Cox 'Plus Package' brings advanced Trio UI, 500GB multiroom DVR and more HD channels

Cox is ready to make a major leap forward in its user interface -- goodbye SARA and Passport, we won't miss you -- with the newly developed "Plus Package" rolling out in limited areas during Q2 and throughout its service area by the end of the year. For the hardware Cox is bringing a Whole Home DVR solution to bear based on a Cisco 8642 HD/DVR with 500GB (3x more than the sizes currently offered) of storage, and MoCA-connected 1642 HD receivers, which are also necessary to tune to the new HD channels on the way delivered over Switched Digital Video (SDV) in the 860-MHz band.

The star of the show however is the new "Trio" program guide (video embedded after the break), a 16:9 interface that spaces out program info over three panes -- channels on the left, programs in the middle, details on the right. TV programs can also be sorted grid-style, by themes, HD-only or favorite channels, while VOD lists titles, box art and detailed info in the three window style. There's personalization for up to eight members of a household, as well as TiVo-style suggestions and related programming searches based on metadata. An exec told Multichannel News the new tru2way-built software started by realizing that "our guides were, in fact, broken" and this all-new approach is a step towards fixing that. Besides the TiVos and Moxis of the world, other service providers with similar setups include DirecTV, FiOS, Dish Network and U-verse and while we'd definitely like to see that middle pane expanded a bit to show more of each title, Cox could be the first cable company offering a set-top box that actually competes with any of them.

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Cox Introduces Advanced TV Plus Package - a Superior TV Experience Enabled by New Trio Program Guide(SM)

'Plus Package' Offers Advanced Interactive Programming Guide, Whole Home DVR, More DVR Storage, More HD Channels, Zone Channels and Personalization

ATLANTA, May 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Cox Communications today announced its new superior TV experience, the Plus Package, available with Cox Advanced TV, offering access to:

The Trio program guide(SM) - A new, advanced interactive programming guide
Whole Home DVR Service
Additional DVR storage space
Additional high-definition channels
Zone Channels

Plus Package will debut in select Cox markets in the second quarter and will be deployed to Cox's entire footprint by year-end.

The crown jewel of the Plus Package subscription is access to Cox's innovative and highly-anticipated Trio program guide, designed by Cox in partnership with Frog Design and implemented by NDS.

"Plus Package gives customers everything they've been asking for – more great HD content; easier, more intuitive discovery of programming; the ability to personalize their TV viewing; and, with whole home DVR, anytime/any room access to what they want to watch," commented Steve Necessary, vice president of video strategy and product management for Cox. "We are especially excited for Cox customers to experience the revolutionary Trio guide, which we built in response to their feedback on how a better guide could improve their TV viewing experience."

The Trio guide features three panels on a single screen to make content browsing easier, more informative and intuitive. Panel one (left) lists channels vertically in numerical order. Panel two (middle) shows programs on the selected channel, and panel three (right) gives a detailed description of the program selected in the middle pane. On DEMAND listings include titles, poster art and program description information all in the three panes of a single Trio screen, making navigation and selection of On DEMAND content fast and easy. In addition, the Trio guide gives customers the ability to sort available program information in a grid guide view, a theme view, a high-definition programming view, a Zone Channels view and a favorite channels view. Uniquely, the Trio guide also endows customers with the ability to search and browse related content across three platforms – linear airings, On DEMAND titles and DVR recordings – seamlessly and conveniently. The Trio guide's powerful unified search function allows customers to search based on title, actor/director and keyword. The Trio guide's browse-related feature identifies shows that have something in common with a currently selected show, such as upcoming episodes, related series, shows within the same genre or shows starring the same actors. Up to eight users in a home can personalize their viewing experience by selecting favorite channels and customizing iTV applications.

"After extensive research and thorough review of available guide options, we determined that the best way to meet customers' needs was to design our own guide from scratch," said Lisa Pickelsimer, executive director of video product development. "We involved our customers all along the way in our development process. Customers are frustrated with the limited capabilities of simple grid guides and many have resorted to channel surfing only a small number of favorite channels -- missing out on the joy of discovering exciting, new content included in their TV subscription. The easier, more logical navigation and powerful search and browse capabilities we're giving customers with the Trio guide will help them get more out of Cox Advanced TV as they uncover new entertainment favorites."

Necessary observed the significance of the Trio guide's personalization options, "We are no longer serving the household in simple broadcast fashion. Instead, we are serving each individual in the household. Users will be able to access the programming they personally care about rapidly and will more easily find content of interest that they may not know is available. This is just the start of how we will make our video service more relevant for each member of the family."

Plus Package also offers customers access to the Cox Whole Home DVR solution, allowing them to watch and control recorded shows on any TV in the home from a single DVR unit. Up to three different recordings can be viewed simultaneously on different televisions throughout the home. Customers will also have access to up to three times more DVR storage space with a new 500GB hard drive.

Cox is using tru2way-based Cisco 8642 HD/DVR and 1642 HD receivers to deploy Plus Package and these will be used in all Cox markets, including Cox's Motorola environments. This marks the first time that a cable company broadly implements a cross platform set-top solution. The new Cisco set-tops also have the capability to tune above 860 Mhz, where Cox will transmit the additional HD channels included with Plus Package in markets so enabled. A leader in the enhancement of its video network for additional capacity, Cox is among the first cable operators to begin delivering video in 860 Mhz spectrum.

"Tru2way has created an environment for innovation," said James Kelso, Cox's vice president of video engineering. "Now that we are using a standards-based platform, the opportunity for working with more and different vendors is real. With tru2way, we anticipate faster application development and speedier deployments of new services to our customers."

Customers can add the Plus Package to any level of Cox Advanced TV (digital video service) for a small monthly fee.