Charter and Comcast: Illustrating two very different approaches to the program-guide challenge

Daniel Frankel, FierceCableIt is now imperative for pay-TV operators to offer their customers slick user interfaces that intuitively help them search and surface programming among a vast selection of content choices that is becoming increasingly atomized. 

But how operators approach this mission-critical task has presented some interesting contrasts, as Comcast's X1 and Charter's Spectrum Guide platforms rather concisely illustrate.

In FierceCable's latest feature, which we have headlined, "Cable's Yin and Yang: Comparing Charter and Comcast's different approaches to user guides," we attempt to steer clear of offering any qualitative comparisons of these two cloud-based systems. But we do try to contrast their stark differences.

X1 is based on the arduous rollout of expensive IP-capable set-top boxes, which offer customers a seemingly infinite array of future technology upgrades. Two years after introduction, Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) has only deployed the platform in about a quarter of its footprint, and there have been technical issues. But Comcast executives love what X1 is doing so far to ARPU and churn.

Spectrum Guide, which has yet to roll out en masse, is a less complex scheme relying on legacy devices in subscribers' homes. Charter (NASDAQ: CHTR) hopes to achieve the same goals as X1 at only a fraction of the capex. But the potential won't really be realized until the MSO fully unfurls the platform in 2015.

We don't know which platform strategy is necessarily better. We just know they're very different. Our analysis can be read here.