Set-top boxes

TWC Joins DVR Wars in NYC & LA

Time Warner Cable customers in New York City and Los Angeles are getting a DVR upgrade.

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), the second-biggest US MSO, announced today that it's launching an Enhanced DVR product with one terabyte of on-board storage, six TV tuners and whole-home networking capabilities. Because of the multiple tuners, subscribers can record up to six different programs at once. However, it doesn't appear that TWC is pooling tuner resources across multiple client boxes -- which would result in a higher concurrent stream count -- even though playback, recording and trick-play features are supported on up to four additional HD set-tops.

In contrast, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC) both offer solutions that allow users to watch and record up to 15 shows at once, while Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) boasts support for 12 simultaneous streams with its Quantum DVR service. (Side note: It's unlikely that subscribers are actually demanding access to a dozen programs at once, but marketing score sheets demand the comparison.) (See Comcast Trials Its 'Super DVR'.)

As seen in TWC's latest blog post, the hardware for the company's new DVR service is an Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) DCX3600 box. The Arris set-top supports OCAP software, but can also run the new Reference Design Kit (RDK) IP video software stack initially designed by Comcast.

It's not yet clear which software platform Time Warner is using for the new DVR launch, although it has said in the past that it would start deploying RDK set-tops by the end of the year. Time Warner announced in April that its first RDK box under development was being manufactured by Humax Co. Ltd. (See TWC Reveals RDK Set-Top Plans .)

Want to know more about the DVR set-top wars? Check out our dedicated set-top box content channel here on Light Reading.

Meanwhile, the Enhanced DVR launch dovetails nicely with the broadband speed upgrades that Time Warner Cable is also introducing in select markets. As part of a move to all-digital video delivery, TWC has started to offer speed tiers ranging up to 300 Mbit/s in New York and LA, as well as in Austin, Texas.

Under the TWC Maxx brand, the company has already rolled out the higher speed tiers to more than 1.5 million customers and says it is on track to upgrade more than 3 million customers by year's end. Time Warner plans to extend upgrades to additional cities and states in 2015, including Charlotte, N.C.; Dallas; Hawaii; Kansas City; Raleigh, N.C.; San Antonio; and San Diego. (See TWC: Maxxing Out Too Late?.)

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

Mitch Wagner 10/22/2014 | 1:49:26 PM
Re: Overcapacity Joe: "Shucks, I remember when I had DVR some years ago...."

12:00 AM ... 12:00 AM ... 12:00 AM ... 12:00 AM....  
Joe Stanganelli 10/22/2014 | 1:26:57 AM
Re: Overcapacity @Mitch: Shucks, I remember when I had DVR some years ago and was thrilled just to able to record ONE or TWO shows.  Occasionally I would be disappointed at not being able to record three or watch a third while recording two, but the occasion came up rarely for me to care.

I imagine that the competitive advantage for these cable companies is not so much as against each other and more against Internet streaming services -- which offer a HUGE amount of content to watch.  The more you can set your DVR to record from your hundreds of channels, the more you can be content to binge-watch with cable -- helping to make Internet video a non-factor competitively.
jbtombes 10/21/2014 | 8:39:08 PM
Re: Overcapacity The 15 comes from pooling resources from three Comcast X1 boxes - although that service is cloud-based, right Mari? In contrast to TWC? Is there an advantage to having the uber user influence others in some DVR Forum? Maybe marginal.
Mitch Wagner 10/21/2014 | 6:55:27 PM
Overcapacity I wonder whether this kind of massive overcapacity -- 6 simultaneous recordings, 12, 15 -- provides any kind of actual competitive advantage. 
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