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Cable Tech

Cable One sets launch of IP-powered pay-TV service

After deemphasizing its legacy pay-TV service amid a greater focus on higher-margin broadband and business services in recent years, Cable One is about to jump back into the game with a new IP-based video service product.

That offering, called Sparklight TV and developed in partnership with MobiTV, will start to roll out in select Cable One markets in early 2021 and reach all Cable One markets by year-end. The service, which will feature live TV, VoD, program restart capabilities and a cloud DVR, will be delivered via apps for a set of streaming platforms, including Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV (tvOS). Cable One currently does not have plans to offer Sparklight TV on the Roku platform, an official said.

By shifting to an app-powered, IP-based system, Cable One is effectively blazing a path similar to those taken by several other service providers of various sizes, including WideOpenWest, AT&T and even T-Mobile, that have recently adopted streaming platforms.

In addition to eschewing more traditional set-top boxes, the move will also put Cable One in position to offer its own pay-TV packages alongside integrated access to a multitude of third-party streaming services.

Cable One's legacy pay-TV offering is powered by a TiVo-based system. Cable One has largely ignored pay-TV customer losses in recent years as it instead focused on the deployment and growth of residential broadband and business services. Cable One, which lost about 21,000 video subs in Q3 2020, ended the period with a total of 699,000 non-video customers, representing 71.1% of its base.

While the debut of Sparklight TV demonstrates that Cable One is not giving up on pay-TV, the migration to an all-IP video platform still has a strong broadband component. The move, the company points out, will enable Cable One reclaim spectrum for broadband services and put it on a path toward "10G," an industry initiative focused on delivering symmetrical 10-Gig services on hybrid fiber/coax (HFC), fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) and wireless networks.

Cable One estimates that more than 97% of its homes passed currently have access to gigabit broadband speeds. The company noted that it has also invested more than $600 million in infrastructure upgrades and has begun to install modems that are capable of 10-Gig speeds.

"Our transition to IP-based TV service will enable us to reclaim spectrum in our network needed to continue to expand the capabilities and speeds of our core high speed data product and provide the communities we serve with the fastest and most reliable internet service," Ken Johnson, SVP of technology services at Cable One, said in a statement. "This is even more critical now, with the tremendous increase in customers working and learning from home."

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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