Cable Tech

WOW embraces pay-TV cord-cutting

Pushing ahead on a strategy to prioritize high-margin broadband while also ceding some ground to streaming pay-TV service providers, competitive cable operator WideOpenWest (WOW) said it has teamed with a handful of OTT services for a trial in Charleston, SC.

For the test, WOW is marketing OTT-TV options from fuboTV, Philo, Sling TV and YouTube TV. This broad mix of virtual multichannel video programming distributors (vMVPDs) gives WOW broadband subs the ability to pick from a range of different service types and pricing packages. That includes skinny bundles like Sling TV, Philo's entertainment-focused service, as well as services that deliver bigger channel lineups, including select local broadcast channels, from YouTube TV and fuboTV.

WOW is promoting its streaming TV partners in Charleston, and offering new customers free broadband installs and a free Amazon Fire TV Stick.
WOW is promoting its streaming TV partners in Charleston, and offering new customers free broadband installs and a free Amazon Fire TV Stick.

WOW and the OTT-TV partners on board for the Charleston trial did not announce financial terms, including whether WOW is in line to receive a financial bounty for new OTT-TV subs it brings through the door.

WOW said the new OTT options will "help Charleston customers cut the cord." To help prime the pump, new customers will get a free in-home setup, along with a free Amazon Fire TV Stick to access one of the streaming services WOW is promoting.

The Charleston trial follows a separate agreement announced last year between WOW and Philo, a sports-free service that starts at $20 per month.

"Our robust broadband network is the natural choice for HSD customers in Charleston who want to access streaming services on their terms," WOW CEO Teresa Elder said in a statement. WOW offers uncapped residential broadband service, including a 1 Gbit/s tier across the vast majority of its footprint.

Why this matters
The trial follows a broader trend in which cable operators continue to focus on high-margin broadband service while not worrying about saving less profitable video customers who don't want a traditional big pay-TV bundle. In turn, the pilot in Charleston gives WOW's OTT-TV partners more exposure to cord-cutters that, if successful, could lead WOW to implement similar deals in its other markets, such as Auburn, Ala.; Chicago; Detroit; Cleveland, Ohio; and Knoxville, Tenn.

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WOW joins a growing list of cable ops and wireline broadband service providers that are happy to cede some of those pay-TV subs to OTT providers so long as those consumers continue to get broadband from them. Just this week, for example, Windstream announced a similar partnership with YouTube TV.

That trend is also gaining ground amid the broader erosion of the US pay-TV market. In Q4 2019 alone, traditional US pay-TV service providers lost 1.49 million video subs, while vMVPDs gained about 630,000 subs.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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