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Charter Heads to the Cloud In Developing ‘World Box’

PLAN EXPECTED TO FOLLOW CABLEVISION’S PLAYBOOK 9/02/2013 12:00 AM Eastern

Charter Communications, which has kept its long-term video strategy largely under wraps, is developing a socalled “World Box” that will focus on cloud-based services and apparently closely mimic the plan underway at Cablevision Systems, industry sources said.

The precise specifications of the World Box, believed to be an internal label, weren’t immediately known, but people with knowledge of the plan said the device would support Internet Protocol connections and rely on a downloadable security system.

Although some different technical wrinkles could emerge in Charter’s strategy, it would seemingly align with the one Cablevision started under then-chief operating officer Tom Rutledge, who became CEO of Charter in February 2012.

“Charter is working closely with Cablevision,” one source said.

Charter has already issued a request for proposals from vendors for the World Box. Because of Charter’s close alignment with Cablevision’s strategy, Humax and Samsung are considered to be the top candidates to land some business with Charter.

Those box makers are believed to have been selected for Cablevision’s “Future Services Portal” box, which will focus on HTML5 and cloud-based services and apps, including the cable company’s network-based digital video recorder, but will not include the Open Cable Application Platform (OCAP), the CableLabs-specified middleware platform.

According to multiple sources, neither Charter nor Cablevision have any interest in pursuing a box strategy that would incorporate the Reference Design Kit, the pre-integrated video software stack being managed by Comcast and Time Warner Cable. (For more on RDK, see pages 8 and 26.)

Charter declined to comment on the World Box or its current level of interest in the RDK.

Against this backdrop, how Charter’s partnership with TiVo factors into its next-generation planning is still unresolved. Charter has been leasing TiVo Premiere HD-DVRs in one market — Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas — but will no longer offer that option as of Sept. 10. The cable firm is urging customers who are leasing TiVo boxes to swap them for Charter-supplied DVRs.

In an interview last week, TiVo CEO Tom Rogers acknowledged that Charter is still undergoing “strategic evaluations” with respect to video strategy, but said “we’re still very much engaged with them.”

Charter appears to have at least one technical option if it intends to offer the TiVo platform on third-party hardware.

The MSO has disclosed that work is underway to use software provider ActiveVideo to underpin a cloudbased user interface that is in development. Separately, ActiveVideo has demonstrated how its system, which uses a small software client in tandem with a network-based processing system, could support the TiVo user interface on a variety of consumer premises equipment, including a Roku box, a connected TV and a QAMbased Motorola 2000-class cable box.

TAKEAWAY

Charter is developing a “World Box” that will focus on cloud-based services, akin to Cablevision’s “Future Services Portal” plans.

September