broadband subscribers, the flareWatch trial is nonetheless remarkable on several fronts. Participants don't have to bundle flareWatch with a traditional TV package, and yet it still includes top stations like ESPN, Disney and Discovery. (Free on-demand content is "coming soon".) The network DVR feature means the service could be extended to mobile devices. And the tiny little Fan TV box includes Fanhattan's own user interface and supports all kinds of IP applications, giving Cox the option of exploring new Internet service partnerships in the future.
Spokesperson Todd Smith says Cox is "testing the delivery of existing programming content via a unique user interface from Fanhattan. Cox High Speed Internet customers plug their broadband connection into Fanhattan's device and then connect to their TV."
From a business model perspective, the most interesting aspect of flareWatch may be what it represents for the broader cable industry. Once cable companies start delivering TV like an Internet app, regional footprints become entirely artificial. Cable operators will ultimately have to decide if they want to compete with each other on a national basis for TV subscribers.
In the short term, the flareWatch pilot is a big win for Fanhattan. The company debuted its media streamer hardware and fancy touch-sensitive remote at the end of May, and announced plans to partner directly with the pay-TV community. It wasn't clear at the time, however, if those plans were realistic or merely wishful thinking. The Cox deal is a good, if still early sign. (See Fan TV Courts Cable for New Box.)
— Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable