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Cable Technology Feature Article

January 22, 2014

Hopper, Genie, X1: Deployments of Next-Gen STBs Set to Near Double

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

A new generation of set-top boxes (STB) is evolving.  We are seeing the emergence of gateways delivering a whole host of next-generation services—video and otherwise. And according to ABI Research’s (News - Alert) STB market findings, last year North American and Western European operators shipped 4.5 million units in a market which is conservatively estimated to grow 84 percent to 8.5 million by 2018.

ABI Research points out that DirecTV’s (News - Alert) Genie, Liberty Global’s Horizon, DISH’s Hopper and the boxes that power Comcast’s X1 service have something in common other than hip, marketing-friendly names. All of these feature-rich boxes bring more tuners to centralized DVR resources (minimizing DVR conflicts), as well as better processing power. This horsepower improves responsiveness and the user interface, and will support the addition of cloud-based managed applications as operators look to extend automation and energy management services into the home.

 “Operators have made decisions to move to gateway boxes for economic reasons, but more and more they are leveraging the power of those boxes to improve the quality and consistency of the experience they offer to consumers,” said ABI practice director Sam Rosen. “Advertising campaigns highlighting unique features will supplement price- and bundle-oriented campaigns and target higher-end customers. U.S. satellite operator DISH Network, for example, will highlight the uniqueness of its watch-anywhere model, which is less subject to rights agreements than other operators.”

DISH’s Hopper DVR, which also offers commercial-skipping for video-on-demand (VOD) content, has had a notable effect on churn. In the third quarter, DISH’s investment in the Hopper helped it reduce subscriber churn to 1.66 percent in the picking up 35,000 net pay TV customers.

And so, the race for the hearts and minds of the digitized TV viewer continues apace. In addition to the providers already mentioned, Time Warner (News - Alert) Cable recently became the latest to embrace the cloud via the STB.

TWC is accelerating its rollout of a new guide with cloud-based navigation services that gives customers simplified navigation, more program information, a new VOD portal and better search capability. Meanwhile, all VOD programs are now featured in one seamless environment, with box art and intuitive ways to find programming. Moreover, the DVR Manager has been updated with rich graphics and simplified navigation of recordings and the recording schedule, detailed information by series and programs, simplified multiple deletion and more.

These new features are available on more than 2 million set-top boxes so far, and will be available on over 6 million boxes by the end of 2014.

“We’ve received great feedback on our new cloud-based guide features and are excited to deliver an even better television experience for our customers,” said Rob Marcus, president and CEO. “We’re investing in improving our video service, making it even easier for our customers to enjoy all of their video choices.”

Also, Charter is trialing a new cloud interface in Ft. Worth, it said in October, which is being made to work on IP devices as well as legacy, MPEG/QAM boxes for an all-in-one look and feel across all TVs. It’s also started to deploy TiVo (News - Alert) boxes that offer advanced TV functionality.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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