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Netflix Signs Deal with Suddenlink, in Largest U.S. Cable Operator Pact So Far

Suddenlink Communications, a cable operator with about 1.2 million TV customers across its footprint, has signed an agreement with Netflix to offer the streaming-video service through TiVo set-tops.

The Netflix pact with the MSO comes after three smaller cable operators — RCN Telecom Services, Atlantic Broadband and Grande Communications — last week launched Netflix for their own subscribers with TiVo boxes.

“This agreement is a great example of how the cable industry can work with Internet content providers on innovative solutions that benefit consumers,” Suddenlink chairman and CEO Jerry Kent said in a statement. “Importantly, we will be delivering Netflix to our customers with the superior quality of high-speed Internet connections that tend to be the fastest and highest-ranked in the communities we serve.”

Netflix has with European providers, with Liberty Global’s Virgin Media in the U.K. the largest of them, to provide access to Netflix’s service. Virgin Media, like the U.S. operators, offers Netflix through TiVo set-tops.

SEE ALSO: Netflix to Launch on Three U.S. Cable Operators via TiVo

It’s worth noting that cable subscribers must have a TiVo set-top to receive Netflix. None of the MSOs that distribute TiVo DVRs disclose the number of customers that have them (except for Virgin Media, which said it had 2 million TiVo subscribers as of the end of 2013, representing 52% of its television subscriber base).

Suddenlink’s new partnership with Netflix was enabled by its partnership with TiVo, announced in July 2010. The MSO was the first U.S. cable operator to begin offering TiVo’s DVRs integrated with its video-on-demand library.

Bill Holmes, Netflix’s head of business development, called Suddenlink “an innovator, offering more choice and a great experience to its customers.”

But not every cable operator is inclined to team up with Netflix.

Execs for Comcast, the No. 1 cable operator that is poised to grow even bigger after acquiring Time Warner Cable, have said adding access to Netflix for subscribers through its set-tops is not a high priority. Comcast chairman-CEO Brian Roberts, speaking on a panel at the 2014 Cable Show last week, said Comcast will end up with about 30 million video subscribers post-TW Cable, which he noted is less than Netflix’s 35-plus million U.S. subscribers.

Customers of Suddenlink and other cable operators that offer Netflix need an existing Netflix subscription. If they don’t, they can sign up directly on the TiVo boxes in a three-step process, to receive the standard one-month-free offer, but eventually they would have to set up an account with Netflix.

The deals with U.S. MSOs comes after Netflix revised the terms of its licensing contracts with Hollywood studios, which previously prohibited the company from offering service through pay-TV operators.

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