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Cloudy Days for Bright House Networks Ahead? Comcast-Time Warner Merger Complicates Volume Discounts

(Original image: Musée McCord Museum - Re-envisioned by Stop the Cap!)

(Original image: Musée McCord Museum) — (Re-envisioned by Stop the Cap!)

Bright House Networks customers could face much higher cable television bills and a decline in technology upgrades thanks to a merger deal between two companies that should theoretically have no impact on them.

Bright House Networks has been an odd duck among cable companies since it was created from cobbled-together systems originally owned by Vision Cable, Cable Vision, TelePrompTer, Group W, Paragon and others. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Time Warner effectively ran the cable systems still owned by the Newhouse family. After the AOL-Time Warner merger, Advance/Newhouse decided to take back control of the management and operations of its cable systems, relaunching them under the Bright House Networks brand.

While the Newhouse family continues to assert its ownership and control of Bright House, it is highly dependent on Time Warner Cable to handle cable programming negotiations and broadband technology. That is why Bright House customers were sold “Road Runner” broadband service for many years – a brand familiar to any Time Warner customer. To this day, programming blackouts that affect Time Warner cable TV viewers usually also impact those subscribing to Bright House. Time Warner Cable also retains a minority ownership interest in Bright House.

Although the company is well-known in Indianapolis, Birmingham, suburban Detroit and Bakersfield, its presence is most recognized in central Florida, where it serves customers in Orlando, Daytona Beach, Lakeland, Tampa Bay, and many points in-between.

Despite the fact Bright House serves more than two million customers and is the sixth largest cable company in the country, it is small potatoes to major programmers like Comcast-NBCUniversal, Viacom, Disney, and others. All the best discounts go to satellite television providers and giant cable operators like Comcast and Time Warner Cable. Smaller operators pay substantially more.

That is where the merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable comes in.

brighthouse1The federal government is likely to count Bright House’s 2.2 million customers as part of the Time Warner Cable family, at least as far as control of cable programming pricing is concerned. Despite Comcast’s voluntary commitment to keep its national share of the cable TV business under 30 percent with the merger of Time Warner, Comcast hasn’t taken seriously counting  the customers of the uninvited cousin – Bright House.

Logistically and legally, Comcast would assume control of Time Warner Cable’s interest in Bright House if the merger is approved by state and federal regulators. That may be too much for regulators to swallow.

Because Bright House is insignificant to Comcast and Time Warner Cable’s marriage plans, Comcast could end up terminating the arrangement, which even Bright House acknowledged would put it “at risk of losing the material benefits such agreements provide, include possibly raising costs for its customers and hampering its ability to compete effectively—a result that would certainly not be in the public interest.”

The Newhouse family has evidently seen the writing on the wall, hiring Wall Street investment bank UBS to advise whether it makes sense to sell. If Bright House does decide to hang out a “for sale” sign, Time Warner Cable has the right to bid first. But by that time, if things go according to plan, it might be Comcast ultimately swallowing up yet another large cable system.

Bright House, Time Warner Cable, and Mediacom Customers Get Expanded TV Everywhere

NBC_Universal.svgThree cable operators have announced additions to their TV Everywhere services that let cable television subscribers stream certain cable networks from home computers and portable wireless devices.

Time Warner and Bright House are inching towards making their apps more useful with new deals that will allow viewing outside of the home. Unsurprisingly, Time Warner has managed to sign a deal with their potential new owner — Comcast/NBCUniversal —  that includes anywhere-viewing of live and on demand content from NBCUniversal’s suite of cable networks including USA Network, Syfy, Telemundo, Bravo, Oxygen, CNBC, MSNBC, mun2, NBC Sports Network, and Golf Channel, as well as local NBC and Telemundo-owned broadcast stations.

Since Time Warner Cable handles cable programming negotiations for Bright House Networks, both customers will receive the enhanced service.

Within the next few days, customers will have access to the NBC Sports Live Extra and Golf Live Extra services via apps on iOS and Android devices, as well as online. Access to the remaining broadcast and cable networks will become available to Time Warner Cable and Bright House customers starting in September, and continuing on an ongoing basis. Customers must verify their subscription to begin watching.

nfl channelUnfortunately, there are only a handful of NBC-owned and operated broadcast stations across both companies’ service areas. In most cases, local affiliate stations are owned and operated by other corporate entities and will not be included in this deal.

Mediacom Communications has expanded its own TV Everywhere package, adding NFL Network and NFL RedZone this week, along with mobile access to FX, FXX, FX Movies, National Geographic and National Geographic Wild.

Mediacom now offers 40 channels for out-of-home viewing and plans to add FOX Sports Go and other popular sports networks by September.

TV Everywhere allows Mediacom customers to always be connected to live entertainment and information,” said Mediacom senior vice president Ed Pardini. “Adding new channels to this service extends the value of a video subscription by giving customers more options to view their favorite programs when and where they want, whether that’s the big screen in living rooms or with the convenience of a mobile device.”

Mediacom customers looking for NFL Network and NFL RedZone on smartphones and tablets must download the free NFL Mobile App by going to the web site. Mediacom is now listed as a participating provider. Customers should log in with their Mediacom email address and username.

Bright House Introduces “Echo”; Extended Range for Your In-Home Wi-Fi Using MoCA Technology

bright house echo

Bright House Networks is leveraging their partnership with the Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MoCA) to bring an end to Wi-Fi dead spots with the introduction of Echo, a scalable in-home Wi-Fi network.

Echo expands the coverage of a traditional in-home wireless router by adding wireless access points in areas where Wi-Fi reception is poor. All a customer needs is a nearby Bright House cable connection. The new service isn’t a traditional wireless repeater. Echo relies on a wired connection between the access point and your cable modem/router using Bright House’s existing coaxial cable inside your home.  The result is faster, more reliable Wi-Fi.

Moca-connected-home2“This is an Advanced Wireless Gateway, a next generation, dual-band modem/router that delivers more range and signal strength,” says Bright House. “From there, Echo Access Points can be used anywhere there is a cable outlet. An access point is a small device that works in conjunction with the modem to extend the home network. Connecting an access point extends the wired network because each access point has two Ethernet ports. Echo turns your existing coaxial cable network into a robust Ethernet network which means that if you have Lightning 90, you should receive speeds up to 90Mbps from the modem and each access point. Connecting an access point also extends the wireless network because each access point is its own Wi-Fi hotspot.”

MoCA is a compelling technology for customers who do not want multiple cable runs installed in their home or business. Originally designed primarily to transport video from “whole house” master DVR’s to remote set-top boxes and other devices, the technology is evolving into an a comprehensive in-home wired coax network capable of moving high-speed data, video, audio, and other traffic concurrently. Everything moves across the same cable TV wiring already in many homes.

Cable, telephone and satellite companies are contemplating introducing a number of MoCA-enabled features, some similar to Bright House’s Echo. Every cable outlet can potentially be a Wi-Fi hotspot as well as the source for IPTV services like Roku, Apple TV, or even cable television without the need of a traditional set-top box.

Bright House will initially market Echo to less technically proficient customers uncomfortable configuring wireless repeaters or remote access points.

Early reports indicate Bright House will charge a $29.95 mandatory trip charge to install and configure the service. Return visits to add extra access points run $29.95 per visit. Echo’s monthly cost starts at $10 — $6 for the service and $4 for the equipment. There is an extra charge of $3 a month for each access point.

The service was expected to launch this week, starting in Florida.

Central Florida Customers Abandoning Bright House Over Expensive Digital Conversion

Phillip Dampier April 30, 2014 Bright House, Consumer News 1 Comment

angry guyAngry customers were seen turning in their cable equipment this week as Bright House Networks switched off its analog and unencrypted signals in central Florida as part of a digital upgrade.

Customers had until Tuesday to pick up a set-top box for every cable-connected television in the home. Bright House is supplying up to two boxes for free until the end of this year after which basic adapter boxes are expected to cost customers $2 a month each.

“They’ve come up with a new scheme to sell us another piece of equipment we don’t necessarily need,” Bright House customer Chris Brown complained to WFTV. He canceled his cable service.

So did customer Steve Cartaya.

“I’m canceling my service with Bright House today,” Cartaya said. “Bills go up every month.”

“We’re transferring from an analog signal to a digital signal here in Central Florida,” said Donald Forbes, senior director of corporate communications for Bright House Networks. “In order to get that digital encrypted signal, you’re doing to need that digital adapter.”

“I say this is the biggest bunch of garbage that has ever been bestowed on the public in this county,” said Kenneth Harter. “Because I have $1,000 worth of TVs at home with built-in features, they have intentionally designed this system so I can’t use it, to where at the end of 12 months they can collect revenue on this equipment.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WFTV Orlando Bright House customers without boxes losing signals 4-30-14.flv

WFTV in Orlando talked with some Bright House customers arriving with equipment in hand to cancel their cable service over a digital conversion that will encrypt every cable channel. (1:28)

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/WKMG Orlando Bright House Customer Digital Conversion 4-28-14.flv

WKMG in Orlando explains more about the digital adapters being distributed to Bright House customers and those unhappy they are now forced to use them. (3:30)

 

Bright House Networks to Build Limited 1Gbps Fiber to the Home Network in Tampa

ultrafiDespite the fact cable companies routinely claim customers don’t want or need gigabit broadband speeds, property developers seeking an edge in the real estate market do.

A planned community of 6,000 homes under construction by Metro Development Group (MDG) in Tampa has signed a deal to commit Bright House Networks to install a 1Gbps fiber-to-the-home network within the development. MDG said the first homes wired for the new service will be ready for residents this summer, but the entire project will take three years to finish.

“MDG hopes the fast Internet speeds will attract would-be buyers for the new homes,” said MDG president Greg Singleton.

brighthouse_logoMDG is branding the fiber service as ULTRAFi. It will be accompanied by a gigabit Wi-Fi network accessible throughout the community. In addition to providing fast broadband, the service will include home automation and security services.

The driver for the gigabit broadband project isn’t Bright House Networks, it is the property developer. Even though Bright House has committed to the project, it still denies consumers need super fast Internet speeds offered by providers like Google Fiber.

mdgBright House president Nomi Bergman acknowledged the project is a special deal with MDG and it will be years before average consumers need anything close to gigabit broadband speeds. Bergman said there is insufficient demand to justify upgrading Bright House Networks’ broadband speed offerings to other customers.

MDG obviously disagrees, because it hopes to extend fiber-to-the-home gigabit service to its other new communities. That could mean 20,000 more homes could eventually get gigabit broadband.

“In five or 10 years, I think communities that are not doing this” will be “obsolete,” Singleton said.

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