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Cox Flirts With Fanhattan

Mari Silbey

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

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User Rank: Light Sabre
7/10/2013 | 8:52:52 PM
re: Cox Flirts With Fanhattan
As others have said, who cares? Until TWC can send their service into a Comcast Broadband household (or Cox or CVC or...) and there is extra competition as a result of this, its just another way to package the same thing.

If everything were available on demand day of then a DVR wouldn't be required and this MIGHT be a great way to get a decent UI out of TWC without using a cable box. But that probably won't be how this plays out.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/2/2013 | 1:45:55 PM
re: Cox Flirts With Fanhattan
The content owners want strict control over how their content is delivered and there are rules regarding things like re-transmission of content. They can stream their shows OTT as they see fit (see Hulu, Netflix's original content) but MSO/TV operators are not allowed to unless the customer is on-net, like your example in Canada. Aereo? is getting around the re-broadcasting by using an OTA antenna for every subscriber, but they can only offer channels available OTA.
User Rank: Light Beer
7/2/2013 | 1:55:54 AM
re: Cox Flirts With Fanhattan
Would that be allowed in the US if an MSO tried to that that? We have a few independent ISPs who have launched IPTV to compete with the incumbent cable and telco companies in Canada, and they wanted to offer it as an OTT service but they weren't allowed. The licenses awarded to these new IPTV providers require them to offer the service with their broadband service only, even though the provider is more than willing to offer the service with another broadband provider.
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/1/2013 | 7:13:39 PM
re: Cox Flirts With Fanhattan
We are a long ways away from MSOs offering TV service outside of their local market, although I'm sure some would love to do so. This is contained to the local market of a single MSO and requires an Internet connection to that MSO in that market.

I am going to guess the offering of stations like ESPN which wants everyone to use their own apps to watch over IP and gets per-user subscriber fees might be short-lived.
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