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Mediacom's Commisso: TiVo Provides Fast Path To Next-Gen TV

Mediacom Communications picked TiVo to power multiroom DVR and multiscreen video services over other vendors because the company has shown it can quickly -- and cost-effectively -- bring products to market, chairman and CEO Rocco Commisso said.

“The evolution of IP-enabled video gateways, TiVo’s solution powered by the cloud and Mediacom’s robust video and broadband solutions open the door to the next generation of video entertainment,” Commisso said in an interview.

In February, TiVo announced a partnership with U.K.-based set-top maker Pace, which is a major supplier to Mediacom. Under that deal, the companies are developing a six-tuner hybrid QAM/IP gateway with the TiVo user interface and whole-home DVR capabilities.

“Now that TiVo has an agreement in place to make their software available on Pace cable boxes, we believe we can improve the overall customer user experience at a lower overall monthly cost, particularly in the multiroom environment,” Commisso said.

Privately held Mediacom, the eighth-largest cable operator in the U.S. with about 1 million video subscribers across 22 states, plans an initial deployment of TiVo-based boxes including the four-tuner Premiere Q in early 2013. The MSO will continue the rollout across its footprint over the course of the year.

The TiVo-based Pace XG1 is expected to be fully tested and ready by the second quarter of 2013, said John Pascarelli, Mediacom executive vice president of operations.

“I can’t downplay how important the Pace integration is,” Pascarelli said. “The big difference right now with TiVo is, they are working with one of our major suppliers, Pace, to integrate their service with our environment, including on-demand and interactivity, that will be available seamlessly to our customers.”

In addition to Pace, Mediacom’s other primary set-top vendor is Motorola Mobility. “Ultimately we would like to have Motorola port TiVo to their platform,” Pascarelli said.

Another attractive feature of TiVo’s solution is its ability to deliver IP video, and the Pace XG1 eventually is expected to include a transcoding capability to stream cable TV to any IP device in the home.

“What we want is a seamless experience for consumers, to let them watch what they want to watch wherever they are,” Pascarelli said. He declined to specify exactly what Internet video the Mediacom/TiVo solution would deliver to the TV.

Mediacom is not replacing its existing guide, Rovi’s i-Guide, Pascarelli added. Rather, “we’re adding TiVo to our mix of products to give our customers choice.” The MSO continues to plan to test Rovi’s next-generation TotalGuide for service providers, he said.

TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers said cable operators are looking for not only innovative technology on the guide side but also capabilities to integrate with their back-end and infrastructure. "Operators need confidence that they will weave this into their systems," he said.

The TiVo solution will be integrated with Mediacom’s two VOD system suppliers, SeaChange International and Tandberg (now part of Ericsson). For Mediacom, Pascarelli said, the "heavy lifting" will involve getting customer-service reps and technicians up to speed to process orders and to authorize and install the TiVo equipment.

Pascarelli declined to discuss the price tag or the expected return-on-investment time frame for the TiVo project. "There are so many different variables with this," he said. "The equipment costs are basically very similar to what we’re paying today."

TiVo has won large settlements against pay-TV operators in the past year, including Dish Network, AT&T and most recently Verizon Communications. TiVo currently has litigation pending against Time Warner Cable.

Pascarelli said the specter of patent litigation from TiVo was not a factor at all in Mediacom’s decision to work with the vendor.

“We’re looking at the value the product brings,” he said, adding, “We’ve done DVRs for years and haven’t ever heard boo from TiVo” about patent licensing.