The 2.0 version of Microsoft Mediaroom middleware is the enabler of a new IPTV capability announced by SureWest Communications in its Sacramento market yesterday. Customers now will be able to pause or rewind live programs from any set-top box.
“Until now customers had to record [a program] or use a DVR to pause or rewind live TV,” explained Jaime Montes, SureWest video product manager, in an interview. When watching buffered programming, users also will be able to fast-forward from any set top box. AT&T made similar moves recently with their U-Verse IPTV offer.
Eventually Mediaroom 2.0 could support what some call “TV Everywhere” functionality that would enable customers to watch subscription video on equipment such as computers or mobile devices, Montes said. But SureWest does not anticipate offering that capability until content providers agree to it.
SureWest’s new STB capabilities have been available for new installations for about two weeks, during which time SureWest also has been upgrading existing customers of its Advanced Digital TV offering. During that time, feedback on social networks and from customers receiving new service has been “fantastic,” Montes said.
This summer, SureWest plans to launch several additional capabilities that rely on Mediaroom 2.0, including enhanced picture-in-picture functionality and the ability to watch four channels at once on the same TV screen. In addition, SureWest said it is in the “final stages” of releasing a new Whole Home DVR with double the storage space, as well as adding more than 20 new channels to its lineup, more On Demand content and extra online video content. Whole Home DVR lets multiple television sets share the functionality of a single DVR.
In California, SureWest has a range of video competitors, including Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network—and the carrier views the Mediaroom-based capabilities as important differentiators. When the company expanded its Mediaroom-based Advanced Digital TV service availability to 1500 new homes in late April, it said it picked up 10% of the potential customers in that area in just two weeks.
The new Mediaroom 2.0-based capabilities announced yesterday will be available only to SureWest Advanced Digital TV users in the Sacramento area. SureWest’s video strategy in California combines the fiber-to-the-home approach used by Verizon with the Mediaroom platform used by AT&T. The company uses different middleware—from Cisco—to support advanced video services in its Kansas City market, for the time being anyway.