Video services

TW Cable Vows Video Improvements

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) lost more video customers than expected in the typically weak second quarter, but the cable operator said it has several projects in the works that will give its video products a much-needed facelift. (See TWC's Video Subs Attrition.)

On Thursday's earnings call, TW Cable President and COO Rob Marcus said the company is developing a cloud-based guide that will appear in 2013 in concert with the rollout of IP set-top boxes and a new breed of video gateway devices.

"The gateway is a pretty powerful DVR plus," Marcus said, noting that it will be outfitted with six tuners, a terabyte of storage and a Docsis 3.0 cable modem. A built-in transcoder will turn QAM-based video into streams that can be shuttled to the operator's new line of IP-based set-top boxes. The strategy shares some key traits with X1, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s next-gen video platform. (See Comcast's Cloud TV Service Rolls Into Atlanta and Comcast's X1 Video Platform Lands First in Boston .)

TW Cable hasn't revealed a maker for those devices, but Samsung Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) are TW Cable's main set-top suppliers. Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS), meanwhile, has developed hybrid QAM/IP video gateways that could fit the specs outlined by TW Cable. Arris, which counts TW Cable as its second-largest customer, has kicked off a program to integrate its gateways with third-party software to help its gateways grab traction with Tier 1 cable operators that typically require more customization that smaller MSOs.

In the meantime, TW Cable has already begun to roll out a new, fancier guide for its QAM-only digital set-tops in New York and the rest of its east region, with the west teed up to start getting it sometime after the Olympics.

But new products probably won't magically turn around TW Cable's video fortunes right away. Marcus admitted that the "economic climate remains pretty tough."

Downplaying Google Fiber
TW Cable execs shrugged off the threat posed by Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and its 1-Gbit/s service and TV bundle that's about to launch in parts of Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. (See Google Fiber Bundles TV, Shuns Data Caps and The Google Fiber Threat .)

"There [are] a lot of efforts going on around the country to see what we could do as a society with more bandwidth in a kind of a laboratory sense," TW Cable Chairman and CEO Glenn Britt said. "I view the Google effort as ... there are a bunch of not-for-profits working on the same thing. And I think that is good for our business."

But he did add that Docsis 3.0 has the ability to go faster and match up. TW Cable, which will compete with Google Fiber, has D3 rolled out to most of its footprint, but its current, fastest tier tops out at 50Mbit/s downstream. (See Intel's New Docsis 3.0 Chip Guns for 1-Gig .)

TW Cable is also trying to make its broadband product stickier by letting customers connect to its Wi-Fi network, which now touts about 5,000 hot spots in Los Angeles, and more than 30,000 when it factors in access points that are tied to a Wi-Fi roaming agreement involving TW Cable, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cablevision Systems Corp. (NYSE: CVC), Bright House Networks and Cox Communications Inc. (See Cable Goes Big With Wi-Fi Roaming .)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 5:24:54 PM
re: TW Cable Vows Video Improvements

I think you know your service is in trouble when the thing you're telling folks to to look forward to is yet another set-top box. When you have all that content and Internet services and you tell people that some new hardware is the key to an improved service, you've pretty much told them things are as good as they're going to get, right? 

Time to change the channel.


Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 5:24:54 PM
re: TW Cable Vows Video Improvements

That's one piece of it. Glenn Britt also spent more time today talking about his vision for reducing some of TWC's reliance on set-tops by delivering on-demand video and linear TV directly to more IP-connected devcies. They're already doing some of this with iPads and Android devices, with some integration work well down the road with smart TVs, which helps them hook up with the retail CE guys.  But the fact that there's a new generation of leased devices coming also tells me that this notion of a set-top-free cable world is still a very long-term pipe dream. Even Google got to start its subscription TV service from scratch and they're talking about deplying gateways, set-tops and separate storage devices in each home.  JB

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