Liberty Global has confirmed that it will be launching its long-awaited Horizon platform in its Dutch market in September, followed by Switzerland before the end of the year. Based on internet protocols, the Horizon experience will be driven by a user interface from NDS, which is now part of Cisco. Together with developments such as the Comcast X1 platform, formerly announced as Xcalibur, it demonstrates moves by traditional cable network operators to embrace internet technologies to offer more sophisticated user experiences and enable more rapid response to an increasingly competitive market.
“Product innovation remains a core focus of ours as we strengthen our leadership position in digital video products and services,” said Mike Fries, the president and chief executive of Liberty Global. “We intend to roll out our next-generation Horizon video platform in the Dutch market next month, followed by Switzerland in Q4.”
Liberty Global has operations in 13 countries. For the first half of 2012 it reported revenues of just over $2.5 billion. Its consumer brands include UPC, Unitymedia, KabelBW, Telenet and VTR. UPC is the second largest cable television operator in the Netherlands, with around a million digital video customers. UPC Cablecom is the largest cable television operator in Switzerland, with around half a million digital video customers.
Liberty has now sold its interest in Austar in Australia, generating around $1.1 billion on the sale, providing a temporary boost to net earnings of $667 million.
The Liberty Global group has over 18.3 million video customers, 8.7 million broadband and 6.8 million telephony subscribers. It lost 169,000 video customers in the last six months but added 523,000 “revenue generating units” among digital cable subscribers. In the second half of 2012 the company expects its digital video business to benefit from the introduction of its next-generation Horizon video platform.
Horizon was first discussed at the beginning of 2010 and was presented at the IBC trade convention in Amsterdam in September 2011. Since then there has been much speculation about when it will launch, with the timetable apparently slipping significantly.
UPC describes the Horizon experience as “effortless, intuitive and visually engaging” with a 3D user interface providing a “totally new way to experience TV”.
The multimedia home gateway will be based on internet protocols and capable of distributing video, voice and data wirelessly throughout the home. Applications have been developed for smartphones and tablet devices as well as web browsers that will enable a similar and complementary experience on different devices both in and out of the home.
Briefing analysts, the chief executive of Liberty Global said that he had recently seen a demo of the Comcast X1 platform, previously known as Xcalibur. “I will simply say that we are in sync with Comcast on many levels,” he said. “Of course, I am biased; I think we are ahead on a number of fronts. Mostly as a result of the greatest sophistication and computing power in our gateway, but our roadmaps are very similar from a technology and product point of view.”
The new Horizon set-top box, manufactured by Samsung, with an Intel processor, will run the Snowflake user interface from NDS, now part of Cisco.
Cisco announced it had completed its acquisition of NDS at the end of July 2012, after its definitive agreement to acquire the video software and security business for approximately $5 billion.
Some years ago, informitv predicted that cable operators would increasingly move towards internet protocols for service delivery. One of the key benefits is the flexibility that this affords in delivering more compelling user experiences across multiple devices. The acquisition of NDS by Cisco marks a major milestone on this journey.