Three U.S. MSOs Set To Launch TiVo/Netflix Mix

Giving Netflix’s domestic cable distribution ambitions a boost, RCN, Atlantic Broadband and Grande Communications will be the first U.S. cable operators to offer Netflix on TiVo-powered devices that are leased to their respective pay-TV customers.

Of the trio, RCN and Atlantic Broadband will begin to offer access to Netflix via TiVo early next week, while Grande is expected to roll out software updates with the integrated Netflix component sometime in May, a TiVo spokesman said, confirming reports in The Wall Street Journal and Variety.   

Following a model used for TiVo/Netflix combinations offered by Virgin Media in the U.K. and Com Hem in Sweden, Netflix will retain a direct billing relationship with its streaming subscribers.

The updated TiVo software coming to those MSO-distributed devices, such as the TiVo Premiere and the T6 (the T6 is the MSO-tailored version of TiVo’s new Roamio platform) will offer integrated search that spans not just Netflix, but also the live TV lineup and the operator’s video-on-demand service. Netflix will also be displayed like a "channel" in the guide.

"Our view has long been that the marriage of linear television and streaming over-the-top (OTT) TV is the future of television, and Netflix has clearly emerged as a must-have over-the-top service," said TiVo president and CEO Tom Rogers, in a statement to Multichannel News. “This announcement underscores the transformative nature of the TiVo technology and its proven ability to enable over-the-top providers to be seamlessly integrated into a pay-TV platform. TiVo is the common technological thread bridging the gap for the first time here in the U.S. between operators and OTT services to help them deliver a superior and more complete offering to their subscribers.

Confirmation of the tie-ins came just days after Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and CFO David Wells disclosed in the company’s first-quarter letter to investors that the company’s first MVPD integrations in the U.S. would get underway “this quarter.”

In addition to Virgin Media and Com Hem, Netflix has also completed an integration with Waoo!, a Danish triple-play service. Google Fiber, which currently offers broadband and pay TV services in parts of Kansas City and Provo, Utah, allows its subscribers to link their Netflix accounts to the Google Fiber TV box, according to this Google Fiber customer help page.

TiVo has several other U.S. partners that have not yet announced plans to support Netflix on leased devices, including Suddenlink Communications, GCI, Mediacom Communications, Vyve Broadband and Wave Division Holdings (Wave Broadband and Astound).

Comcast has a retail partnership with TiVo under which the MSO has integrated its Xfinity On Demand service with TiVo boxes sold at retail. Cox Communications has a similar retail-focused effort underway with TiVo, but has yet to pull the trigger on it.

Netflix and Comcast, which has developed a subscription multiscreen VOD service called Streampix, have held talks about porting the Netflix app to Internet protocol-capable HD-DVRs and gateways that run on Comcast’s X1 platform. It’s unlikely that those discussions will evolve into a deal anytime soon based alone on the icy condition of their relationship.

Netflix, which reluctantly agreed to a paid peering deal with Comcast in February, announced its opposition to the proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal earlier this week.

According to industry sources, Netflix has also insisted that MVPD  that offer its service on leased devices also become members of Open Connect, a private content delivery network that relies on Netflix-supplied edge caches.

RCN, Cablevision Systems, Cox Communications, Google Fiber, Suddenlink Communications, Virgin Media, British Telecom, Frontier, Clearwire, GVT, Bell Canada, Telmex and Telus are among the known members of the Open Connect program.

Atlantic Broadband,  a subsidiary of Cogeco Cable that serves more than 230,000 customers in western Pennsylvania and parts of Maryland and Delaware, also participates in Open Connect, according to Variety.

Historically, Netflix’s agreements with some content partners have prevented it from offering services on MVPD-leased devices, but those issues have apparently been ironed out.