MSO-Vendor Joint Project Pairs Traditional TV, OTT

DENVER — Count Midcontinent Communications among the MSOs that have learned to stop worrying and love over-the-top video.

Midcontinent is now poised to embrace OTT following a collaboration with Colorado- based aioTV on a “strategic project” that will enable the operator to squeeze more life out of its legacy set-top base by pairing its traditional live-TV service with a nextgeneration interface and a mix of over-the-top video applications and services.

The envisioned scenario will see Sioux Falls, S.D.- based Midcontinent link legacy, QAM-only set-tops from Pace with aioTV’s Android-powered, IPconnected “PassBox” via a High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI) cable.

This two-box, “HDMI pass-through” approach will allow Midcontinent to securely relay its existing multichannel TV service to the PassBox and stitch it to the new UI and an array of apps without requiring the customer to change the TV’s input.

Midcontinent has not said when it will introduce this new option and is still mulling how it will offer the PassBox to its video subscribers. But integration work is already underway, Mike Earle, aioTV’s CEO, said last week in Denver, where the vendor was demonstrating at a suite located near the Colorado Convention Center, site of last week’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.

With a commercial launch expected in 2015, aioTV is working with Midcontinent on an interface that features the MSO’s brand and a baseline recommendation system that factors in the customer’s past viewing behavior, including shows that have been favored or shared on social networking apps.

AioTV can also plug in recommendation engines from third-party companies such as Think- Analytics, Jinni and DigitalSmiths, which is now part of TiVo, Earle said.

The PassBox feeds in an MSO’s primary subscription-TV service: Viewers can change channels through an RF blaster when paired to older set-tops or through an IP backchannel on newer, hybrid boxes.

It also links to free OTT video from the Web, adhering to embedding rules by using the source video provider’s player.

It’s also capable of providing full access to and integration of Google Play, which includes popular apps such as HBO Go and Netflix.

AioTV’s approach is one of several that aim to help operators mix traditional TV offerings with OTT content.

In the Tier-2 and Tier-3 segment, aioTV will primarily tangle with TiVo, and will likely come up against WebTuner, a startup that is holding talks with cable operators and industry organizations such as the National Cable Television Cooperative, a buying agent for about 1,000 independent cable operators.

Increasingly in this mix is Roku, which currently supports a set of authenticated TV Everywhere apps such as HBO Go and Time Warner Cable’s TWC TV, but is also looking to form deeper relationships with pay TV operators through a “Roku Powered” program that will provide partners with Roku hardware and the ability to customize the user interface and control what channels can be streamed to the Roku platform.