Aiming to capture some of Comcast's magic north of the US border, Shaw Communications is betting on a powerful new gateway modem and home WiFi app to stoke more broadband growth and pave its path to IPTV.
Shaw, the second-largest Canadian MSO with 1.9 million Internet and 1.5 million video subscribers, launched the BlueCurve home WiFi app across its regions in early April, following the earlier introduction of its BlueCurve gateway modem. The modem and app are Shaw's version of Comcast's Xfinity home gateway and xFi WiFi app, which have enjoyed great early success in the US.
While they don't have many specific metrics to cite just yet, Shaw officials say the BlueCurve rollout is going well so far. Speaking late last month on the company's third-quarter earnings call for the period ending May 31, they pointed to higher broadband subscriber gains and equipment self-installs as byproducts of the BlueCurve rollout and other recent moves.
"While it is still early days with our Blue Curve platform, we are pleased with its progress, which has met all of our targets and is a technology that lends itself well to our digital strategy, including a robust self-install experience," said Shaw CEO Brad Shaw, according to a call transcript supplied by Seeking Alpha. "During the quarter, self-installs increased again to 41% of total consumer activity, and we expect this improving trend to continue."
With its rollout of DOCSIS 3.1 completed, its Internet speeds doubled since last fall and 1-Gig service now available throughout its nearly 4.4 million-home footprint, Shaw added about 6,600 broadband subscribers in the third quarter, which the company refers to as "seasonally challenged" because of the large number of college student disconnects in May. That total represents a turnaround from a year ago, when the MSO shed nearly 3,800 data customers.
"Our year-to-date broadband net additions reflect a more consistent and improving trend compared to the previous year and is a direct result of our focus on execution," Brad Shaw declared on the earnings call. For the first nine months of its fiscal year, the cableco has now collected about 23,000 broadband subs, up from about 19,000 a year earlier.
The pay-TV side of the ledger, however, remains a black hole. Shaw lost more than 24,000 video customers in Q3, about 50% more than the slightly over 16,000 video subs it lost a year ago. For the first nine months of the year, the MSO has shed 77,000 cable video subs, again about 50% more than the 52,000 video subs it shed last year.
Hoping to stop, or at least stem, that ongoing erosion of its video sub base, Shaw is now taking a different tack with its plan to deploy IPTV over its broadband network. The company launched its new IPTV service in Calgary in May and plans to extend service throughout its regions across Canada as it also seeks to trim its operating expenses.
"We're rolling out that service throughout the majority of our footprint by the end of this year," said Shaw EVP & CFO Trevor English. "We think that supports a very robust self-install experience … We're focused on digital, which again limits, lowers call volumes into our call centers."
Closely related to its IPTV initiative, Shaw reported a new $15 million IP licensing deal in its earnings report. While the company did not reveal its partner then, it has since announced an expanded deal with TiVo that will grant the cableco "broader access to TiVo's next-generation IP offerings for use across all platforms, including BlueSky TV," which is Shaw's hybrid IP video offering powered by Comcast's X1 platform. Under the new multi-year deal, Shaw will also continue to leverage TiVo's i-Guide, an intuitive IPG that provides linear TV listings navigation plus VOD and DVR capabilities.
- TiVo Renews With Shaw
- Shaw Takes X1 Live With BlueSky TV
- Shaw Starts X1 Phase 2
- Shaw Licenses X1, Proves Comcast's Influence
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading