Shaw To Start X1 Set-Top Rollout in 2016

Canadian MSO Shaw Communications is preparing to take its X1 licensing plan to the next phase. 

Following the launch of a mobile video app called Free Range TV that relies on Comcast’s X1 platform in January, Shaw plans to launch X1 set-top boxes later this year, and make it available across the MSO’s footprint by the end of its 2017 fiscal year, Brad Shaw, Shaw’s CEO, said Friday (July 15) on the company’s Q3 earnings call.

“We’re very happy with the results of FreeRange TV…the first deliverable, which has already taken our most valuable customers and lowered their already lowered churn beyond that,” Shaw said. “So step one has clearly worked.”

Looking ahead, Shaw, he said, will start a “market-by-market” rollout starting in its 2017 fiscal year, noting that “we are joining the Comcast roadmap as a moving train.”

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If Shaw follows through with that plan, it will become the second X1 licensee to deploy set-tops powered by Comcast’s platform. Cox Communications launched its X1-based offering, which carries forward Cox’s “Contour” brand,  across its entire footprint earlier this year.

On the broadband front, Shaw also announced the launch of a new, faster tier called WideOpen Internet 150, offering it across its footprint under a new two-year “ValuePlan” -- $49.90 per month during year one, then $79.90 per month in year two. The regular price for that tier is $135 per month.

The new broadband tier, which maxes at 150 Mbps downstream and 15 Mbps in the upstream direction, is also paired with a 1-terabyte data plan, but customers on the tier won’t get hit extra charges if they exceed that monthly data allotment.

Shaw also has DOCSIS 3.1 and gigabit residential broadband services on its roadmap, expecting to deploy 3.1 throughout its wireline network by the end of fiscal 2017

Shaw will be looking for the new 150-meg offering and expanded X1 rollout to boost its video and broadband sub numbers.

In fiscal Q3,  Shaw lost 27,482 cable video subs, ending the period with 1.69 million, but added 3,847 satellite TV customers, for a total of 769,906. It also shed 8,760 high-speed Internet customers, ending Q3 with 1.77 million.

Vito Culmone, Shaw’s EVP and CFO, attributed the broadband subscriber decline in part to a “large number of single-play Internet disconnects led primarily by [university] students.”

“However, we are confident and excited that a WideOpen Internet 150 product along with the introduction of X1 set-top box later this year… will gain momentum in the market as we move into fiscal 2017,” he added.

Shaw, which closed its acquisition of Wind Mobile in March, ended Q3 with about 1 million wireless subs (639,997 postpaid and 363,472 prepaid), after adding 22,000 net new wireless customers.

Shaw recently completed its 3G upgrade in all markets and expects to complete its LTE upgrade by the end of fiscal 2017.

Shaw also recorded a $51 million impairment of shomi, its multiscreen SVODjoint venture with Rogers Communications.

“It doesn’t say anything more about our future prospects at this point in time in regards to the shomi joint venture in any way, shape or form. It’s an accounting write-down,” Culmone said.