US operator WideOpenWest (WOW) had the last word of 2020 in the heated Android TV Operator Tier space – rolling out its platform (almost) country-wide at the tail end of December. It reaffirms the cableco’s commitment to video services after WOW, like most operators last year, spoke strongly about growing the broadband-first business as video product offerings were deemphasized.
Android TV is again being floated by Faultline as one of 2021’s markets to watch, just as it has been for the past three years or so, on each occasion surpassing almost all industry expectations as the technology takes on new personas. The latest and arguably most disruptive since the transformation into Operator Tier, is the new Google Broadcast Stack, which could make or break companies as the new year plays out.
This ties back into WOW because the US cableco’s Android-based IPTV service, WOW tv+, is powered by Mediaroom technology from MediaKind, which has – as with any legacy Mediaroom account – been the subject of upgrade/switch-out speculation. However, MediaKind launched its Android TV client Mediaroom Play just weeks ago, which is pre-integrated on CommScope’s VIP7802 set top running a Broadcom 72180 SoC.
As a major Mediaroom account, WOW tv+ could therefore be an early recipient of the new Mediaroom Play client, which promises a rich pool of over 1,000 streaming content providers and over 7,000 applications via the Google Play Store.
Mediaroom Play is built on the core components and primary services of Mediaroom, including live streaming, VoD, time shift TV, presentation framework, and Mediaroom video/audio delivery. Enhanced DVR features and additional data analytics capabilities are also part and parcel of Mediaroom Play, based on Release 10 of Android TV OS and Widevine DRM. WOW tv+ also uses software from Kaltura for IP video delivery.
WOW’s expansion marks sizable upgrades for both MediaKind and Kaltura as WOW tv+ expands to 95% of the operator’s footprint, available in some 16 markets now with just four smaller regions set to receive the service this year.
A strange series of events occurred last year, as WOW tv+ became the subject of a missing platform report as users noticed website links to the IPTV service being redirected to third-party MVPDs. This lead to speculation that the entire service had been canned in favor of MVPD partnership integrations, although WOW soon confirmed that WOW tv+ was still up and running, while the latest Android TV expansion effort reinforces WOW tv+ as a priority service.
That said, in the latter stages of last year, WOW one of many operators talking about a renewed broadband-first approach thrust upon it by 2020 trends – increasingly viewing video as a tool to sell and retain high-speed data services. This was evidenced by its OTT video partnerships with YouTube TV, fuboTV, Philo and Sling TV from Dish Network.
This builds on WOW’s early 2020 plan, which involved running an ambitious cord cutting marketing campaign, offering broadband subscribers access to a selection of OTT video packages including YouTube TV, fuboTV and Sling TV, in a trial period for select customers. The benefit for WOW is a financial payment for every new sign up to these streaming services via WOW broadband.
WOW is still playing around with its double play video-broadband bundle strategy, taking it market-by-market to see how high-speed data sales perform in response to marketing approaches and then adapt these accordingly.
The operator is also keen on unified billing with its video streaming partners to improve stickiness, although representatives have admitted this approach is far from simple.
WOW’s latest figures show 328,000 pay TV subscribers, falling by 23,700 in the third quarter of 2020 to make it 52,800 total TV losses for the year to date period. In the same time, WOW’s broadband base increased by 35,000 subscribers at 809,000 subs.
WOW reported only a small shrinkage of 2.3% in video revenues in Q3 2020 to $103.9 million, while broadband revenues for the quarter grew 9.5% to $142.6 million.