Liberty unveils Horizon 4

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Liberty Global has unveiled its next-generation TV entertainment platform, ‘Horizon 4’, at the company’s annual Tech Summit in Amsterdam.

The new Horizon 4 suite of products includes a superfast set-top box with 4K picture quality, a remote-control with voice capabilities and an upgraded version of Liberty’s ‘GO’ mobile app, which works together with the set-top box to deliver a seamless viewing experience. The platform will be introduced over the coming months to selected customers in The Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium, with a wider rollout in these and other Liberty Global markets to follow.

Horizon 4 set-top box has already been introduced as the ‘V6 box’ in the UK, where nearly 2 million customers are now using it in combination with TiVo software. The new platform to be rolled out in the coming months combines this set-top box with the new Horizon 4 user interface instead, which includes enhanced features such as:

  • Access to linear TV, Replay and Video on Demand;
  • Apps such as Netflix and YouTube – all in up to 4K picture quality;
  • Cloud storage of recordings – eliminating the need for a built-in hard drive;
  • At a later stage a wide, constantly-updated selection of web videos and online TV channels will be available;
  • All content is accessible via the single easy-to-use, newly-designed user interface;
  • A new remote with voice capabilities to control the box or search for things to watch just by speaking into the remote, offering an easier and more intuitive way of getting access to features and content.

Also, part of the new platform is a further enhanced version of the ‘GO’ mobile app which allows customers:

  • To watch content on-the-go – be it linear TV, replay or on-demand, whenever and wherever they want;
  • ‘Download to go’ functionality for a significant amount of content when going abroad or for viewing in an area without wifi or mobile coverage;
  • Viewers can continue watching the same programme where they left off on a different device – whether that be a mobile, tablet, laptop or TV;
  • The mobile app can also be used to control the set-top box or use ‘push to TV’ functionality to watch content on the big screen after searching for it with the app.

Enrique Rodriguez, Liberty Global’s EVP and Chief Technology Officer, commented: “Horizon 4 brings our customers the best user experience from Liberty Global’s ‘one platform’ strategy. Our teams develop a common set of products and services which are then rolled out across our local operating companies. This allows us to achieve significant scale and operating synergies. The launch of this latest instalment of our next-gen digital TV platform marks an important step in our journey of bringing great innovation in connected entertainment.”

Mark Giesbers, Liberty Global’s VP Entertainment Products added: “Today is an exciting day for our customers. They increasingly lead ‘fluid lives’ meaning they view content from many different providers on many different screens, especially on mobile devices, and at very different times during the day. We want to add value to customers’ lives and deliver on their expectation of ‘any content, any device, anywhere, anytime’. That means aggregating all those TV channels, movies, series and apps into one easy-to-use, seamless viewing experience – and across multiple devices. The new Horizon 4 platform with its 4K set-top box, the remote with voice-control and the improved mobile app allows us to do exactly that.”

The hardware and user interfaces of the Horizon 4 product suite were developed in-house by teams based at Liberty Global’s tech campus in Schiphol-Rijk in The Netherlands, together with various teams in other countries and with external partners across Europe. Before launching Horizon 4, the company tested the platform in over 10,000 customer homes in various different countries.

The Horizon 4 software powering the new 4K set-top box was developed using RDK (Reference Design Kit), which is supported by a software consortium with more than 350 members, managed by a joint-venture between Liberty Global, Comcast Cable and Charter Communications. One major improvement compared with previous set-top box platforms is that Horizon 4 will see updates being made every few weeks. This makes it easier to give customers continuous access to the latest features and functionalities, including further personalised functions such as tailored recommendations and individual watchlists. In addition, the release cycle will allow a faster rollout of software fixes and improvements.

Technology media and telco analyst Paolo Pescatore described the initiative as “a huge step in the right direction with all the latest tech features that users will desire, adding that more importantly, it represents a significant move towards the end of the set-top-box with the integration of cloud based features.

“Now, Liberty Global and its entities will need to recoup the cost by successfully deploying this new box in the market. And this is no easy feat given that the group and some of its companies are struggling to get users to sign up to more services. Therefore, expect the company to focus on subscriber retention.”

 


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