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Cox Launches DVR With S-A's 8000 Set-Top Box

Cox Communications Inc. has taken the digital video recorder plunge, offering the service to subscribers in Gainesville, Fla., through Scientific-Atlanta Inc.'s Explorer 8000 set-top.

"It's an opportunity to enhance the value of this $40- to $50-a-month package customers are already paying for," said Cox vice president of video product development Lynne Elander.

DVR service carries a $9.95-per-month price tag, in addition to the $3.35-per-month set-top lease fee. The Explorer 8000 allows consumers one-touch recording of programs, as well as the ability to "pause" and "rewind" real-time TV shows.

The set-top has 50 hours of storage capacity and two tuners, which allows consumers to watch one program while storing a show from a different channel.

Cox said it plans additional DVR deployments in other markets later this year, at different but unspecified prices, Elander said.

"We will do some price-point testing," she said.

A second technical trial in an undisclosed market is already underway.

Although there are no plant issues per se, installation, service calls, truck rolls and customer education are all fodder for operational and potential cost considerations.

"We don't know what those costs look like," Elander said. That's one reason Cox will deploy service slowly and test different prices before launching DVRs throughout its U.S. footprint.

The $9.95 price point, however, is lower than what TiVo Inc. charges for its monthly service — and TiVo subscribers must also purchase the company's box, Elander noted.

Cox chose Gainesville because it was an S-A market that hadn't launched video-on-demand, high-definition television or other new products, said Elander.

"Customer reaction to our technical trials has been extremely positive," said Cox Central Florida vice president and general manager Mike Giampietro. "What we've heard from customers is that they love being able to record The Sopranos
on HBO Sunday night while watching a live football or baseball game on ESPN."

And what of DVRs and VOD? Cox has rolled out VOD in San Diego and a handful of other markets.

Elander believes the technologies can co-exist and that they largely complement each other.

"DVR allows you to proactively capture programming that you are already getting," Elander said. "VOD isn't that proactive, but allows you to offer programming consumers aren't otherwise getting."

The combination of products offers consumers more options for using their cable service during time they spend watching TV, according to Elander.

"They speak to different customer bases and have different economics," Elander said.