The platform will be introduced over the coming months to selected customers in The Netherlands (Ziggo), Switzerland (UPC) and Belgium (Telenet), with a wider rollout in these and other Liberty Global markets to follow.
In Belgium, Telenet has already started to invite customers to sign up for the test programme of the new STB with 20,000 users. At this year’s ANGA COM, the company’s German subsidiary Unitymedia showed a prototype. In November of last year, Unitymedia CEO Lutz Schüler told Broadband TV News the operator’s plans with the new STB.
The new Horizon 4 set-top box has already been introduced as the V6 box in the UK, where nearly two 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.
Already two years ago, Liberty Global said it was evaluating a new generation of Horizon which will be Ultra HD/4K capable.
The new STB gives access ccess to linear TV, Replay and Video on Demand; and to apps such as Netflix and YouTube – all in up to 4K Ultra HD picture quality. Recordings will be stored in the cloud rather than on a local hard drive – the company gave no details how long the recordings will be saved, but in Belgium Telenet said rcordings will automatically be erased after 60 days, unless the viewer wants to keep the recording, which is possible up to five years.
At a later stage a wide, constantly-updated selection of web videos and online TV channels will be available. For the moment, all linear channels are distributed via DVB-C, but in the future IP delivery will be possible, as the Horizon 4 STB is fully hybrid.
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.
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 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 personalized functions such as tailored recommendations and individual watchlists. In addition, the release cycle will allow a faster rollout of software fixes and improvements.