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Cox Gives Guide Guidance

Jeff Baumgartner
LR Cable News Analysis
Jeff Baumgartner

ATLANTA -- Cox Communications Inc. is gearing up to deploy in the fourth quarter a next-gen interactive program guide (IPG) and video navigation system, a lead component of a larger project that will see the MSO deploy the tru2way platform system-wide.

That's according to Steve Necessary, Cox's VP of video product development and support, and the morning keynoter here at the Light Reading's second annual "Cable Next-Gen Video Strategies" event.

Necessary acknowledged that innovation of the cable IPG "has been very slow to develop," stifled by the limited capabilities of older digital boxes. However, the emergence of the more powerful tru2way platform, he explained, has given the MSO an opportunity to start with a "blank sheet" to help customers more easily navigate a video platform that's replete with linear channels, thousands of video-on-demand (VoD) assets, and DVRs with increasing storage capacities.

Cox, which has teamed with NDS Ltd. on the development of the next-gen guide, expects to offer it to customers in the fourth quarter. Cox, as well as a handful of other major U.S. MSOs, have until July 1 to get their digital headends prepped for tru2way because of milestones tied to a binding "memorandum of understanding" with Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE). (See Revealed: The Tru2way MOU and Cox Puts NDS at Heart of Tru2way Plan .)

Necessary shared a few screenshots of the IPG that's in development, but the general idea is to ensure that the navigational elements are consistent throughout. The guide itself will allow for scaled video and deliver information via rotating "cards" that are optimized for the hi-def environment. The guide will also provide an integrated search function that can tap data from the MSO's on-demand and linear libraries. Cox is still keeping details about most of the new features that will grace the new guide close to the vest, however.

As for Cox's overarching tru2way plans, all of them will center on set-tops that are supplied by the MSO, at least at the start. "At the moment, there are no plans for retailers in any of our markets to carry tru2way devices," Necessary said. However, Cox will support any tru2way TVs that happen to find their way into the MSO's market, he added, noting that expects Cox to be ready for broader availability of tru2way retail devices in 2010.

So far, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is the only MSO so far to adopt a tru2way retail play, and only in a limited way in pockets of Denver, Chicago, and here in Atlanta with two Panasonic Corp. (NYSE: PC)-made tru2way-certified HD sets. (See Denver, Chicago First to Get Tru2way TVs and Tru2Way in Atlanta.)

More 'My Primetime' on the way
Necessary also offered an update on "My Primetime," a VoD product that makes TV's top "entertainment" shows available 12 hours after they are first broadcast. To preserve the ad model, shows tagged for My Primetime have the fast-forward function disabled.

Cox, he said, has that service running in about two thirds of its markets now, and expects to have it available across its footprint by the year's end.

For now, the rights allow Cox to store up to four episodes of a given show or series. "So you can catch up, to a degree," Necessary says. Cox, like other MSOs, are also trying to obtain rights that will allow for the storage of more episodes and a shorter delay on when they'll become available after the original broadcast.

Cox and other MSOs are looking to expand their on-demand rights for traditional VoD and broadband-delivered content to protect themselves against "over-the-top" competitors and the still-budding phenomenon of "cord-cutting." (See 'Cord-Cutting' No Threat and Time Warner, Comcast Team Up for TV Everywhere.)

Necessary said OTT represents a "material threat" to Cox and other cable operators, but doesn't see it manifesting into anything serious right away, offering recent evidence from The Nielsen Co. that the vast majority of video viewing minutes still occurs in front of the good ol' TV set.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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User Rank: Lightning
12/5/2012 | 4:01:50 PM
re: Cox Gives Guide Guidance

Another cool feature of the upcoming guide mentioned was that the integrated search function would search not only Cox's linear video and on-demand library, but also the customer's stored DVR content.

Necessary also said upcoming versions of their NDS-developed guide would include "recommendations".  I wonder how consumers will react?  Will it feel like "big brother" is watching what they watch?  What happens if daddy watches ... uh ... "mature content" and mommy receives the recommendations?????

One final thought - Legacy (non OCAP capable) set-tops will continue to run the Aptiv guide.  I expect that will be the vast majority of Cox's digital customer base.

Just one guy's opinion .....

Jeff Baumgartner
Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:01:49 PM
re: Cox Gives Guide Guidance

I think recommendations will help customers find stuff they'd be interested, particuarly as VoD libraries grow to help solve that "Paradox of Choice" Steve mentioned.  But that's an interesting point...if recommendations are based on how an entire family's viewing habits, you might still end up with a hodgepodge...and maybe some stuff that's inapprorpriate for the kiddos...woudl be helpful if recommendations can be made on an individual basis , but that might require viewers to "log in" whenever they watch TV. Not sure if Cox is going ot have a multi-viewer option for the recommendation engine, but I should ask that question.

and you're right...most subs won't get the new guide right away since it's relegated to the new ocap boxes.l


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