Espial looks to update set-top interfaces with G4

As cable operators work to stem the rise of over-the-top providers like Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) and HBO Now, they may turn their attention toward smoothing the set-top box user interface as one way to satisfy customers and prevent them from straying, according to longtime cable executive Jeff Huppertz.

Huppertz is VP of marketing and business development for Espial, which today released its new G4 STB Client. Huppertz explained that Espial's new G4 can combine linear and on-demand content, alongside Internet apps and Internet-based video, into one "compelling" user interface. The result, Huppertz said, is a TV experience that makes it easy and simple for users to find the content they want to watch, be it a cable provider's video-on-demand service or Netflix's latest House of Cards season (as long as the cable customer has a corporate agreement with Netflix, Huppertz said).

Espial made its G4 announcement in conjunction with the start of the INTX show in Chicago.

Already, one major North American cable operator has agreed to use the G4 to power its next-generation, all-IP platform. Separately, two European cable operators, with over 3 million combined pay-TV subscribers for their hybrid QAM/IP networks, also plan to use the G4. Huppertz said he was unable to name Espial's G4 customers due to contractual requirements; however, he said the company's G4 customers oversee almost 8 million total cable customers across the globe. Espial licenses G4 on a per-household or per-device basis.

Huppertz, who previously worked at Motorola, Cisco, Arris and elsewhere, said that the G4 is built on the RDK standard, a software stack administered by Comcast Cable (NASDAQ: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) and Liberty Global. On top of the RDK standard, Espial's G4 uses an HTML5 interface, which Huppertz said allows cable operators to quickly and easily modify their set-top box user interface and introduce new services.

"I think RDK is here to stay," Huppertz said of the technology.

Interestingly, Huppertz said that he expects Espial to expand beyond its traditional cable customer base with the G4; he said telco carriers are also looking at deploying the G4, and could do so as soon as later this year.

Based in Canada, Espial was founded in 1997, and last year it counted $20 million in revenue. The company sells software to cable companies and manufacturers like Sony, Sharp and others.

But Espial isn't the only vendor at INTX showing off a new user interface for set-top boxes that adds Internet-based elements. For example, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) said it will show off MediaFirst, its new pay-TV platform utilizing cloud and web technologies, at the show as well.

For more:
- see this release

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