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Suddenlink's Set-Top Shuffle

Why can't cable boxes provide a better way to search TV -- and bringInternet content directly to the tube?

Last year, Suddenlink Communications saw an opportunity to
try to jump out in front of satellite and telco competitors, becoming
one of the first cable operators to sign a deal to distribute cobranded
TiVo digital video recorders as its primary DVR offering.

Like other operators,
Suddenlink has
relied on Motorola
and Cisco Systems
set-top platforms,
along with the guide
products that run on
top of them. But chief
technology officer
Terry Cordova and the
rest of the Suddenlink
team were looking for
a better answer, hoping
to make the user
experience fun, fresh
and simple.

“It’s a world-class
user interface,” Cordova said of the TiVo guide. “Our customers really
like the UI. For us, the gateway has to bring the home together
and enhance the experience.”

Suddenlink started offering the TiVo Premiere DVR to customers
in December 2010, and now has rolled it out to markets in
Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri and New Mexico. The box is
available for $16 per month (the same as the operator’s standard
HD DVR) and provides content from Suddenlink’s VOD library and
the Web, including YouTube videos, Blockbuster VOD and Pandora.
However, the Suddenlink-provided TiVo does not allow access to
Netflix streaming video,
because of Netflix’s contracts
with studios and
other content owners.

“TiVo is a recognizable
brand,” Cordova
said. “People say, ‘I’m
going to go TiVo that.’
They like the ability to
show off cool features to
their friends, like getting
YouTube on their TiVo.”

Next up: The MSO
plans to deploy the
Premiere Q — a fourtuner
DVR gateway that
provides multiroom features—
in certain markets in 2012. Cordova expects it to be the primary
DVR in Suddenlink’s arsenal. “In general, as we look at our mix of HD
DVRs, our regions and systems are really clamoring for this,” he said.