TW Cable Navigates TV in the Cloud

Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) is starting to deploy a cloud-based interface that aims to improve the navigation and search capabilities and overall look of guides that run on set-tops that are equipped with a Docsis IP connection.

The first generation, which features cover art and other fancier elements not found on cable's older grid-based interactive program guides, is already up in parts of Syracuse, Los Angeles and Dallas, TWC Chairman and CEO Glenn Britt said on Thursday's third-quarter earnings call. "We expect to roll it out broadly in the next several quarters." (See TW Cable Sheds Video and Voice Subs .)

He didn't identify which boxes are sporting the new navigation system. Samsung Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) are TW Cable's primary box suppliers, though the MSO does operate a few markets that run the Motorola Mobility LLC platform.

Cable operators are turning to cloud-based program guides to make flagging video products more graphically rich and intuitive systems. Cloud-based guides also let MSOs make changes on the fly, avoiding the lengthy regression testing required on set-top-based IPGs. The emergence of boxes equipped with the IP-based Docsis Set-Top Gateway (DSG) is starting to make this possible. TWC and other MSOs are already using this kind of architecture to feed new navigation systems that grace their iPad apps.

Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is testing a similar approach with Xcalibur, which will be deployed widely in 2012. Rovi Corp. has also developed a cloud-based IPG called TotalGuide that also feeds data to the box via DSG connections, with BendBroadband expected to be among the first cable operators to deploy it. (See Comcast to Swing Xcalibur Wide in 2012 and Rovi Brings TotalGuide to Cable.)

Other nuggets from today's earnings call.

  • TW Cable added 43,000 Docsis 3.0 subscribers in the third quarter, nearly doubling its wideband base. TWC has deployed D3 to about three-quarters of its footprint. (See TW Cable Slings for Wideband.)

  • To help it get a better handle on video subscription losses caused by the bad economy, TW Cable expects to launch its less expensive TV Essentials tier in most of its footprint by year's end. It's currently up in New York City, upstate New York and Northeast Ohio. (See No-Frills Cable TV .)

  • To address the loss of residential voice subs in the third quarter, which was a first, the company expects to put more marketing muscle behind the service, acknowledging it "probably need[s] to be somewhat more aggressive on price," said TWC President and COO Rob Marcus.

  • It's been speculated that TWC and other MSOs could end up partnering with T-Mobile US Inc. amid speculation that the proposed T-Mobile/AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) deal will crater. But Britt isn't biting, noting that the chatter "is not really changing our [wireless] strategy at this point." (See Is Cable T-Mobile's Fallback Plan? )

    — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

  • Jeff Baumgartner 12/5/2012 | 4:50:26 PM
    re: TW Cable Navigates TV in the Cloud

    We've asked for  some screenshots of what this new system looks like, but TWC did confirm that they're deploying this to ODN (OCAP Digital Navigator) boxes (ie. tru2way-based) that are Advanced DSG-capable, and that they're using multiple vendors (my guess Cisco and Samsung, for now).

    Any TWC subs in the house that have a chance to try it? Impressions so far? JB


    pmicali1 12/5/2012 | 4:50:17 PM
    re: TW Cable Navigates TV in the Cloud

    I think that we'd be hard pressed to find anyone who was thrilled with the current interface that most cable providers use.  I've always equated what seems to be their attitude to the government and military GUIs: if you know that you'll have tens of millions of customers regardless, or that people have to use what you give them for lack of true competition/difference, why invest in improvements?  I used to hate Comcast's digital TV interface when I had it in Chicago, then I switched to TWC and realized how rough things can truly get...

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