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Arris CEO: OTT Boxes Offer Risk, Reward

LOS ANGELES — The arrival of the Apple TV device, Google Chromecast, the Roku platform and the new Amazon Fire TV represent both threats and opportunities to Arris’s set-top box unit, company CEO Bob Stanzione said.

Although these retail devices are capable of streaming video and accessing authenticated TV Everywhere apps with the potential to do much more, “we view those devices as additive to our business,” Stanzione said, speaking at The Cable Show’s Opening General Session on Wednesday (April 30). That’s because they are typically streaming traffic over cable networks, he said.

Arris became a major set-top box player in April 2013, when it completed its acquisition of Motorola Home from Google. But Stanzione pointed out other key parts of the vendor’s business, including video encoding and broadband- access gear, are poised to benefit because video streaming is also causing operators to add capacity to their networks and drive toward speeds in the neighborhood of 1 Gigabit per second.

He also said nothing is stopping Arris from integrating the kinds of features that the new OTT retail players are now offering. “It’s a matter of business arrangements, not a matter of technology,” Stanzione said.

Fellow panelist Tom Rutledge, the CEO of Charter Communications, amplified that point, noting that new Arris boxes Charter is deploying can function like standard set-tops or morph into modern IP devices.

The conversation also turned toward faster broadband speeds and centered on DOCSIS 3.1, the next-gen platform that will offer multi-gigabit speeds and will soon carry the consumer-facing brand of “Gigasphere.”

Arris, Stanzione said, will invest $500 million in research and development this year, with much of it going toward DOCSIS 3.1 development. At the show, Arris demonstrated its flagship cable-modem termination system running DOCSIS 3.1 traffic, at least in the downstream direction.

Echoing the expectations of some of the nation’s top cable-engineering executives, Stanzione said he expects DOCSIS 3.1 equipment to be available toward the end of 2015.

Broadband, multiscreen access and the emergence of OTT video-device options have also been transformational for programmers.

In the early days of TV Everywhere, developing apps was “not our core competence,” Matt Blank, chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks, said. “They’re becoming our core competence.”