Two of Europe's biggest cable operators are moving ahead boldly in the next-generation video space, unveiling fresh advances in their efforts to bring new video services to their customers.
The two large MSOs, Kabel Deutschland GmbH and Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED), are moving ahead on separate video tracks. But each cable provider is seeking to boost its competitive position in the all-but-saturated pay-TV market by rolling out advanced video services before their satellite and telco TV rivals.
Kabel Deutschland, Germany's largest MSO with more than 8.4 million homes served, announced that it has licensed the Reference Design Kit (RDK), the pre-integrated software stack for IP-enabled set-tops, gateways, and other video devices. The German cable operator thus becomes at least the fourth major MSO, and the second one in Europe, to license the software bundle from RDK Management LLC , the Comcast-Time Warner Cable joint venture that is spearheading the development and deployment of RDK.
Unlike RDK pioneers Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), Kabel Deutschland did not spell out how it plans to roll out RDK in its video devices. But company executives said they believe RDK will offer "a unified technological foundation for pay-TV operators and our ecosystem of partners," as well as "global economies of scale" and "the basis necessary for innovation across our products and applications."
The announcement came at Tuesday's second RDK users conference in Denver, which featured tech demonstrations by, and discussions among, the software stack's 120 or so licensees. These licensees include all of the major North American cable set-top makers, as well as MSOs, software vendors, chipmakers, and others.(See Next Up: RDK Streaming Sticks.)
With the German cable giant now on board, RDK appears to be gaining as much momentum in Europe as in North America, where it started out as a Comcast initiative. Other major MSOs now kicking the tires on RDK include Cox Communications Inc.
Virgin's TiVo milestone
While Kabel Deutschland advanced on the RDK front, Virgin Media made cable history of sorts by signing up its 2 millionth TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) subscriber.
Virgin, the largest cable operator in the UK with nearly 5 million subscribers and now part of the Liberty Global empire, announced the milestone Wednesday, a little more than three years after launching TiVo service.
One of the first MSOs to roll out TiVo's mix of DVR and streaming video services for multiscreen viewing, Virgin Media now accounts for more than half of TiVo's 3.9 million subscribers. Although a number of large and mid-sized US cable operators now offer TiVo as well, none of them comes close to matching Virgin Media's reach.(See TiVo Boasts Record Gains.)
In tandem with TiVo, Virgin Media has also rolled out Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX)'s over-the-top video service to some British homes. Launched just three months ago, the Netflix app has already become one of the most popular in Virgin homes.
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading