Rutledge: Charter to start Worldbox rollout 'momentarily,' but full deployment may take time

Charter Communications (NASDAQ: CHTR) CEO Tom Rutledge said the MSO's Worldbox set-top box "is finished and we're ready to deploy it." However, he hedged when questioned how long the carrier's rollout of Worldbox would take.

Charter announced its Worldbox set-top box early this year. Rutledge explained in comments at an investor meeting that the Worldbox represents Charter's thin-client approach to the set-top box market; instead of packing high-performance computing and video capabilities in an expensive device, Charter's Worldbox conducts most of its work in the cloud, thereby allowing Charter's Spectrum Guide user interface to be deployed onto a wide range of inexpensive set-top boxes. Cisco has announced it will supply a "substantial share" of Charter's forthcoming Worldbox set-top boxes.

"Our intent is to begin rolling that out momentarily," Rutledge said of Worldbox. "It really is complete and it works."

"We intend to roll that out through Charter while we're getting Time Warner and Bright House ready to receive it," he added. "We intend to start deploying Worldbox in Time Warner and Bright House as soon as we close." Charter is in the process of purchasing TWC and Bright House; that transaction is expected to close in the coming months.

However, in answering questions on the topic, Rutledge declined to say when Charter expects to finish its Worldbox rollout.

"People get used to the way they watch TV and so whenever you switch something on them there's a negative learning curve for the consumer that they have to come out the other side of," he said. "You have to be careful with how you roll things out."

Added Rutledge: "We've also thought about, does our entire customer base want this, and is it good to do it simultaneously across our whole customer base? We test it across various operational modes to see what the best way to do it is, from a consumer-satisfaction perspective. And our view is, in the long run, having a really high-quality search and discovery on a UI that can be modified as consumer tastes change, in terms of what presentation is considered state of the art, and being able to do that seamlessly without having to revisit customers, is the way we want to grow architecturally. But physically how we roll it out, I'd say we want to learn a few things before we say exactly when we want to finish it."

Rutledge said Charter is still testing Worldbox in Reno and Dallas.

Related articles:
Charter testing Cisco's remote DVR, Wi-Fi technology
Dish, others come out against Charter's TWC, Bright House deals, while AT&T warns of 'cable consolidation and coordination'
Comcast: Cloud DVR rollout is almost complete
Charter and Comcast: Illustrating two very different approaches to the program-guide challenge