Launching any new technology can be risky, which is why companies tend to do it so quietly. Not Cox Communications. With several years of consumer research and two years of collaboration with Cisco under its belt, the third largest MSO picked the biggest consumer electronics gathering in the world as the launch pad for its “Personal Video Experience.” The PVE, announced in Cox’s Las Vegas market at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, integrates a slew of new features into its Trio Program Guide and melds it all with an immersive second-screen app and better DVR functionality.
And rather than soft pedal with background briefings and booth product demos, Cox execs announced the wares at a ballroom in The Wynn (a Cox Business client, of course) where Cox pres Pat Esser (pictured, right) and Cisco CEO John Chambers (left) put it all out there for a room full of press and VIPs, including the mayors of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson, NCTA pres/CEO Michael Powell, Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager and high-level distribution execs at most of the major programming networks. No pressure right? “It was a very special moment,” recalls Esser. “It’s important to us, it’s important to the industry and it’s important to our technology partners who support us.” At the event, Chambers turned to Esser at one point and vowed “we will not let you down. I think what we’ve done together is amazing, and I think it’s just the start.”
Indeed, Cox hasn’t even finished rolling out the entire PVE suite yet. It launched the IP Gateway in the first quarter, with 2 terabytes of storage, 6 tuners and the ability to record multiple HD shows simultaneously, but Cox won’t launch its new second-screen app until later this summer. It will replace current app Cox TV Connect and increase from 35 to 90 the number of live streaming channels available for in-home viewing, add access to VOD content and enable use of the device as a remote control. But it’s really the ultimate integration of a personalized experience across devices that has the techies at Cox and Cisco so excited, especially as they put the research phase behind them and roll out to the real world. “The battle cry was to improve our speed to market and improve our ability to innovate,” says Esser of Cox’s management and employees. “They have worked so hard on it the last three years, and now we’re starting to see the benefit coming out of that.”
Cox COO Jill Campbell says the companywide PVE push has also spurred other operational benefits, such as improved communication and collaboration across Cox divisions. “I’ve been with the company 32 years, and I have never been more excited about the process that we have put into place in order to get products out to market very quickly,” she says, noting that the PVE “has rejuvenated people like I’ve never seen.” And that excitement will need to sustain over even more product cycles in the future. “Competitors are going to come out of the woodwork with new things that we’re either going to have to match or [beat],” she says. “But I think that’s tremendous if you’re a consumer. Because clearly we’re in a highly competitive market, and that makes everyone better.”
Perhaps Chambers said it best at the CES event when he looked out into the room and predicted the start of a new age for cable. “It’s interesting to watch when you catch a market transition,” he told attendees. “You’ll look back two years from now, and you’ll probably say this was a tipping point for the whole TV experience.” No matter what happens, Cox execs know one thing for sure: Its PVE rollout has been a long time coming. And it’s finally here.
– Michael Grebb