Hart: Cox evaluating next-gen IP video product

Cox Communications is developing a next-generation video service similar to the FlareWatch virtual cable product it tested recently in California, EVP and CTO Kevin Hart told FierceCable.

Hart said Cox received positive feedback from subscribers in Orange County who tested the product, which used IP video to deliver about 90 networks to subscribers using a set-top and button-less remote control from Fanhattan. 

ESPN parent Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) was among the major programmers that allowed Cox to use their networks for the three-month trial, which ended in September. Hart said programmers have expressed interest in Cox's trial, but that rights issues still remain a challenge for virtual cable distribution.

"There [have] been good conversations. We're in that trial post-mortem evaluation phase now in terms of what does this mean, what does this look like going forward," Hart said during an interview at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) has said it may be able to use its Xfinity platform to develop a virtual cable product, and the MSO also has the capability to use Internet video distribution to sell pay TV packages to subscribers outside its footprint.

Hart said Cox doesn't currently have a plan to expand outside markets where it owns cable systems by using virtual distribution, but he wouldn't rule out the idea. "That's not our current plan or strategy. But this is a fast moving industry. There are competitive threats and new opportunities on a daily basis, and we definitely have to evaluate them," he added. 

Cox hasn't said if it would work with Fanhattan or another tech vendor on future versions of its virtual cable product, or if it would keep the FlareWatch brand. Hart noted that the key focus of the trial was to "test the customer feedback about the user interface, and our ability to partner with a third party like a Fanhattan."

To see the complete interview with Hart, check out FierceCable's issue on Monday.

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