Cox Targets Cord-Cutters With Internet TV Test in Southern California (Exclusive)

Cox Targets Cord-Cutters With Internet TV

Operator offering beta version of lower-priced flareWatch service with 97 channels, cloud DVR service and Fan TV set-top

Cox Communications is the first major U.S. pay TV operator to explicitly aim at cord-cutters, launching a test of a lower-priced TV and cloud DVR service in Orange County, Calif., delivered over its broadband pipes.

The operator’s flareWatch service is $34.99 per month, with access to 97 live channels and 30 hours of network DVR storage. The service is currently available to Cox broadband subscribers in the Orange County market.

The flareWatch service is part of “a small trial” in the area, according to Cox spokesman Todd Smith. “Results and customer feedback will determine if we proceed with future plans,” he said.

The Cox Internet TV service uses Fanhattan’s Fan TV set-top, which provides iPad-like navigation via a touch-sensitive remote control that has no buttons. Subscribers can connect up to three Fan TV boxes, which cost $99 each, to the service. While it’s unlikely that Cox or any other pay-TV provider will adopt the approach to deliver their primary TV services, Fan TV and similar boxes could find a home on the Internet streaming front.

FlareWatch does not provide access to over-the-top streaming-video services, such as Hulu or Netflix.

“Finally, a simpler, easier way to get the entertainment you love,” Cox says in a promo for the service.

Cord-cutting has been a growing concern among pay TV providers, which risk losing price-sensitive video subscribers who instead opt for free, over-the-air TV and cheaper streaming options like Netflix.

SEE ALSO: Top Wall Street Analyst: Pay TV “Cord-Cutting Is Real”

One of the key attributes of Cox’s flareWatch is that it delivers a healthy mix of popular programming but at a lower price than traditional cable TV packages.

Beta version of flareWatch provides local broadcast TV and cable nets such as ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, Disney Channel, ABC Family, Fox Sports West, TWC SportsNet, CNN, CNBC, Nickelodeon, A&E, Discovery, Bravo, USA, TLC, MTV, Fox News Channel, FX, Food Network and Syfy. About 60 of the channels are in HD, according to Cox.

Ordinarily, to get most of those channels, subscribers must purchase Cox Advanced TV service with 300-plus channels, regularly priced at $63.99 per month.

Cox does offer a $24.99-per-month TV Economy package, but that excludes regional sports nets and most of the cable channels in the flareWatch lineup. Nets available in TV Economy include CNN, Nickelodeon, Discovery, History, Fox News, Food Network and USA.

While it is experimenting with Internet-delivered television, Cox is more focused on rolling out the personalized Trio video guide across all its markets along with a related tablet app for in-home streaming video, set to launch later this summer, according to Smith.

Cox’s Flare brand also includes “MyFlare,” a cloud-based media storage service the operator launched in April for hosting personal photos, videos, music and documents. Future offerings in the Flare family are slated to include streaming music and games, according to the MSO.

Privately held Cox is the third-biggest U.S. cable operator, with an estimated 4.5 million video customers.

Cox is providing demos of flareWatch at its five retail Solutions Stores in Orange County, according to the operator’s website.

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  1. Mike Z. says:

    I have this service and so far it works great! The interface is better and easier to use than a regular cable box, once you get used to it. It would be perfect if they were to offer a HBO, Starz and Showtime package. Until then, I have a TiVo 3 with a lifetime subscription. I will use that with a $2/month cable card to get HBO, Starz and Showtime ($32 + $2). I have my 2 Flare Units hard wired using a Gigabit Ethernet Switch and CAT 6 Ethernet to two televisions. ($99 for each Flare) It runs at 1080p on a 60″ TV perfectly. One time I had to restart it by unplugging it and plugging it back in, because the live TV was blacked out. No big deal. It actually allows for 100 hours of recording and it will play back on up to 3 TVs. I was told that I will not be charged for any data overages. I will be returning my whole home DVRs this week. Internet $56, Flare $10, Basic Cable $24.95, 3 Premiums $32, cable card $2. $124.95 – SOLD!

  2. Ronny says:

    If they let people pick which channels, then maybe. Just offering a different package of channels misses the mark, though. They don’t seem to really understand why people are cutting the cord in the first place.

    Also, will this new cloud DVR service they are offering count against monthly bandwidth usage? Or will it be like Comcast where their own services get preferential treatment?

    • Cox counts flareWatch against your monthly Cox usage cap, which starts at 250GB for qualifying broadband tiers. While we suspect daily occasional viewing won’t eat too much, watch what happens if you forget to switch Fan TV off when finished viewing night after night.

  3. Remember how American car makers were angry that reliable, stylish and economical Japanese cars were putting a major dent into their bloated, overpriced, gas guzzling offerings? What Detroit did was to offer us F.U. cars, like the Ford Pinto and Chevrolet Vega. Those pieces of junk represented a half-hearted attempt to do something they did not want to do, in order to stem the tide. The strategy only dug Detroit a deeper hole. Same thing here. This attempt by Cox is designed to fail so they can say ‘we tried’. The game changer is coming. And I doubt that it will come from the major cable companies until it is too late for them.

    • Jeff says:

      @Stop the cap: You are wrong. It does not count against you. Those packets are tagged and not part of your monthly usage.

      • Jeff says:

        @Arye, whether or not it is a game changer you will be using their internet to get to whatever your “Game Changer” will be. So either way they get a piece of the pie. Nothing is free….ever,,,nothing.

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