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TWC streaming trials appear to focus on 'skinny' bundles, not IP replacement strategy

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Is Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC) trying to save CPE and truck roll costs by converting its full, traditionally robust video programming packages into an IP-only service, or is it going after the broadband-only crowd with streaming skinny bundles?

As the MSO tests streaming-only services in the New York City market, that question now appears difficult to answer.

Last week, the blog Cord Cutter News published a screen grab of a TWC promotional page that included the three IP-only packages involved in the test. Two of them featured only around 20 channels, with price tags ranging from $10 to $20 a month, depending on whether premium networks Showtime and Starz were included.

A more deluxe $50-a-month packages included the premium channels, plus about 70 networks.

All three tiers appear to meet the criteria for "skinny" bundling, inexpensive programming tiers designed to entice broadband-only users who don't want to pay a premium for channels they don't watch.

TWC reps told FierceInstaller that the details about these packages isn't new — the MSO said it linked to this promo page back in November, when it announced its New York trials.

Regardless as to when the product details were actually announced, there seems to be a disconnect between TWC's stated strategy for reducing CPE and truck roll costs, and the actual configuration of the bundles.

In discussions with investors, TWC Chairman and CEO Rob Marcus dismissed the notion that the IP service represents his company's attempt at skinny bundling. In fact, he described it as merely an IP version of the full 300-plus-network bundle TWC distributes though its traditional cable service.

"As we move forward and what we're trialing with this beta in New York, we're going to move that TWC TV capability toward a full video offering that, in fact, could be substitutional for the traditional set-top box-based video product," Marcus told investors in November. "And where we're headed is the ability of customers to access the complete video product without having to rent a set-top box from us, whether they use a Roku or they use ultimately another IP enabled-device.

"You can simply type in your username and password, and you have video," Marcus added. "And that's certainly a good guy in terms of the economics of doing the business. It's certainly a less capital-intensive model, in that customers will likely bring their own devices. And that will reduce the CPE capital requirements for us."

Meanwhile, in its November press release, TWC said that, "Participating customers will have access to over 300 live TV channels and 20,000 free and subscription VOD choices from TWC, combined with the ability to seamlessly access online streaming services to which they subscribe, like Netflix and Hulu, all on the Roku box."

Asked Friday if there was another IP-only tier that offered 300 channels, a TWC rep didn't respond.

Related articles:
TWC unveils IP-only NYC test service: It's a skinny bundle after all
TWC's Cottrell: Primary goal of new streaming service 'is to allow customers to watch video without a set-top box'
TWC, CBS and others rush into an OTT future, but some strategies make way more sense than others

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