Suddenlink to offer TiVo-enabled Netflix; is content provider still a cable killer?

Suddenlink has become the nation's largest MSO to enable its TiVo-enabled set-top boxes to provide direct access to Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX), making the OTT service provider yet another interactive channel application on its cable TV lineup.

There is no date for when the service will begin.

The nation's seventh largest MSO joins smaller players Atlantic Broadband, Grande Communications and RCN as operators opening up their TiVo boxes to Netflix. Overseas, Netflix has agreements with U.K. provider Virgin Media and Sweden's Com Hem.

Suddenlink is, according to the Netflix ISP Speed Index for March, the third best performing MSO when it comes to carrying Netflix content with an average download speed of 2.67 Mbps, following only Netflix favorite Cablevision (NYSE: CVC) Optimum (2.98 Mbps) and Cox Communications (2.84 Mbps). The index is based on data from 44 million Netflix members worldwide and reflects the average performance of all Netflix streams on each ISP's network. Com Hem took the top spot in Europe.

The presence of Netflix on cable lineups has led CNNMoney's Fortune to question whether Netflix should still be considered a cable killer. The story also clarified a growing public misconception that Netflix is becoming a linear channel on the lineup. It's not; it's a non-linear, on-demand option.

"The notion of Netflix becoming an official channel is possible, although there may be changing definitions of what a channel is," Greg Ireland, research manager for multiscreen video at IDC told Fortune. "Having a presence in the guide with seamless accessibility is more channel-like than having to switch to a different box and bring up an app. But the overall notion of channels may evolve as on-demand evolves and for some viewers and for some content, live linear is less meaningful than it once was."

The deals with cable operators who offer subscribers their own TiVo-enabled boxes just removes a step from the process of getting Netflix via a broadband connection, said Joris Evers, a Netflix spokesman.

"It makes it easier for people to watch Netflix as you can watch it from the same device you use to watch regular TV," he told Fortune.

The presence of Netflix on any cable-approved lineup, though, is enough to create second guesses about its reputation as a cable killer. While some providers like Comcast (NASDAQ: CMCSA) may still resist the lure of the OTT provider, others are content to make it another feature of their broadband pipes, said Jim Holanda, CEO of RCN owner Patriot Media.

"When you go to TiVo Central on RCN you can see what is coming up live, catch up on the current season on our demand service and now you have the option to view previous seasons of a show on Netflix. The simplicity and ease of use is huge for our viewers," he said.

For more:
- Home Media has this story
- see the Netflix speed index
- and CNNMoney's Fortune has this story

Related articles:
AT&T 'in discussions' with Netflix over peering
Netflix, Verizon reach interconnection pact
Toll spat continues as Netflix accuses Comcast of double dipping
Netflix added to TiVo set-tops at Atlantic Broadband, Grande, RCN
TiVo's Rogers: Our differentiator is we have everything on one device

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