DENVER – Cox Communications is seeking a way to do more with smart TVs and streaming platforms to enable customers to access its pay-TV services and other streaming apps without the need for a separate set-top box.
"We're exploring the [smart TV] space," Mark Gathen, VP of content acquisition at Cox, said here Wednesday during a panel at the StreamTV Show. "We haven't partnered with anyone right now."
Cox won't necessarily have to look very far to fulfill that strategy. The Atlanta-based cable operator already offers pay-TV and integrated streaming apps and services under the "Contour" brand via its X1 syndication agreement with Comcast.
For the US market, Comcast has already launched its own line of XClass-branded TVs with Hisense, Comcast's first TV manufacturing partner, alongside a national distribution agreement with Walmart.
Comcast's national strategy took another step forward via a new 50/50 streaming joint venture with Charter Communications focused on the development and distribution of Comcast's Flex Streaming Platform, user interfaces, integrated voice search, third-party app integrations and branded 4K-capable streaming players and smart TVs.
Speaking at a recent investor event, Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh reiterated that the JV is open to adding other operators. In addition to Cox, three Canadian cable operators – Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications and Videotron – currently license Comcast's X1/Flex technology but aren't yet part of the Charter-Comcast streaming JV.
Unless Cox decides to go in a completely different direction and seek out another type of partnership with another major streaming platform, becoming part of that JV seems like a logical option for Cox to explore.
Gathen acknowledged that Cox is aware that some customers don't want a traditional set-top box and that streaming platforms, including those that are tightly integrated with connected TVs, have become strong and secure enough to adequately protect premium content.
"We'll determine how we move forward … but strategically we're looking at it," he said.
Streaming deals all over the place
WideOpenWest (WOW), a competitive cable and fiber services operator, has taken an agnostic stance to video services under its "broadband-first" strategy. In addition to supporting its own IP- and app-based pay-TV service, WOW is also directing broadband customers to various subscription VoD and virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) via its partnership with MyBundle.TV.
While delivering apps and pointing customers to third-party streaming services is now part of its overall game, don't expect WOW to enter the smart TV arena.
"We're in the network connectivity business," Roger Seiken, SVP of video programming at WOW, said. "I don't think WOW is going to get into the smart TV business. We don't have the scale and that's not our core expertise."
Though most of the company's growth comes from home broadband, WOW is eager to develop and expand the economic side of its streaming partnerships and agreements.
"We have [streaming] deals all over the place," spanning co-op sites, basic referrals and more complex billing integrations paired with discounts and bundles, Seiken said.
He added later that WOW is okay with ceding some of that video responsibility, including carriage deals, to outside parties. Linear TV and video programming remain a major expense that must be paid whether or not customers actually watch specific packages of channels or programming.
"It's all upside," Seiken said, when talking about teaming up with third-party streaming services.
Cox's Gathen agreed that deals and relationships with streaming services run the gamut. "I think we're still in the early days of trying to figure exactly how the economics will flesh out. But in all of our discussions, we have open conversations about economics," he explained.
Jason Cohen, CEO of MyBundle.TV, believes that retaining a connection to various streaming services is a good fit for broadband operators, holding that staying involved in video can help ISPs gain and retain data customers if they're able to help them navigate an incredibly complex streaming marketplace of paid and free, ad-supported options.
"If we can help customers find the service and then recommend a show, that's what this is all about," Cohen said.
MyBundle.TV now works with 94 broadband service providers that serve a combined 9 million customers. Frontier Communications, a telco undertaking a massive fiber upgrade buildout plan, is among those recently added to MyBundle.TV's stable of partners.
- Charter and Comcast strike national streaming joint venture
- Comcast goes out of footprint with XClass TV
- MyBundle.TV hooks up with Sling TV
- Comcast eyes streaming gold with new Charter JV
- MyBundle.TV prepares to merge onto the 'FAST' lane
- Marcien Jenckes to helm the Comcast-Charter streaming JV
- MyBundle.TV helps 'broadband-first' players stay in video game
— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading