And they'll do it without tru2way, a common headend and set-top middleware platform that cable once pushed (unsuccessfully) as its chosen path to retail nirvana. (See Tru2way: Epic Fail at Retail.)
Under the deal, Comcast customers in select markets will be able to buy TiVo Premiere boxes and get the MSO's Xfinity TV On Demand service without the need for a separate MSO-supplied set-top box. Comcast said it will make this available in its largest markets, with the San Francisco Bay area expected to be the first, but hasn't pinpointed a launch date.
Update: Comcast tells Light Reading Cable that it expects to launch the retail effort in the first markets "later this year." Comcast also notes that it still supports the TiVo DVR service on Motorola-made cable boxes in the New England region, but will be working with TiVo to transition those customers to the TiVo Premiere box. Those subs can also opt for Comcast's more generic DVR service.
Comcast and TiVo will also co-promote the retail offer, and the MSO has pledged to install Premiere boxes at no additional charge. Although TiVo Premieres don't use the tru2way middleware stack, they still rely on CableCARDs to authorize digital cable services.
The Comcast-TiVo deal closely mimics the one TiVo and Cox Communications Inc. signed last year. Instead of relying on tru2way to handle two-way communications between the set-top and the cable headend, TiVo is using an IP backchannel to set up the video sessions between the DVR and Cox's VoD platform, which happens to use SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC)'s Axiom back office.
Comcast was not immediately available for comment Monday, but SeaChange is one of the MSO's primary VoD back-office suppliers. TiVo completed its integration with SeaChange and is said to be working on similar tie-ins with VoD back office from other major cable VoD vendors, including Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS) and Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC). (See Ericsson, Arris to Aid Charter-TiVo Hook-Up.)
Why this matters
The partnership could have regulatory implications as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers whether to turn its AllVid initiative into a fully-fledged rule-making effort. Comcast and the rest of the cable industry have argued to the Commission that the market for retail video devices is developing without more government interference.
For TiVo, historically a proponent of AllVid, the agreement gives it a deeper relationship with Comcast and a stronger retail play because it can match the MSO's linear and on-demand content with its own over-the-top fare from sources such as Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) and Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) TiVo can't offer Netflix streaming in MSO-leased boxes due to limitations in Netflix's contracts with some studios.
At one point in the partnership, TiVo was developing a tru2way-based guide for Comcast. Comcast also once marketed Motorola Mobility LLC boxes with a ported version of the TiVo service in the New England area. Comcast and TiVo have reportedly scuttled that software development piece of their partnership in light of the revised retail arrangement.
To catch up on AllVid and TiVo's recent efforts to penetrate cable's set-top box world, check out:
- CE Guys, Retailers Form AllVid Alliance
- Cox, TiVo Strike a DVR Deal
- Suddenlink Boxes Up TiVo Deal
- Cable: FCC's AllVid Goes Too Far
- TiVo Gives Cable Both Barrels
- Ofcom Rules on BT Pension Costs
- TiVo Building tru2way Version of New Interface
- No Tru2way? No Problem
- Comcast to Kick Off Boston TiVo Party
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable