WOW product VP: 'Video will continue to be key category'

… with Torryon Coleman, VP of product development and technology integration, WOW!

When it comes to video services, there isn’t much middle ground in the cable industry left for small and mid-sized cable operators.

Either they’re choosing to scale back on programming deals and technological innovation, ceding ground to over-the-top services and emphasizing higher-margin broadband products.

Or instead, some operators are choosing to battle in the ever-more-competitive realm, finding innovative technology partners to deploy modern video delivery systems that appeal to next-generation consumers.

Englewood, Colo.-based WOW is a good example. In May, the MSO launched its new Swivel video service, a delivery system based on Evolution Digital-manufactured hybrid set-top boxes without hard drives, powered by TiVo software interface.

The system allows WOW to bridge the new IP-delivered world with QAM, and expand into cloud-based services, if it so chooses, while blending an array of standard pay-TV and OTT services into a modern video interface.

To learn more about WOW’s strategy, we caught up with the man who leads the company’s product development team, Torryon Coleman.

FierceCable: How many video subscribers does WOW! serve at this point?

Torryon Coleman: 500,000.

FierceCable: A lot of mid-size and smaller MSOs have diminished video’s relevance in relationship to broadband services. With competition so heavy and programming costs so high, where do you guys see the business headed?

Coleman: Video is and will continue to be a key product category for the company. However, it is fair to say we are emphasizing broadband growth over traditional video services, due to all of the reasons well-documented around cord-cutting, cord-shaving, etc. That said, WOW will continue to provide our customers with the best video experience we can, be that from content we source directly or through partnerships with OTT content and other providers. The direct integration of Netflix on our Ultra platform and recent announcement of Swivel are good examples of this. 

FierceCable: So the video experience is not the priority anymore?

Coleman: WOW has focused on providing an exceptional customer experience and over the years has been recognized for that. That will not change and we are very focused on bringing products and services to market that align with this strategy. We have a tremendous opportunity in front of us enabled by great products and services and a customer experience to match.

FierceCable: Your partnership with Evolution Digital has created what looks to be a pretty innovative service. Who is the target market right now for that service? How do you see it evolving?

Coleman: Yes, we believe it is very innovative and the right step forward to bring IP enabled services, a more robust OTT lineup, and cutting edge UI to a segment of our customers that doesn’t need or want a full linear lineup. Some of these advanced services are currently being offer through our Ultra platform. Call these customers cord shavers, but they that still want internet, Wi-Fi, OTT, and other broadband enabled services.

FierceCable: What is WOW’s thinking on IP-based delivery of video services?

Coleman: IP video and IP services overall are and will continue to be a key part of our technology strategy. There is a lot behind that answer obviously, but the shift to an all IP enabled network is significant in our go-forward strategy as an enabler to offer more flexibility and scale with all broadband products.

FierceCable: What are the biggest technical challenges right now in terms of video service delivery? How are you overcoming them?

Coleman: As an industry we have been talking network (IP) convergence for many years, and we believe more recent technology developments are providing a direct and clear path to get there. As we move more aggressively in that direction, one of the video specific challenges is with legacy infrastructure, CPE, etc., currently in place. While a wholesale change is not on the horizon, there is an evolutionary path to optimize the landscape by moving some of the functions to a centralized delivery architecture and minimizing both network and CPE being deployed. WOW is being methodical with the approach and are working closely with key partners to overcome the challenges. The plan is very much in motion.