Time Warner Wants In: But Can They Deliver?

Posted by , , at 6:15 pm

With many of the cable and telecom “big boys” deciding to entry the highly competitive world of home security, it was only a question of time before Time Warner got back in the game. I say “back in the game” because they were once engaged in the business of protecting homes and families; however, like most of their colleagues in cable and telecommunications, they exited the alarm space some time ago. But now they are back, following in the footsteps of Comcast, Cox, Verizon, Rogers (in Canada), and even AT&T. The alarm industry is watching these new entrants closely, and some significant players have taken an outspoken stance, as this article from Seattle demonstrates.

For decades, the only theft the cable industry worried about involved people trying to get MTV and HBO without paying for them. Now some of the biggest cable companies — including Comcast and Time Warner Cable — are looking to do more than just safeguard their signals from piracy. They want to use their broadband service to provide a home-security system that would protect your big-screen television, the couch in front of it and even the family jewels.

What is Driving Cable Companies to Home Security?

The cable industry is facing myriad challenges to its core businesses. The weak economy has led many consumers to cancel their pay-television service, while others are switching to competing video-delivery options, including satellite operators, telephone companies and the online services Netflix and Hulu. Finding new ways to keep subscribers hooked up is crucial. “The industry is increasingly looking to squeeze more juice out of their relationship with the customer,” said Rich Greenfield, a media analyst with financial services firm BTIG.

The fact is that the average home alarm customer stays around much longer than the average cable customer: by “bundling” these services, the cable giants believe they can stem the tide of cancellations on profitable services by adding an additional service with greater longevity – home security. My prior post on this topic offers some great background information.

More on Why

“All of our research said it was a good business to go after,” said Keith Burkley, Time Warner Cable’s senior vice president responsible for the company’s Intelligent Home security system. “The market is 20 percent penetrated, and we really believe it is going to grow to over 30 percent.”

Comparing Technology

In the past, even the most sophisticated home-security systems were clunky and costly, requiring lots of hard wire, typically connecting to a landline telephone. Now wireless allows for video cameras, motion detectors and door sensors. Even lights and the thermostat can be controlled from a remote wireless. “It’s taking the best of security and marrying it with the cutting edge of technology,” said Mitch Bowling, Comcast’s senior vice president and general manager of new businesses. At the same time, the price has dropped. A system that would have cost thousands of dollars to install less than a decade ago now runs only a couple of hundred bucks.

And nobody knows the pricing comparison better than FrontPoint – since we are known for having the most affordable systems around, both for the initial equipment purchase, and the monthly services.

Public Reaction

Initial consumer reactions to cable providers offering alarms are mixed, with one web site affiliated with Consumer Reports fielding many comments that indicated a thumbs down. My favorite is this one, a simulated response from a cable company after an alarm event:

“We just received an alarm from your XFinity Security System. The police are scheduled to arrive between 9:00 am and 1:00 pm next Thursday. Please make sure someone is home to let them in. Or, if you prefer, you may choose the self-arrest option.”

As a “real” alarm company that is focused on protecting homes and families, FrontPoint welcomes the advertising budgets that these new entrants will bring to increasing public awareness of interactive monitoring services – exactly the advanced features that FrontPoint has offered since our inception in 2007. We also expect that the more people research their options, the more they’ll choose FrontPoint. As the leader in wireless home security, we specialize in the best protection: that’s why we’re the #1 ranked alarm company in the US. FrontPoint is safer, smarter, simpler, more affordable, and virtually impossible to defeat.

 

Comments (16)

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  1. arlie

    which service is better,TW or ADC for home monitoring?

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Arlie – Great question, and thanks for asking. Time Warner uses the iControl platform (the same platform as ADT, Comcast, Cox, and some others) for their interactive services. The single biggest difference between Alarm.com and these other companies using iControl is in the interactive services. With Alarm.com, which is what FrontPoint offers, almost all the interactive services utilize the safer and more robust cellular connection that is built into the alarm system. In fact, with Alarm.com, it’s only the video services that use a broadband connection. With the other companies, including Time Warner, the interactive services are all run over the more vulnerable Internet connection. That means if the Internet connection is lost for any reason, you lose access to ALL the interactive services. Hard to believe, but true: a burglar severing the internet connection, a loss of power in the home (unless you have a battery backup on your router or modem, which most people do not have), or even lapses in your Internet service itself can all rob you of that important connection to the home. Plus, only the Alarm.com platform offers Crash & Smash protection with its interactive services. In other words, we think it’s a very clear choice between companies. Thanks again.

      • Chris

        Time Warner Cable has back up cell service with their alarm system as well. I did the research before having mine installed

        • Peter M. Rogers

          Chris – you are right that Time Warner does use a cellular connection for the basic monitoring function. I’m referring to the interactive services (heavily promoted by these new entrants to the alarm industry). You may want to ask Time Warner if any of the interactive services work in the event that you lose your Internet connection. I am referring here to remote control of the system for arm/disarm, text and email notifications, home automation, etc. I bet you they say you are without all those services – since Time Warner does not use a cellular connection for them. And how about if you lose power in the home? Do you have a battery backup on your router or modem? If not, all those cool services will go away, but you will still have basic alarm protection – via the cellular connection and the backup batter in your alarm system. While you are at it, ask them how long that battery lasts: ours lasts a full 24 hours, not the four hours used by most alarm companies.

  2. arlie

    which service is better,TW or ADC for home monitoring?

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Arlie – Great question, and thanks for asking. Time Warner uses the iControl platform (the same platform as ADT, Comcast, Cox, and some others) for their interactive services. The single biggest difference between Alarm.com and these other companies using iControl is in the interactive services. With Alarm.com, which is what FrontPoint offers, almost all the interactive services utilize the safer and more robust cellular connection that is built into the alarm system. In fact, with Alarm.com, it’s only the video services that use a broadband connection. With the other companies, including Time Warner, the interactive services are all run over the more vulnerable Internet connection. That means if the Internet connection is lost for any reason, you lose access to ALL the interactive services. Hard to believe, but true: a burglar severing the internet connection, a loss of power in the home (unless you have a battery backup on your router or modem, which most people do not have), or even lapses in your Internet service itself can all rob you of that important connection to the home. Plus, only the Alarm.com platform offers Crash & Smash protection with its interactive services. In other words, we think it’s a very clear choice between companies. Thanks again.

      • Chris

        Time Warner Cable has back up cell service with their alarm system as well. I did the research before having mine installed

        • Peter M. Rogers

          Chris – you are right that Time Warner does use a cellular connection for the basic monitoring function. I’m referring to the interactive services (heavily promoted by these new entrants to the alarm industry). You may want to ask Time Warner if any of the interactive services work in the event that you lose your Internet connection. I am referring here to remote control of the system for arm/disarm, text and email notifications, home automation, etc. I bet you they say you are without all those services – since Time Warner does not use a cellular connection for them. And how about if you lose power in the home? Do you have a battery backup on your router or modem? If not, all those cool services will go away, but you will still have basic alarm protection – via the cellular connection and the backup batter in your alarm system. While you are at it, ask them how long that battery lasts: ours lasts a full 24 hours, not the four hours used by most alarm companies.

  3. A. Consumer

    I’ve been doing a lot of research and I am finding that most security companies are using the same monitoring centers and paying them less than the fees they are charging their customers. With most security equipment being standard or “old technology” it makes sense for me to try my cable company that is installing STATE OF THE ART technology that fits my lifestyle. And they didn’t give me some ridiculous monitoring quote because “I need a lot of sensors” which the security company salesperson said. with TWC security it’s a low monitoring fee “no matter how many sensors I need.”

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks for your comment, Mr./Ms. Consumer. There is so much I could say in response to your post, but I’ll try to be brief. Even the cable companies charge more than they pay for monitoring – every one of them. Otherwise they would lose money! And it’s not accurate to say that “most” alarm companies are selling older equipment – though some are. FrontPoint certainly is selling the latest (proven) technology, and it works: some of the cable providers are selling equipment and services that they do not understand and cannot support, with documented bugs. Check out their user forums, and you’ll see for yourself – it’s not pretty. As for higher fees for additional sensors, no self-respecting alarm company will charge a higher monthly fee just because you add more doors, windows, motions, glass breaks, etc. We certainly do not do that.

      It happens that cable companies are not providing either the most modern equipment, or the best level of service, or technology that actually provides true peace of mind. Here are two big examples: in the first place, they run all the interactive services over a broadband connection, instead of a cell connection (the way we do for everything except video). That is because we use Alarm.com, the best of all the interactive service platforms. Internet connections are less robust, less reliable, and can easily be cut with a $3 pair of wire cutters. And some of these cable companies even default their alarm signal communication to the broadband connection, and only use cell for backup! That may be in their best interest, to save money – not in yours. We only use 100% cellular monitoring, and we are the only alarm company in the US to do that since our inception. Also, none of the cable providers offer “Crash & Smash” protection, which you can read about in many of the posts here: simply stated, it’s what makes a FrontPoint system virtually impossible to defeat, and NONE of the cable companies offer it. I could go on – but I respectfully disagree with your comment. Thanks.

  4. A. Consumer

    I’ve been doing a lot of research and I am finding that most security companies are using the same monitoring centers and paying them less than the fees they are charging their customers. With most security equipment being standard or “old technology” it makes sense for me to try my cable company that is installing STATE OF THE ART technology that fits my lifestyle. And they didn’t give me some ridiculous monitoring quote because “I need a lot of sensors” which the security company salesperson said. with TWC security it’s a low monitoring fee “no matter how many sensors I need.”

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks for your comment, Mr./Ms. Consumer. There is so much I could say in response to your post, but I’ll try to be brief. Even the cable companies charge more than they pay for monitoring – every one of them. Otherwise they would lose money! And it’s not accurate to say that “most” alarm companies are selling older equipment – though some are. FrontPoint certainly is selling the latest (proven) technology, and it works: some of the cable providers are selling equipment and services that they do not understand and cannot support, with documented bugs. Check out their user forums, and you’ll see for yourself – it’s not pretty. As for higher fees for additional sensors, no self-respecting alarm company will charge a higher monthly fee just because you add more doors, windows, motions, glass breaks, etc. We certainly do not do that.

      It happens that cable companies are not providing either the most modern equipment, or the best level of service, or technology that actually provides true peace of mind. Here are two big examples: in the first place, they run all the interactive services over a broadband connection, instead of a cell connection (the way we do for everything except video). That is because we use Alarm.com, the best of all the interactive service platforms. Internet connections are less robust, less reliable, and can easily be cut with a $3 pair of wire cutters. And some of these cable companies even default their alarm signal communication to the broadband connection, and only use cell for backup! That may be in their best interest, to save money – not in yours. We only use 100% cellular monitoring, and we are the only alarm company in the US to do that since our inception. Also, none of the cable providers offer “Crash & Smash” protection, which you can read about in many of the posts here: simply stated, it’s what makes a FrontPoint system virtually impossible to defeat, and NONE of the cable companies offer it. I could go on – but I respectfully disagree with your comment. Thanks.

  5. Alan Draper

    Interesting post.

    Yeah, I wouldn’t worry too much… the pricing, service, and technolog will probably all be lacking for most of these cable and telco companies, especially in the beginning. And regarldess, you guys can hold your own, I’m sure. Continue to fear not until proven otherwise. I won’t hold my breath.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Alan – that’s what we think, and we are not alone in the alarm industry. Those of us who have been protecting homes and families for decades know what it takes to do it right – and it’s not easy.

  6. Alan Draper

    Interesting post.

    Yeah, I wouldn’t worry too much… the pricing, service, and technolog will probably all be lacking for most of these cable and telco companies, especially in the beginning. And regarldess, you guys can hold your own, I’m sure. Continue to fear not until proven otherwise. I won’t hold my breath.

    • Peter M. Rogers

      Thanks, Alan – that’s what we think, and we are not alone in the alarm industry. Those of us who have been protecting homes and families for decades know what it takes to do it right – and it’s not easy.