Small Canadian Cable Operator Flips IP Switch to Buck Pay TV Trend

Pay TV numbers for cable operators have been suffering amid the backdrop of the growing cord-cutting trend and an array of new OTT-delivered video options.

But a small cable operator in Canada says it’s been able to buck that trend in large part to a decision to migrate to a switched IP video platform from Adara Technologies that enabled it to deploy more capable boxes and introduce a more intuitive user interface while also freeing up bandwidth for speedier broadband services.  

Coopérative de Câblodistribution de L'Arrière Pays (CCAP) of Quebec City says it has seen its base of digital video subscribers rise 22% over the past five years. CCAP isn’t large (it has about 15,000 video subs), but says Adara’s Switched IP Video (SIPV) platform has played a big part in that rise.

CCAP, which has an interconnection agreement with fellow Canadian cable operator Videotron, started to work with Adara in part because it offered the operator a way to gain more control of its pay TV product and its future roadmap, according to Stéphane Arseneau, CCAP’s general manager.

“We decided to be more of a master of our destiny,” he recalled. “It was clear that we needed to take a different path at that time.”

As an IP video transition play, Adara’s approach offers a step beyond switched digital video (SDV), a bandwidth-saving technique that some cable operators have used to switch, rather than broadcast, lesser-viewed channels. In the SDV world, a multicast stream of a given channel is created when it’s selected for viewing, allowing homes in a certain service group to also join that stream. Adara’s SIPV platform, by comparison, puts the full video service into a switched environment.

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Arseneau said that platform has enabled CCAP to upgrade its video offering without a more time-intensive and expensive bandwidth upgrade.

“It offered a way to minimally disrupt the customer services while deploying a solution where we could add more capacity to our video offering,” he said.

It also opened the door for CCAP to deploy new devices, including 4K-capable boxes from Cisco/Technicolor (Technicolor acquired Cisco’s set-top business in 2015) and outfit them with an advanced user interface. In CCAP’s instance, Adara has made several customizations and enhancements to an interface that originated with Cisco. CCAP started to deploy the new UI in Q4 2017.

CCAP is preparing to use its video platform to launch a 4K offering as it gets more boxes capable of supporting that format deployed into the field, and has already been tapping into it to introduce several new features.

An example is a mosaic capability that lets CCAP place the linear feeds of multiple channels onto the guide as smaller thumbnails at the same time. Viewers can select a thumbnail feed in the mosaic to obtain the audio feed of a channel or convert one of those mosaic feeds to full screen mode.

CCAP has introduced mosaic offerings for genres such as news, sports and kids programming, and has also done something similar using 12 video feeds from cameras set up by the Transport Ministry in Quebec. The Transport Ministry offers those feeds on the web, but CCAP has built a way to offer those feeds (two channels with six feeds each) on the set-top box.

Arseneau said these features help to differentiate CCAP’s video product. “And it shows that small cable operators are able to do some things that are different but liked by the customers,” he said.

Looking ahead to the PyeongChang Winter Games, CCAP is adding some apps and widgets that will help customers navigate the wide range of events that will be covered on TV, set reminders and recordings of specific Olympic events, and provide access to a regularly updating medal count board.

CCAP and Adara provided shed more detail on their deployment ahead of the National Cable Television Cooperative's Winter Educational Conference, set to run February 12-13 in San Antonio.

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Adara claims that its SIPV platform can free up to 80% or more of an operator’s video bandwidth for other services, such as broadband.

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So far, Adara has had the most success with independent 2/3 small- and mid-tier service providers. Other announced customers include Cass Cable of Central Illinois; Cable Cable of Ontario, Canada; Access Communications; Cablevision in Warwick, N.Y.; Scottsboro Electric Power Board (SEPB) in Arizona; Darien Telephone in Georgia; and Fayetteville Public Utility in Tennessee.