IP video

TW Cable Beams UI to Cloud

Like fellow US MSO Comcast, Time Warner Cable is reaching into the cloud for help in the video business.

Following in the footsteps of Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) has started rolling out a cloud-based interactive program guide for its cable video customers. TW Cable announced the move late last week, saying that it has already made the IP video guide available on more than 2 million set-top boxes. Plans call for extending the guide to another 4 million cable set-tops by the end of 2014, which would mean that a good portion of the MSO's nearly 12 million video customers would have them in a year.

Similar to Comcast's X1 IP video guide, the new TWC user interface (UI) features a new video-on-demand (VoD) portal, a digital video recorder (DVR) manager, advanced search and discovery capabilities, and a widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio) guide for HD programming. The new program guide also features a "What's Hot" sections that highlights popular movies, shows, and other titles.

TW Cable and other cable operators have been scrambling to develop cloud-based UIs as a way to compete better with telco, satellite, and over-the-top (ORTT) video providers, which tend to have much more advanced and intuitive user interfaces and navigation tools than MSOs. By moving the UIs to the cloud from the set-top domain, cable operators can change and update the guides much quicker and easier. They can also standardize their guides across many different types of set-tops, instead of being at the mercy of the individual box makers.

Plus, as with Comcast's X1 guide, TW Cable's new user interface could well be a precursor of more advanced cloud-based video services to come. Most notably, the guide could pave the way for a cloud-based DVR service, which Comcast and several major US MSOs have been seeking to develop. So far, only Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) offers such a network-based DVR service.

The new guide should also come in handy as TW Cable expands its multiscreen video efforts. That's because the move to the cloud will make it easier for the MSO to place an advanced, yet standardized, program guide on other video-enabled devices.

Perhaps not totally coincidentally, TW Cable unveiled the new program guide just a day after announcing the launch of its full TWC TV app on the Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) Kindle Fire HD and HDX tablets. At the same time, the MSO announced that it was padding its existing offerings on the Roku Inc. streaming media player, Xbox 360 game console, and newer Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) connected TV sets. As a result, TW Cable now offers TV Everywhere content through apps on seven different platforms -- Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL)'s iOS, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Android, PC, Mac, Roku, Xbox 360, and Amazon Kindle Fire. -- beyond the traditional cable set-top. (See TW Cable Says: Just Keep Streaming.)

As reported by Multichannel News, TWC has started the rollout by deploying the guide in its Northeastern cable systems, including its huge New York City operation, and the Carolinas. A company spokeswoman told the publication that the MSO has limited the rollout so far to set-tops from Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) with integrated DOCSIS cable modems.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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