Cox Set to Get Personal With the iPad

Cox Communications’ vision for a second-screen app that aggregates live TV and on-demand content and wraps it all together with a personalized recommendation engine is nearing reality.

Cox hasn’t pinpointed a launch date for the app, internally called the Personal Video Experience (PVE), but the MSO plans to introduce it “later this summer” initially on the iPad, vice president of video product development and management Steve Necessary said.

The aim is to give customers an all-in-one portal to Cox’s entire video slate and drive usage by implementing tools that help consumers more easily find something to watch even as the amount of choice continues to expand.

The debut of the iPad app is nearing its debut about seven months after Cox first demonstrated what it hand in mind at the International CES in Las Vegas. As with its Trio guide for advanced set-top boxes, Cox is developing the PVE with NDS (now part of Cisco Systems) and outfitting it with a recommendations engine from ThinkAnalytics that provides personal picks for up to eight users in a household.

“If you’re a customer that has our Trio guide with personalized recommendations, then the profile that you have created for your set-top box will follow you to the application on the iPad,” Necessary said. “The optimization of the viewing experience really is predicated on finding and consuming that content. We think personalized recommendations are critical to that.”

That thinking isn’t lost on other cable operators. Among recent examples, a personalized  recommendations engine for set-tops and mobile devices will feature prominently in “X2,” an upgraded version of Comcast’s cloud-based interface that’s expected to launch later this year.

But don’t get too used to the initial label applied to Cox’s all-singing, all-dancing app. PVE “won’t be the go-to-market term,” Necessary said.

While the first iteration of that app targets the iPad, it’s expected that Cox will eventually launch versions for mobile platforms that already support Cox TV Connect, the in-home live TV streaming and remote DVR-management application.

At press time, that included the iPhone, iPod Touch, Kindle Fire and Fire HD, Google Nexus and Samsung Galaxy tablets, as well as PCs and Macs.

Cox has good reason to pour more resources into those platforms: It’s where the eyeballs are going. The cable provider’s internal research shows that 30% of Cox households watch some video on the iPad, and 55% already watch video on any type of smartphone or tablet.

Sharing some traits found on the Cox Trio set-top guide, which launched in late 2012, the MSO’s new app for the iPad will also feature three navigation panes to provide detail on what’s on live TV, what’s available on VOD, and a section called “My Library.”

The live panel will use the recommendations engine to display eight recommended TV shows or movies that are currently available, while the on-demand section likewise offers eight recommended VOD titles that will change and evolve as titles come in and out of the Cox VOD library (currently more than 27,000 titles, including about 5,000 in HD format).

Cox VOD on the new iPad app will start off with “free” ad-supported titles, and later tack on subscription and transactional VOD, Necessary said.

The My Library pane will compile a “watch list” for each individual in the household and serve as an aggregation point for programmer-developed applications such as HBO Go and WatchESPN, as well as apps developed internally by Cox, including one that can operate the MSO’s new home-security service and an live TV-streaming app.

The live streaming app currently offers 91 channels and is poised to break the 100-channel barrier when Cox launches the PVE app, Necessary said.

Aggregating those apps is becoming increasingly important, Necessary said, because most consumers don’t know which channels are supported by programmer apps and which live TV feeds are offered via Cox’s own streaming app.

“The PVE app offers a single, convenient aggregation point for all the content, regardless of source and regardless of location that you might be accessing at that given point in time,” he said.

Cox hopes the early results it’s seeing with the Trio guide, which is now in front of more than 300,000 customers, will carry over to the iPad app. According to a recent survey of Trio users, 56% said the recommendation features made them aware of content they didn’t know about or would not have otherwise naturally discovered on their own, while 32% said they enjoyed watching TV more as a result.