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Cable/Video

Why WOW is cozying up to streaming services

WideOpenWest's decision to partner with four OTT-TV providers – fuboTV, Philo, Sling TV and YouTube TV – for a trial in Charleston, South Carolina, is all about providing more choice in a consumer video market that is undergoing a massive shift.

"It's really about enabling multiple choices and delivering on the services that customers are after. That's really what this trial is about for us," Scott Barton, WOW's SVP of product, said. "Clearly … customers have more choice on how they want to consume video. We want to make sure we're delivering choices to our subscribers and making it easy for them."

WOW is giving away an Amazon Fire TV Stick to broadband customers who sign up for service from its batch of OTT-TV partners.
WOW is giving away an Amazon Fire TV Stick to broadband customers who sign up for service from its batch of OTT-TV partners.

Barton also confirmed that WOW will continue to support and sell its own pay-TV service, an offering powered by technology from Espial (now part of Enghouse) that delivers traditional packages of TV services alongside integrations of OTT services such as Netflix on operator-supplied boxes.

"We're still in that business. There's a segment of the customer base that wants that type of service," Barton said.

However, that segment continues to shrink among cable operators nationwide even as the broadband category remains strong. In WOW's case, the operator lost 6,300 video subs in Q3 2019, ending the period with 380,800. Meanwhile, WOW added 10,200 high-speed Internet customers in Q3, extending that total to 773,900.

For the pilot in Charleston, WOW is leading with its higher-margin broadband service and enticing customers there to tack-on an OTT-TV option.


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In Charleston, WOW is promoting several broadband tiers with 24-month commitments. Its 100Mbit/s tier sells for $34.99 per month, with a $100 Visa prepaid card tossed in. On the high end, WOW is pitching its 1Gbit/s service for $74.99 per month alongside a $200 Visa prepaid card and free whole-home WiFi (a service that usually sells for an additional $9.99 per month). WOW is also offering a free Fire TV Stick to broadband customers who sign up for one of the streaming TV services it's promoting.

WOW won't discuss the financial terms of its relationship with its batch of OTT-TV partners, though there's been plenty of industry chatter about cable operators and other ISPs receiving a small bounty for new customers they bring to their various streaming TV partners.

"It's really part of a handoff in connection with our service," Barton said of WOW's relationships with OTT-TV partners. "We're facilitating that for them."

WOW will gather data and learnings from the Charleston trial before deciding whether to refine the current offer there and/or assemble similar options in other WOW markets, Barton said.

WOW is a competitive cable operator that also serves markets such as Auburn, Alabama; Chicago; Detroit; Cleveland, Ohio; and Knoxville, Tennessee.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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