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Cox's IPTV Trial Flames Out

Almost as quickly as it began, Cox Communications' beta test of a new IPTV service called flareWatch has come to an end.

Cox Communications Inc. confirmed to Light Reading that the trial, which was built around Fanhattan's Fan TV experience and announced in July, has been discontinued, although the company is still reviewing results from the ground-breaking experiment. (See Cox Flirts With Fanhattan.)

A Cox spokesman said:

    This limited trial was conducted as part of Cox's ongoing customer research to determine how to best evolve our offerings to meet customers' changing needs. We remain focused on helping customers discover and connect to the things they care about in ways that are easy-to-use and reliable and we will continue to test and explore new products. We will continue to evaluate the flareWatch trial results to determine how this might impact future product plans.

Commenting on the end of the Cox experiment, a Fanhattan spokesperson said in a statement:

    The Orange County trial has successfully completed. We collected excellent customer feedback and usage data to inform our broader deployment of Fan TV. As announced in May, Fanhattan plans to work directly with pay TV service providers to distribute Fan TV. Making sure it's ready for primetime requires rigorous testing, trial customer feedback and constant iteration. This limited trial was a small, early step in that direction.

The flareWatch trial was novel because Cox bundled the IPTV service with broadband access. For a price of only $34.99 per month -- cheaper than a standard cable TV package -- subscribers received 97 channels, including top stations such as ESPN, Disney, and Discovery. The service also included 30 hours of cloud DVR storage, and used both the Fan TV set-top and Fanhattan's user interface.

Fanhattan surprised many when it launched its Fan TV set-top earlier this year and then again when it announced the pilot program with Cox. Although the Cox trial was limited, Fanhattan CEO Gilles BianRosa has said that more partnership announcements are on the way.

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading Cable

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KBode 9/19/2013 | 7:43:22 AM
Hope it Lives on Somehow... If this doesn't continue in some form it will be really unfortunate. This was one of the only cable efforts I've seen at over the top video not tied to their existing TV Everywhere inititives. Looked truly innovative at a time where that word is mostly seeing lip service when it comes to new and interesting TV pricing and service models.
[email protected] 9/19/2013 | 7:45:52 AM
Good scoop Mari... Well caught, Mari. 

I guess Fanhattan is going to be taking a lot of calls from the other potential traillists today to find out what's what...

BUt credit to Cox and Fanhattan for giving it a go! If you don't try, you never find out!
Carol Wilson 9/19/2013 | 9:00:08 AM
Re: Hope it Lives on Somehow... It would certainly be interesting to see someone use this approach to offer a lower-cost pay-TV bundle, aimed mostly at cord-cutters. But I'm guessing that's a risky proposition for a cable company that stands to lose a lot of money if a significant chunk of its existing customer base chose to trade down.
KBode 9/19/2013 | 9:21:20 AM
Re: Hope it Lives on Somehow... The thing is they stand the potential to lose a lot more if they don't get out ahead of the Internet video evolution. It's occurring at such a glacial pace I think they feel they have all the time in the world to adapt and adjust, but legacy companies always feel that way and are very often wrong.
Carol Wilson 9/19/2013 | 9:25:08 AM
Re: Hope it Lives on Somehow... KBode, I totally agree with you - but when have we ever seen a giant company like Cox -- or Comcast or AT&T -- decide to get out in front of a trend like this? The telcos ignored VoIP until cable had swept in and captured a ton of triple-play customers. 

Until this year, even the analyst community was often downplaying the impact of OTT video. And content owners seem even more in the dark than the pay TV companies. 

I think it will be interesting to see what Cox does with whatever it learned from such a short trial -- if anything. At least they gave it a shot. 
KBode 9/19/2013 | 9:31:21 AM
Re: Hope it Lives on Somehow... "KBode, I totally agree with you - but when have we ever seen a giant company like Cox -- or Comcast or AT&T -- decide to get out in front of a trend like this?"

So true! Though judging from this recent report in the New York Post, Verizon may be just the company to do it. It appears they're looking at an over the top Live TV bundle to aim at users outside their traditional copper or FTTH footprints. Granted they appear to be running into the same licensing wall as everyone else (Apple, Microsoft, Google, Intel) with that ambition.

I often wonder what we could accomplish if we could just get out of our own way.
mendyk 9/19/2013 | 10:14:53 AM
Short trial So this went on for two whole months? I hope there weren't any actual customers involved -- they'd probably be ticked at the quick hook. I know we're supposed to award points for trying, but I don't understand the motive here for Cox beyond the possibility of launching a low-end service outside its home markets.
msilbey 9/19/2013 | 10:24:29 AM
Re: Short trial I still say kudos for the test. Nobody else has do anything like it, and unless the experience was a bad one for users, I imagine we'll see more from Cox and others in the near future. 
mendyk 9/19/2013 | 10:28:57 AM
Re: Short trial Well, I tried listening to Philip Glass a few times, but decided I'd rather keep my sanity. Do I get points for that?
msilbey 9/19/2013 | 10:30:04 AM
Re: Hope it Lives on Somehow... Somebody's going to do it. I don't think it will ultimately end up being a cheap alternative, but it will be convenient and probably slick on the navigation side. 
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