On Monday morning cable MSO Charter Communications (who happen to be my MSO, BTW) reported their 4Q11 financial results. But I’m not concerned with their results in general, rather I’m interested because Charter is one of the cable MSOs signed on to distribute TiVo to their customers. Charter is joining RCN, Suddenlink, and Grande Communications, who already have ongoing deployments.
Right now Charter has TiVo commercially available in Fort Worth, TX, and in trials in five additional markets. They’d previously stated that they planned to have a full TiVo launch enterprise wide in the first half of 2012. However, it looks like, while things are going well, they now expect to need a bit more time to reach that goal. On the call Charter EVP and Chief Financial Officer Christopher Winfrey stated, as transcribed by Seekinig Alpha:
Our four strategic priority for 2012 is to change the dynamic in our video business. We’ve deployed a version of the TiVo product in Fort Worth and are working with TiVo to field-test the product in several other markets with our employees. We don’t expect that testing will be completed in time for us to fully launch TiVo across the enterprise by the end of the second quarter as previously projected.
Later, during the Q&A, new President & CEO Thomas Rutledge stated:
And TiVo, I’ve always thought it was a fabulous user-interface, and I’m glad to see that Charter and TiVo have been working together to bring that user-interface to our customers and so, as we work through those issues, I’m excited by the way TiVo can present information to our customers.
Later, when asked directly about the push out in the timeline, EVP Technology and President Commercial Services Donald Detampel responded:
I can respond to that. So first of all, I just want to echo Tom’s words, I mean, we remained very committed to the TiVo platform. We believe that the experience it delivers to our customers is superior than anything we have in the market right now; so we remain very committed. In our particular that the integration of the TiVo platform into our platform, basically we had different VOD systems than TiVo had integrated in the past. So what we’re working through are some of those integration issues, but we had previously believed that through the first-half of this year that we’d be pretty well implemented across the enterprise. We now know based on our testing that we will require some further field testing, and we’re not going to deliver that product to our customers until we know it’s fully baked and right.
So it really sounds like the issue is just integrating the various VOD back end systems that Charter uses. Charter has multiple different VOD systems in different service territories. I believe they’re using SeaChange in Ft. Worth, which is a system TiVo has previous experience with at other MSOs. So Charter may be able to deploy TiVo in territories where they’re using systems already successfully integrated with TiVo, while adding more time to the schedule to complete integration and testing of different systems for other service areas.
Overall it sounds like Charter remains committed to TiVo, and these delays aren’t too surprising or unusual. Needing more time to fully polish a new integration effort isn’t exactly unheard of, and I’m sure both Charter & TiVo would rather take the time to get things right than to deploy a problematic system to customers. Perhaps the extra time will also mean Charter will launch in some markets with the Premiere Q & Preview instead of the base Premiere, which is used in Ft. Worth. Time will tell.