If there's one thing cable television subscribers want more of, it's value for their dollar. Cox Communications aims to answer that request with a new service called Contour, which combines an iPad app and digital television guide that creates a personalized experience for up to eight users.
Currently available for the iPad (second generation and newer), the free Contour app does several things: allows users to watch live programming, gives access to Cox's large On DEMAND selection, and learns what its users like to watch. It then takes that information and creates a personalized menu for the user, listing his or her favorite networks and shows, and makes recommendations for similar content.
For instance, if you like watching home improvement shows, dramas on AMC and “Duck Dynasty,” Contour will recommend networks and shows that fit those genres.
Since it does allow up to eight users, the Contour app allows everyone in the house to experience the technology for themselves. That way a family of five with different tastes will be able to hop on the app, sign in and immediately be taken to their favorite kind of programming.
Speaking of signing in, after a user does so, he or she is given three options: My Library (which integrates apps like HBO Go and WatchDisney), Live (content available for live streaming) and On DEMAND (content available through Cox's service.) From there, the user selects the desired programming and it begins playing on the iPad.
There currently are 90 networks that offer live streaming content through the Contour app, including A&E, ABC Family, CNN, Disney Channel and HGTV.
One of the best features the Contour service delivers is its ability to transfer live television and On DEMAND content from the app to the viewer's television. However, this feature is available only to Cox subscribers with the Record 6 DVR, which currently accounts for 12 percent of Cox cable subscribers.
Transitioning from the iPad to the television is easy and smooth: simply tap a button and away you go. Once the programming is on the television, users can switch to different content in the app, or shut down the app altogether, without disrupting what they're watching.
Using the Contour's television guide, users can also set individual Record 6 DVR units to record up to six shows at once. So if a household has three units, a total of 18 shows can be recorded at once.
What about price?
In a way, the Contour experience is a simple and effective solution to the desire some cable subscribers have to be able to cherry pick what networks they subscribe to. While it doesn't cut down on costs and requires extra hardware (an iPad and the Record 6 DVR), the Contour app basically becomes the J.A.R.V.I.S. to your inner Tony Stark: It learns from you and offers up only content that fits your criteria.
With that said, some people might feel they will need to have Stark's bankroll to fully experience the Contour app, as it requires specific Cox bundles (TV and High Speed Internet Preferred or higher), and the Record 6 DVR.
I visited the Cox website and priced out a Preferred bundle using an Oklahoma City-area ZIP code. As a new customer, I was given the option to lock in a two-year subscription for $99.99 a month, for just TV and Internet Preferred services. Adding the Contour TV package, one Record 6 DVR and the DVR service costs an additional $33.49 a month. The grand total: $133.48 before taxes and fees, all so I can use the Contour service to its full potential. After the two-year lock-in expires, the price jumps to more than $160.
Though it might be pricey for a single person, it can be a good deal for households with multiple incomes, like those made up of roommates. For example, a house with four college-aged roommates means the bill could be split four ways, which brings it to about $33 a month per person.
Contour is set to hit Android tablets and phones by the end of the year, with the iPhone version not far behind that.
According to national numbers provided by Cox, more than 50 percent of households that subscribe to Cox services reported watching streaming video on smartphones and tablets. Based on that, the Contour service is a logical step forward in creating a better, more valuable experience for subscribers.
The app's sleek and intuitive design is easy to like, and is a much better experience than using the similar Cox TV Connect app ever was. If the added cost isn't a turn off, then going Contour is a no-brainer.