Cox Communications took its new iPad app, which is currently going by the name of “personal video experience,” through its paces last week at The Cable Show with demos in Cisco’s booth.
Cox first talked up the personal viewing experience (PVE) app at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year, but The Cable Show marked the next-generation app’s public debut.
The PVE mobile app is an update to Cox Communications’ first iPad app that was launched two years ago at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo. Like its predecessor, the PVE app works with Cox’s TV Connect streaming service, but the new version has more bells and whistles.The app is slated for release later this summer.
“Let’s start by calling it a next generation iPad app for Cox video delivery,” said Cox’s Steve Necessary, vice president of video product development and management. “It’s also, of course, a companion device. I would say primarily it’s a video consumption device.”
When the app is launched on an iPad the user sees three panels. In the middle is the “live” panel, on the right is the “on demand” panel and on the left “my library.”
The live section features Cox linear video content and within that panel will be the eight most recommend linear channels for the viewer at that point in time.
“You will be able to access the current suite of linear channels,” Necessary said. “We’re currently at 91 and we’ll be adding more prior to the time we launch. We’ll be north of 100 at the time of launch. We’re also adding access to the free portion of our VOD library and we’ll expand on that.
“It is integrated with the recommendation engine that we launched in December across our Trio set top box base, which is kind of our top of the line, flagship offering. It’s using the ThinkAnalytics’ recommendation engine.”
Using the profiles that are set up on set-top boxes, Necessary said the recommendation engine keeps track of the content that is viewed on set-top boxes and automatically propagates it to the PVE app.
“The consumption on one influences the recommendations on the other,” he said. “So it is an integrated recommendation environment regardless of the screen.
“The app itself is, we think dramatically restyled. It takes full advantage of the swiping and the multi-fingered gestures and so forth in the iOS environment.”
When users swipe on their iPads to the right side they see a similar set up for the on demand content with the eight panels. The app doesn’t recommend content that exceeds a subscriber’s service level.
“We don’t recommend things that you’re not authorized to view or to see,” Necessary said. “There’s not a time sensitive element there other than the recommendations can change with the passage of time and with the content moving in and out of the library.
“Then you swipe the other way and on the left hand portion is ‘my library.’ Initially ‘my library’ will be populated with two categories of items. One is the ‘watch list’ so if you’ve set up a watch list it will give you some reminders.”
The “my library” section is also an aggregation point for programmer orientated apps from the likes of HBO Go, Showtime and WatchDisney.
“In some cases the content that is accessible on those apps is different than the content we may have the rights to and/or the technical capabilities of streaming or pushing through our VOD environment at a moment in time,” Necessary said. “Those sites have their own appeal. HBO Go, for instance, is a highly immersive experience and some people are going to like that.
“What we wanted to do is provide that aggregation point both for ease of access for the consumer but also for awareness. Most of us don’t know what apps are out there and what we have access to. You can’t use them if you don’t know that they are there.”
On the network side, the new app is a continuation of Cox’s IP infrastructure. Necessary said Cox’s content delivery network (CDN) is being expanded ahead of the expected incremental increase in usage based on the addition of the VOD content.
In addition to the recommendation engine, Cox’s PVE is using Cisco’s Videoscape Snowflake 13 user interface (UI) too help Cox users find the content that they want to view. The UI renders the rich graphics, such as the jacket art associated with a VOD asset, in the cloud before delivering it to the iPad app.
Cox executive vice president and chief technology officer Kevin Hart said internal trials of the PVE were conducted earlier this year.
“We still have a couple of trial markets to make sure everything’s stable and then it will be launched pretty quickly in sequence,” Hart said. “The external trials will start mid to late summer. We’re pretty excited about it.”