Charter To Swap Out Leased TiVo Boxes

Charter Communications will stop leasing TiVo Premiere HD-DVRs next month, and is urging those existing TiVo customers to swap out those boxes for other MSO-supplied DVRs.

That’s according to a Charter Web page alerting customers to the change.

“On September 10, 2013, TiVo Premiere service from Charter will no longer be available. To avoid interruption in your service, please visit a Charter Store before September 10, 2013 to exchange your current TiVo equipment and remote for Charter DVR equipment,” the site explains.

The decision does not affect Charter customers who use TiVo boxes purchased at retail.

A Charter spokeswoman said the decision to wind down the leased TiVo option, offered only in the MSO’s Dallas/Ft. Worth system, comes as the MSO wraps up its all-digital transition in north Texas. She said only a “few hundred customers” in the market are leasing TiVo boxes from Charter. 

The decision also comes into play as Charter moves forward on a plan to deliver a more unified user experience via ActiveVideo’s cloud-based platform. 

Charter president and CEO Tom Rutledge referenced those UI plans on the company’s second quarter earnings call on August 6. “The objective is to provide a consistent cloud-based interface across all devices and avoid customer disruption by making existing equipment work without additional capital spend for replacement CPE,” he said. “In the long run, with smart televisions and smart tablets, which essentially allow the TV or the tablet to operate as a set-top box and a TV combined, we think that incremental CPE will become less and less a factor in our overall capital structure. So we think capital intensity is coming out of CPE, and we have a strategy designed to ensure that happens.”

Rutledge later acknowledged that Charter has some “scaling issues” to consider with its cloud UI strategy, noting that the MSO is experimenting with a “hybrid approach” that would put some of the guide infrastructure on the box.

Charter has not announced how TiVo will factor into its longer range plans, other than to say it is evaluating how it might integrate TiVo’s UI and software into its next-gen video platform.

TiVo has been active with a program that enables it to port its UI to MSO-leased hardware. On Monday, GCI of Alaska became the first North American service provider to launch the TiVo platform on the Pace-made XG1 video gateway. Meanwhile, ActiveVideo, Charter’s new technology partner, recently demonstrated how its CloudTV H5 platform could run the TiVo UI on a wide array of devices, including the DCT-2000 (a QAM-only digital cable set-top model), a Roku box and a connected TV.

Charter and TiVo announced their original deal in January 2011. Charter followed in December of that year with the launch of a trial that leased TiVo Premiere DVRs to customers in Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas. Charter has not tested or launched a TiVo option beyond that original market, the MSO spokeswoman confirmed.