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26 February 2015

TiVo OTA hybrid opens door on 4.6m Frontier homes or more

TiVo has opened another US avenue for revenue with rural telco combine Frontier Communications. Day one, starting in the middle of 2015  it will be selling TiVo service and devices to its captive broadband base of around 2.4 million broadband lines, but that will change as it completes acquisitions with Verizon and AT&T and shift to 4.6 million US broadband homes. Its networks also pass a total of 7.8 million homes, and the addition of TiVo to its roster may well bring more of those homes on board.

Frontier has made a specialism out of delivering to parts of the US that AT&T and Verizon find economically unappetizing, and has recently cut deals to buy customers in Connecticut from AT&T, where they have U-Verse and Dish service, and from Verizon with FiOS homes in California, Florida and Texas.

The offer is based on a hybrid Roamio TiVo DVR, which can also take content over broadband, or simply store and distribute OTA content securely to multiple screens, such as smartphones and tablets, around the home. So service can be different things to different homes, and could even take in non-broadband homes, at least giving them a route to multiscreen. Nielsen says there are 12 million Over the Air broadcast homes in the US, a figure that is rising on the back of broadband content and cord cutting.

Frontier will market and deploy TiVo Roamio OTA to high speed broadband customers in mid-2015 in the type of service which is incredible popular in Europe, where HbbTV technology was developed specifically as a hybrid broadcast broadband standard for Germany and France, and which has spread around the rest of Europe. There is also YouView in the UK, which lets OTA broadcasters sit alongside pay TV players, giving both of them the chance to attract customers to sign up from what begins as an OTA digital terrestrial TV service, but which links to OTT delivered content.

Frontier’s high-speed Internet customers will be able to get a consistent TV UI across broadcast channels and OTT content via TiVo’s unified cloud- service, on a whole-home gateway DVR, TiVo Mini or TiVo Stream. Multi-screen and remote scheduling functionality will also be available.

In the US this will be the first time TiVo Roamio OTA is offered through an operator who can target customers who cannot afford, or do not want a pay TV package. So at one level this is just a better way to manage and record streaming of free content. But Frontier may also be able to push the TiVo box to work with its existing pay TV operations. It currently has islands of FiOS TV, U-Verse and also Dish network homes, where it was the sales arm totaling around 586,000 homes.

Laer it might be convinced to approach these homes with a TiVo Roamio and service, and it could add paid services on the device such as Netflix. We know that anyone with a broadband line can buy a Roku or other net top box and add Netflix, but there is merit in this coming from the broadband provider, with a maintained box which is also a DVR. It could be that TiVo, if it goes well, could end up unifying the Frontier pay and free TV customers onto a single platform.