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Suddenlink Boxes Up TiVo Deal

Suddenlink Communications has inked a deal to distribute co-branded TiVo Inc. (Nasdaq: TIVO) "Premiere" DVRs as well as non-DVR devices, as the seventh-largest US MSO pushes ahead with a next-generation set-top box project.

Suddenlink hopes to roll out TiVo DVRs in "certain markets" by the fourth quarter of 2010 and "significantly expand deployment in 2011." Suddenlink serves about 1.3 million subs in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia.

This marks the second MSO to snare a distribution agreement for Premiere, a Flash-based, broadband-connected DVR that TiVo introduced in March. RCN Corp. has already started selling the model as its primary DVR in markets such as New York City and Washington, DC. (See New TiVo DVRs Built for Web & Cable Content, RCN Makes TiVo Its Dominant DVR, and RCN to Expand TiVo 'Premiere' Rollout.)

Like the RCN scenario, Suddenlink won't be combining its TiVo offering with tru2way, a common, CableLabs -specified headend and set-top middleware platform -- at least not in the early going.

Despite the absence of tru2way, those TiVo boxes will be "customized" and fully integrated to work with Suddenlink's cable video-on-demand (VoD) platform, an MSO spokesman confirmed.

Suddenlink declined to go into the technical aspects of how that will be done, but TiVo has been promoting a controversial IP back-channel concept before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) , which would eliminate the need for tru2way to enable interactive cable applications like VoD and switched digital video. RCN is already using that IP back-channel setup to integrate TiVo boxes with its SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC) cable VoD platform. Suddenlink also uses SeaChange's VoD technology. (See Policy Watch: TiVo, Cable Trade SDV Barbs and TiVo: Cable Should Love It Some IP.)

Suddenlink also talked up TiVo's inherent ability to bring in over-the-top content from Pandora Media Inc. , YouTube Inc. , and other Web-based sources. Suddenlink, which has been aggressive with Docsis 3.0 deployments, also has a VoD partnership with Blockbuster Inc. -- one of several firms that's already on TiVo's roster of broadband content partners. (See Blockbuster Busts Out Cable Deals and Suddenlink Unleashes 107-Meg Wideband Tier.)

In addition to using the base Premiere box, Suddenlink and TiVo will also work on a "whole home" DVR setup that's expected to be ready sometime next year. The companies didn't describe the technical details of that development, including whether Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) will be involved or if TiVo, or another box manufacturer, will make the boxes that feed off the primary Premiere DVR.

"TiVo will be a significant part of our future plans which will redefine our subscriber proposition with 100% digital video including features like remote DVR programming, universal search with cable VOD, and access to interactive applications like YouTube, Pandora, Rhapsody, and Fandango," Suddenlink CEO Jerry Kent said in a statement.

For TiVo, Suddenlink marks the latest in a string of US-based cable operators to use its boxes and/or software. Others include Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Cox Communications Inc. , and RCN. Evolution Digital LLC also has an agreement to offer TiVo to its base of small and mid-sized cable operator partners. (See TVMax Taps TiVo as Primary HD-DVR, TiVo Covers Its Cable Bases , and TiVo Building tru2way Version of New Interface.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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