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Cox Communications President Pat Esser has said a streaming video-to-the-iPad application would be “coming out in a month.” Esser made the announcement during a conversation with Motorola Mobility Chairman and CEO Sanjay Jha at the opening session of the SCTE CableTec Expo in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday.
Esser announced the app, dubbed Cox TV Connect, to illustrate accelerated innovation in the cable industry. He recalled an evening in Silicon Valley several years ago at which Jha and Jon Rubenstein, then President of smartphone manufacturer Palm, addressed a group of cable execs.
At that dinner, Rubenstein said something that got under Esser’s skin. He said the cable industry was running on a set-top box-dependent development cycle of five-to-seven years, whereas the cycle time in the Valley was eighteen months. Those times have been tightening; and Esser proudly told the engineering crowd in Atlanta that from start to its launch next month, this app took only nine months to deploy.
In a demo later, Cox Vice President of Video Strategy Steve Necessary described the interface as “very straightforward, very simple.” The app’s 35 channels are on a three-column grid headed: Airing Now, Next, and Later. Using adaptive bit rate streaming, the iPad can render video at a minimum of 750 kbps and a maximum of 1.8 Mbps, at which speed Necessary said additional quality is hard to detect.
Cox launched a mobility app, Cox Mobile Connect, in March. Necessary said that Cox would integrate the mobile app and remote DVR control and include on-demand viewing later. The third largest cable operator in the U.S. (or the fifth largest multi-channel video programming distributor, including DirecTV and Dish Network) Cox has 4.8 million basic video subscribers. When it launches the iPad app during the holiday season next month, it will join Cablevision and Time Warner Cable as operators that now include live streaming to the popular computer tablet.
Industry giant Comcast has launched an Xfinity iPad app for the operator’s sizeable on-demand content but has yet to enable live linear streaming.
Comcast and Time Warner Cable co-launched their respective iPad apps in January 2011 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The Comcast Xfinity app included on-demand content from 10 cable networks. In March, Time Warner added live streaming of 31 channels to its on-demand offering. Cablevision soon thereafter raised the ante by offering live steaming of 300 channels. Dueling lawsuits between Time Warner and media conglomerate Viacom, and Cablevision and Viacom followed in April.
The outcome of these U.S.-based launches indicates the variable nature of rights. Comcast launched slowly, with on-demand only, under no apparent protests. Cablevision met strong objections to its aggressive launch of live streaming, but in August 2011 reached a settlement with Viacom. Time Warner Cable and Viacom remain at an impasse.