Ziggo Lights Up Set-Top-Free Option

Ziggo, the largest cable operator in the Netherlands and an M&A target of Liberty Global, has begun to support its full pay-TV service, including linear TV as well as interactive VOD, without the need for a separate set-top box.

This option, offered on more than 250 different TV set models, relies on the CI+ Module (version 1.3 or higher), a removable security device that shares similarities with the CableCard. One important difference is that Ziggo is using the module to deliver interactive services, including VOD. Save for some limited examples that require higher levels of integration with the cable operator’s legacy VOD system or the use of tru2way middleware, the vast majority of U.S. retail devices that use CableCards, such as TiVo boxes, support only a cable operator’s linear digital TV service.

The implementation announced Tuesday will enable Ziggo to save on set-top box costs while using a  unified interface whether its service is being delivered to a set-top or a TV that’s outfitted with the Interactive CI+ Module.

“With the Interactive CI+ Module, customers can watch movies, television series and missed TV programmes directly on their set and without the need for extra equipment, extra leads or an extra remote control. The advantage for Ziggo is that the look and feel, and the way Interactive Television is used, is exactly the same for all types of peripheral equipment,” Pieter Vervoort, vice president of consumer products and innovation at Ziggo, said in a statement.

According to Ziggo, more than 250 TV models have been certified to work with its service in conjunction with the Interactive CI+ module. TV makers on that list LG Electronics, Samsung and Philips, with other brands currently in the certification process.

In this initial phase of the deployment, Interactive CI + Modules from SMiT and Quantis are compatible with Ziggo. The set-top-free platform will also support a cloud-based VOD and Catch Up TV platform and user interface powered by ActiveVideo that Ziggo launched in March that was offered initially on legacy set-top boxes from Humax and Samsung that don’t have integrated browsers. That deployment, now in front of 230,000 subscribers and on 600,000 devices so far, has helped Ziggo boost ARPU by more than 5% thanks in part to improved VOD usage.

Ziggo, which has about 2.3 million digital TV subs, is taking the cloud-based approach to the next level by offering its services on unmanaged devices, said Sachin Sathaye, ActiveVideo’s VP of strategy and product marketing , noting that the cloud-based approach will enable Ziggo to rollout other types of services, including interactive gaming and network-based DVRs.