TWC’s ‘Boxless Homes” envisions a CPE-less world
Time Warner Cable’s future may be up in the air with the Comcast deal looming but the nation’s second-largest cable operator has a plan in place for homes without its customer premise equipment for video services.
Speaking at the SCTE Rocky Mountain Chapter’s symposium in Denver on Wednesday, Time Warner Cable’s Louis Williamson provided some insight into his company’s “Boxless Home” project.
“One of the projects that I lead is called Boxless Homes where we can take a different device and use it instead of our set-top boxes,” Williamson said. “We’ve actually addressed the big screen with the Roku. We’ve launched it but we haven’t officially launched what we call our Boxless Homes because its missing a couple of the key Title 6 requirements. and the most important one we’re trying to get working right now is secondary audio. We have closed captioning and other things in it.”
Working with Time Warner Cable’s app, Boxless Homes use customer-owned devices such as Roku, Xbox and Samsung Smart TVs.
“We describe things like the iPhones, and iPads and other stuff as companion devices,” he said. “You can use them with your TV, they work as remotes and they’re good for looking at TV for a little bit. When you go to something that fits on the big screen, the 10-foot experience like a Roku or the Xbox, or our work we’ve done as an app on Samsung TV that does linear and VOD, that’s where we look at as Boxless Homes.
“You don’t have to have one our boxes; you can use one of those devices as outlets in your home. We’ve been driving heavily to get to that point where we can enable all of our services on a device that is theirs. In a couple of markets the channel lineup is pretty much there except for the transactional VOD. It’s just getting all of the Title six compliance in and a good marketing strategy around how you drive it.”
While cutting CPE devices from a cable operator’s bottom line is a dream scenario, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Williamson said the Boxless Home project appeals to younger generations that don’t want to buy expensive TVs. Instead they can play a game on their Xboxes and then switch over to Time Warner Cable’s video services without missing a beat.
“I think its to early to say how its going to impact the traditional world,” Williamson said in response to a question about whether Boxless Homes will replace traditional MPEG-2 services or augment them. “Currently we don’t even market it or tell anyone about it. The IP video stuff has been rolling out word of month. These are the early adopters who are understanding that there’s a TWC app that goes on the Roku box. They decide to go down to their kid’s room or somewhere else and make that their secondary outlet. That’s how it’s evolving now.
“I think as it gets more and more prevalent and we get on more and more devices, which is going to take time, then its going to be more interesting. Our app on Samsung TV is much closer to our same look and feel as on our se-sop box. Unfortunately these are the real high-end Samsung TVs with the smart hub technology and things like that. There’s not enough of them to understand what the impact is on our footprint.”
Allan Broome, Comcast’s vice president of video services and the leader of its Viper team, said Comcast was taking the same boxless approach with its “Xfinity on Campus” multi-screen service for colleges.
“Our university product is basically a boxless service where they get it on their device whether its their PC or their iPad,” Broome said. “We’re going to start putting devices in common areas of universities, but we’ll more than likely not offer it to actual subscribers, the students.”
Charter’s Bob Blackburn, senior director, engineering advanced digital services, said Charter was taking the same boxless approach as well at colleges and universities, which alleviates the educational institutes’ concerns over equipment theft.
Other highlights from the IP video development and implementation roundtable included:
• One of Comcast’s big priorities this year is the roll out of its cloud DVR service across its footprint. Broome said Comcast would add addressable advertising to the cloud DVR service “very soon.”
• The merits and challenges of multicast services were debated among the panelists Broome said Comcast was working on a multicast solution on several gateways in the lab with plans of starting a field trial once a gateway device is ready.
“We’re ready to go” Broome said. “We’re excited about it.”
Williamson said Time Warner Cable was conducting a multicast trail with a server in employees’ homes.
“We’re trying to understand how much it helps,” Williamson said. “We’re trying to see which one of our gateways can do it. It’s just the latest ones at best that will handle that kind of application environment.”