Charter now rolling out Worldbox, MSO reportedly in talks with TiVo

In a new FCC filing, Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) offered a glimpse into its deployment of its cloud-based Worldbox set-top box. The company said it "deployed its first new Worldboxes to paying customers using downloadable security in April, 2015, and continues to ramp up the deployment of the downloadable security system throughout Charter's systems. Enabling the Worldbox in any given footprint requires changes and additions to many pieces of the video delivery system, and those deployments are underway."

Multichannel News first pointed to the company's FCC filing. The publication also reported, citing unnamed sources, that Charter and TiVo are in discussions about TiVo supporting Charter's services in TiVo's own retail products.

Indeed, in its own recent FCC filing, TiVo confirmed it has had talks with Charter about set-top boxes. "The TiVo representatives also responded to questions about discussions with Charter Communications concerning the use of Charter's downloadable security solution in TiVo's retail products as envisioned in the 2013 Order granting Charter a waiver of Section 76.1204(a)(1) of the Commission's rules," TiVo stated in its FCC filing.

Interestingly, in its FCC filing, Charter noted that it has deployed almost 2.7 million set-top boxes with "integrated security." Such technology is one of the elements Charter is using to roll out its Worldbox.

Charter and TiVo declined to comment to Multichannel News on the filings. 

Charter explained its Worldbox strategy earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show. With vendor Cisco, Charter said that it would take a cloud-based approach to delivering its services to customers. Instead of routing its offerings through a high-powered, expensive set-top box, Charter explained that its Worldbox strategy would use "skinny clients," thereby allowing the company to offer its services through both new set-top boxes and older, legacy boxes -- as well as to other devices including TVs and tablets. Charter said it plans to roll out the technology to its entire footprint this year.

MoffettNathanson analyst Craig Moffett at the time estimated the total cost to build a cloud-based system like Charter's Worldbox would be around $600 million.

Charter's cloud-based user interface, dubbed Spectrum Guide, leverages technology from ActiveVideo, which Charter and Arris acquired earlier this year. Cisco and Humax have been named as the vendors that will supply Charter's new set-top boxes (Cisco is in the process of selling its set-top business to Technicolor).

Charter is currently working to acquire Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, and Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said that it would deploy Worldbox across its entire footprint if it is successful in purchasing TWC and Bright House. "Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers will also get access to our most advanced and latest hardware and applications including Worldbox, our new, more advanced set-top box which uses a downloadable conditional access security system and is designed to evolve as video services increasingly become IP-based," Rutledge said during the company's most recent quarterly conference call with investors, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event. "Worldbox can be sourced from multiple manufacturers and we'll also rollout Spectrum Guide, our new and highly advanced cloud-based guide that can function on all of our two-way set-top boxes regardless of their age or processing power; meaning the customers will have access to the same IP interface they already enjoy on handheld devices without having to swap out boxes."

For more:
- see this Multichannel News article
- see these two FCC filings

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