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Cox Makes OTT Connection With ‘flarePlay’

Cable operators have yet to encroach on each other’s territories with subscription video services, but Cox Communications appears to be taking a possible step in that direction with flarePlay, a broadband- delivered subscription gaming service that the MSO is selling in and out of its traditional footprint.

Cox quietly introduced the service in beta form about 18 months ago. It began to put some marketing muscle behind it earlier this year, Cox spokesman Todd Smith said.

flarePlay, a family-friendly service, connects to TVs via a broadband-fueled “Microconsole” that is paired with a wireless handheld gamepad. flarePlay is being sold on the Web (at flareplay.com) as well as in dozens of retail outlets, including Cox Solutions Stores and a number of Toys R Us stores in cities such as Thornton, Colo.; Redwood City, Calif.; and Memphis, Tenn.

FlarePlay represents a potential new revenue stream for Cox, but it is facing heavy competition from popular OTT platforms such as Roku, the Amazon Fire TV and an emerging lineup of Android TV-powered products that also feature slates of casual games and higher-end, twitch-based titles. The next generation of the Apple TV device will reportedly be based on iOS 9, a move that could expand its access to apps, including games, that are fitted for the TV screen.

The new service from Cox (Green Lane Innovations, a Cox-run tech incubator, is the division associated with flarePlay) currently offers unlimited play from a library stocked with more than 150 titles. A baseline “Disney Games” package sells for $9.99 per month and features Disney-focused titles such as Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two and Lego Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game. flarePlay also offers a “Premium” package for $9.99 per month, and a $14.99 per month Combo Game Pack that opens access to the full gaming library.

Subscribers must also pay $29.99 for a kit that includes the flarePlay Microconsole, a controller and the required cables.

Cox declined to provide subscriber figures for flarePlay, but Smith said, “We’ve seen good response from it so far.”

“We plan to continue to add content to it in the near future,” he added. “Video gaming is a very good, big space, and we think there’s an opportunity there.”

Cox isn’t bundling flarePlay with its cable offerings or integrating it with cable set-tops.

“It’s a completely separate brand,” Smith explained.

Cox isn’t the only operator that’s dabbling in TV-based video gaming strategies. Comcast and Electronic Arts have teamed on a beta trial of a service called Xfinity Games powered by EA that runs on the MSO’s X1 platform. Instead of using a separate gaming controller, those users control games via smartphones and tablets.

flarePlay is just one of a growing number of Cox offerings to don the “flare” brand. In 2013, Cox tested (and later shut down) flare- Watch, an IP-based TV service for cord-cutters that was offered in Orange County, Calif. Cox continues to market and sell myflare, a Dropbox-like, cloud-based media storage and sharing service.