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Arris Makes Over-the-Top Pitch

In a move aimed at loosening TiVo’s tightening grip on the nation’s independent cable operators, Arris said it is zeroing in on the launch of an applications marketplace that will enable its pay TV partners to mix over-the-top fare with traditional live video services.

The cable-tailored “Arris Market” is powered in part by Wurl, a startup that will host the third-party apps, provide a “strong indexing engine” and furnish metadata that will allow users to search for content across many of those apps on an aggregate basis rather than requiring them to sift for content by opening up the individual apps, Ron Miller, vice president of product management for Arris’s Consumer Solutions Group, explained.

Arris will offer the new app store via its Whole Home Solution, a product set that is anchored by a six-tuner HD-DVR/gateway outfitted with a DOCSIS 3.0 modem and integrated WiFi. That product came out of Arris’s $20 million acquisition of Digeo, Paul Allen’s video set-top and software business, in 2009.

Miller said one of Arris’s “major customers” will start to test the new cloud-based apps platform with employees in the next couple of weeks, with two more operator partners set to follow ahead of a broad commercial launch. Arris isn’t disclosing them, but candidates include operators that have already rolled out or announced deals to deploy the company’s platform, including Shaw Communications, WideOpenWest, Buckeye CableSystem, EastLink, Comporium, Consolidated Communications and Service Electric Cable TV.

“A lot of [partners] are looking at this option,” Miller said. Arris is also being coy about which apps will grace its market when it launches, but expects that it will support dozens of them in its baseline offering.

Miller confirmed that Netflix “will be visible in Arris Market as a separate application,” but added that operators will need to secure agreements with the video streamer before it can be added to the mix on leased boxes. Netflix’s rules also won’t allow Wurl to index its content, Miller said, but added that there are no technical hurdles that would prevent any of Arris’s partners from offering Netflix via its Whole Home Solution.

Arris’s revised offering will tangle with TiVo, which has already enabled Netflix on boxes leased by several of its U.S. cable partners, and has recently unleashed an apps store offered in partnership with Opera. Comcast has shown some interest in licensing its X1 platform to other cable operators, including independent MSOs, but has not announced any agreements involving trials or deployments. Cox Communications and Comcast confirmed in January that they have held some X1-related licensing talks.

Arris and Wurl said they will demonstrate the new apps platform this week at The Independent Show in Kansas City.