CES: Cox Screens Its Next-Gen Personal Tablet TV App

Las Vegas -- Cox Communications heralded its forthcoming personalized, interactive app for mobile devices that lets subscribers watch video and control their viewing in new ways as an industry game-changer -- although initially the app will not deliver the full TV lineup.

Cox announced the next-generation mobile app, developed with Cisco Systems and NDS (now part of Cisco), at a press conference Monday at the Wynn Las Vegas hotel.

“The last 50 years have been focused on the video experience from a living room perspective,” Cox president Pat Esser said at the event. “We want to make the experience you have with Cox both on the primary screen and the second screen thrilling and satisfying.”

The MSO is aiming to launch the new app in May. Cox gave attendees a sneak peek at the app, which is first being developed for Apple’s iPad. The operator plans to integrate all of its mobile applications into this one app, which Cox calls Personal Video Experience but will be rebranded when it launches. Cox expects to deliver the application for additional devices by the end of the year.

Tablets are “inherently personal devices, and they have become highly valued viewing devices for our customers,” Esser said.

However, Cox subscribers won’t be able to get all their channels through the app -- most notably, the MSO does not provide local TV channels in most of its markets. The app will provide access to 90 live TV channels -- the same ones that are currently available through the Cox TV Connect service -- as well as access to up to 40,000 VOD titles.

Currently, Cox is delivering 30 local TV channels in Orange County, Calif., through Cox TV Connect through deals with broadcasters. Esser said those agreements would expand throughout the year.

The Personal Video Experience app organizes content in three window panes: “My Library,” “Live” and “On Demand.” Within the app, Cox is embedding links to TV Everywhere services from partners such as HBO and Turner Broadcasting System to let subscribers more easily find authenticated content.

The tablet app also can function as a remote control for Cox's Advanced TV program guide, Trio, and delivers the same personalized video content recommendations the operator recently added. Thumbnails of live channels, displayed on the main screen of the app, are identified based on a user’s viewing history.

Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers, who appeared with Esser at the event, boasted that Cox’s new tablet app will make it “the No. 1 consumer video experience in North American.”

“Behind this is a lot of technology,” Chambers said. “We want it to be, in my words, ‘CEO idiot-proof.’”

Separately Monday, Cisco announced Videoscape Unity, a version of the vendor’s multiplatform video delivery and management platform that incorporates NDS products and technologies.

In addition to the new iPad app, in the first quarter Cox plans to roll out a hybrid IP/QAM video gateway from Cisco with six tuners, 2 Terabytes of storage and multiroom DVR features, Esser said.

Cox is delivering the advanced user interface on the tablet but will retain the Trio guide on its set-tops for now, because the iPad app is designed for different mode of interaction, according to executive vice president and chief product officer Len Barlik. “This is about taking advanced of the swipe capabilities and other device features,” he said.

The announcement of the next-generation tablet app project comes on the heels of Cox's upgrade to its Trio guide -- developed by NDS -- to include personalized recommendations. Launched beginning in November 2012, the Trio personal recommendations for up to eight users in a household are enabled by ThinkAnalytics with metadata delivered by Tribune Media Services.

Industry execs who turned out for the Cox event included National Cable & Telecommunications Association president and CEO Michael Powell and CableLabs president and CEO Phil McKinney. Also on hand were executives from programming partners Discovery Communications, HBO, Turner, Scripps Networks Interactive and AMC Networks.

In addition, Cox invited Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, as well as the mayors of North Las Vegas and Henderson, Nev., and Clark County commissioner Susan Brager.

“I can’t think of a better place to have this discussion than in a Cox market,” Esser said.

In his introductory remarks, Chambers noted that Esser is a big University of Alabama booster, given that one of his daughters attended the school. Alabama handily defeated Notre Dame for college football’s national title Monday night, and the event's organizers switched on the ESPN telecast of the game following the presentation.

Holding up what was presumably a wager on the Crimson Tide, Chambers smiled at Esser and said: “My sports book is with you today.”