Deeper Dive—Why WOW! is going IP with WOW! tv+

The Android TV used along with WOW! tv+. (WOW)

WOW! last week kicked off a limited trial for WOW! tv+, a new IP-based TV service that could impact the cable operator’s business in some significant ways.

CEO Teresa Elder spelled out the potential upside during the company’s most recent earnings call. She said it could help with long-term reductions to operating expenses and “provide more efficient use of capital as we reclaim bandwidth on our network, ensuring that we have sufficient capacity to meet the multi-gig demands of the future.” She also said it could reduce operational costs through fewer calls to its customer service representatives and fewer truck rolls for in-home service repairs.

WOW! tv+ is an Android TV-based service available to the company’s broadband subscribers. It includes cloud DVR, access to an on-demand library, a voice remote with Google Assistant, Netflix integration and access to streaming apps through the Google Play Store. The company said WOW! tv+ is an IP-based video service that is an upgrade to WOW!'s traditional cable options and that it allows for its consumers who don't want to cut the cord to continue to consume information via their cable box.

For now, the service is only available in Columbus, Ohio. Scott Barton, senior vice president of product for WOW, couldn’t share any details about when and in which markets WOW! tv+ will expand. However, he was able to provide more color on the advantages his company expects from going IP.

Barton said a big driver for launching WOW! tv+ – along with the company’s partnerships with third-party streaming services – is providing customer choice and reacting to the changing ways in which consumers watch video. He also said that QAM bandwidth reclamation is beneficial for WOW! from a long-term strategic perspective.

“There’s value, not just from a consumer perspective, but also for us as we position ourselves as a broadband company going forward,” Barton said.

In terms of reducing truck rolls and in-home service calls, Barton said his company is hopeful that WOW! tv+ will drive fewer care calls. With regard to the bandwidth that can be reclaimed by moving from QAM to IP, he said the move helps WOW! better respond to increasing internet usage by consumers.

He said that as consumers continue to gravitate toward more IP-based products like streaming services and smart home devices, having increased available bandwidth puts WOW! in a better position to deliver on consumers’ expectations.

Elder last week also talked about shorter time for installation of service. Barton said that since WOW! tv+ is still in the trial phase, technicians are still going out on site and installing the service for customers. However, WOW! would like the service to graduate to a self-install solution.

Elder also mentioned eventually eliminating the need for legacy customer premise equipment. Although that may tie more closely to the work WOW! is doing in Charleston, selling streaming TV services like Sling TV and Philo to its broadband subscribers, Barton said it also applies to the WOW! tv+ trial, which uses an Android TV box instead of a traditional cable box.

The benefits that WOW! has outlined for its transition to IP-based video services sound similar to what AT&T was talking about in the lead up to the launch of its new AT&T TV service. It’s a move that more and more traditional video distributors are taking in response to the rising costs and diminishing demands for traditional linear video service.