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Cox's Fledging OTT Service Flares Out

Mari Silbey
1/20/2016
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Another one bites the dust.

It was just two months ago that Cox Communications Inc. started touting a new video streaming service, Flare MeTV, that offered a personalized dashboard of favorite online video feeds and services (think Hulu and HBO) with tools for creating playlists and searching across multiple content sources. Now, however, the promoted website, Facebook page and Twitter account have all dropped off the map. The website URL lands nowhere, the Facebook content is unavailable, and the Twitter page doesn't exist.

Cox confirms that the OTT service is no more. In a short statement to Light Reading, a spokesperson said only: "We'll continue to explore the digital entertainment space, but we've decided not to launch MeTV as originally intended."

Screenshot of the Cox Flare MeTV app
Screenshot of the Cox Flare MeTV app

Over the last few years, Cox has trialed a series of IP-based applications using the brand name Flare. flareWatch, which was built around Fanhattan's Fan TV experience (Fanhattan later sold itself off to Rovi Corp. ), flamed out quickly in 2013. The IPTV service bundled top networks like ESPN and Discovery with broadband access and a cloud DVR feature. (See Cox's IPTV Trial Flames Out.)

However, Flare Kids and flarePlay have fared better. Flare Kids aggregates child-friendly content in a single, parent-controlled app. flarePlay is a subscription gaming service that supports unlimited streaming of games to the TV with the help of a $30 "microconsole" available at Toys R Us. (See Cox Lights Up Flare Kids App.)

Flare MeTV arrived on the scene right about the same time that Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) debuted Watchable and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) introduced its Go90 mobile video service. All three efforts were aimed at attracting millennial audiences -- and competing with YouTube Inc. -- although the implementations have varied according to individual service provider goals.

Comcast, for example, sees Watchable as a digital sandbox that it can use to bring new types of online video to viewers via apps and the X1 platform. Verizon is using Go90 to bypass traditional TV distribution and create an online destination for millennial viewers who want cheap access to some premium content plus lots of web-original videos. (See Comcast's Watchable: Like YouTube… Sorta and Verizon's Go90 Is Live – Will Anyone Watch?)


Want to know more about the impact of web services on the pay-TV sector? Check out our dedicated OTT services content channel here on Light Reading.


For Cox, Flare MeTV looked simply like an extension of its continued testing of new IP-based applications. However, it may be that the experiment ran into a wall once Cox decided to license Comcast's X1 platform on a national basis. Since Watchable ties in to X1, it's possible that Flare MeTV was a duplicative effort and not worth the internal resources being spent. Shaw Communications Inc. came to a similar conclusion when it decided to abandon its own IPTV efforts and license X1 instead. (See Cox Takes Comcast X1 Platform National and Shaw 'Hatches' Free Range TV.)

While Cox continues to "explore" its options, it's hard to know what the operator will do next in the IP video space. Looking at Comcast and X1, however, may offer some clues.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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KBode
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KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/21/2016 | 3:34:35 PM
Re: Failure can lead to success
You'd think execs could look at the last ten years of history and understand this isn't a very good idea? Not sure if they just have too much faith in their own ability to innovate and disrupt, but they really shouldn't. They run networks and generally focus on turf protection. Innovation and disruption is foreign territory to most mega-ISP executives, contrary to what most of them believe.

I think a far more promising course of action is the kind of skinny bundle and free Roku offers popping up at Time Warner Cable and Charter. Though those remain in very limited trials, again, because it involves disrupting the legacy TV market on price, and they simply refuse to do this until cord cutting hits critical mass.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/21/2016 | 3:16:44 PM
Re: Failure can lead to success
Two months isn't fast failure, it's hyperfast failure. Most people have something in their refrigerator that's been there longer.
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/21/2016 | 3:12:48 PM
Re: Failure can lead to success
Agree -- when a strategy session begins with the premise that, "Whatever we do should have no impact on existing revenue streams," whatever comes out of that has little chance of succeeding, no matter what goofus label is hung on it.
KBode
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KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/21/2016 | 7:31:08 AM
Re: Failure can lead to success
I think experimenting is great, but I think many of these companies have shown time and time again they're not willing to truly experiment, because they don't want the resulting Frankenstein to kill the traditional cable cash cow. As such in many instances they just end up wasting money with services that are neither here nor there.
inkstainedwretch
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inkstainedwretch,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/20/2016 | 7:01:26 PM
Failure can lead to success
Cable and IPTV companies seem to have genuinely embraced the notion of "fast failure." It helps that Wall Street isn't punishing failure as viciously and mindlessly as it used to.

Cox in particular has demonstrated a willingness to try things, and if they fail, Cox will then go home and try to pull lessons out of the data.

Nobody knows for sure how OTT is going to play out yet. I think the greater failure would be refraining from experimenting. -- Brian Santo
KBode
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KBode,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/20/2016 | 4:03:17 PM
Re: Go90 will be next
You're absolutely right. They heralded two million downloads for it, but it's largely because users were getting free 2GB of data for a few months (which simply required downloading the app, not using it). 

Not sure when these companies will realize they're A. not very good at innovation in this front and B. generally quick to shoot any innovation that does develop because it has the potential of truly disrupting their traditional video platforms.
msilbey
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msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
1/20/2016 | 1:31:00 PM
Re: Go90 will be next
Verizon's got an awful lot riding on Go90. I believe they'll spend a long time trying to fix it before considering throwing in the towel.
wanlord
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wanlord,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/20/2016 | 12:41:03 PM
Go90 will be next
I bet Go90 is the next to go, but knowing VZ takes forever to kill failed projects so it could be awhile longer. With the amount they invested in marketing, they will keep it on life support as long as possible while the execs find other projects to work on so they are safe.

 

I am still waiting to see Shingy in those Go90 commercials!
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