Failure of Verizon’s cable partnership kills secretive Nuon content-sharing project

Verizon’s (S VZ) announcement Thursday that it has terminated an R&D partnership with cable companies announced earlier this summer puts an end to a top-secret project that would have competed with over-the-top services and promoted wireless and cable TV subscriptions through joint apps and a Roku-like streaming and media shifting box. Nuon, as the project was called, was scheduled to launch before the end of the year, but is now dead before it ever saw the light of day.

Verizon and Comcast (S CMCSK) had announced last year that they were going to launch a technology joint venture between with the goal of integrating broadband and wireless services. Just a few months ago, that joint venture was still looking to hire folks in Silicon Valley to build “magical experiences” for cable and mobile service subscribers. But on today’s Verizon earnings call, the company’s CFO Fran Shammo said that Verizon had ended the partnership in August.

Few details have emerged with regards to what the joint venture was working on, but its most ambitious and secretive project was Nuon. A trademark filing, registered under a shell company name earlier this year, described Nuon in vague terms, stating that it would include:

“…delivery of content via wireless and wireline devices, providing access to content via wireless and wireline devices; wireless communications services; communications and information services, namely, transmission of voice, data, images, audio, video, information and other content via a wireless or wireline network…”

I have since learned a few more fascinating details about Nuon. Part of the concept was simply to cross-promote services to subscribers, with Nuon offering exclusive content to cable subscribers who would link their cable account to their Verizon account, and vice versa.

nuon screenshot

A leaked mockup of a Nuon sing-up page.

But Nuon apparently also involved dedicated hardware, which I have heard was built by Huawei. Nuon’s boxes were meant to help consumers to share content across devices and services. This could have included personal media recorded on smart phones, which would have been shareable with other users and easily viewable on the TV screen. Nuon would have been accessible through special menu items within existing apps, including Comcast’s Xfinity iOS and Android apps as well as Verizon’s Viewdini app.

A picture of an unlaunched version of Comcast's Xfinity iPad app. Notive the Nuon button in the menu bar?

A picture of an unlaunched version of Comcast’s Xfinity iPad app. Notive the Nuon button in the menu bar?

There were also plans to allow subscribers of other cable TV providers, including Time Warner Cable, Cox and Verizon’s own FIOS service, to access the service, but it looks like Comcast may have been Verizon’s strongest partner in this joint-venture effort.

nuon providers

Nuon involved more than just Comcast and Verizon.

I have heard that people on the highest levels of both companies were involved in these efforts, which has been described to me as quite serious. Without specifically referring to Nuon, Verizon said today that the joint venture simply wasn’t necessary anymore.

In a statement shared with GigaOM, a Verizon spokesperson said:

“NUON is a brand. As for services, all work performed under the joint venture was confidential. Since none of the services were ready for launch, we cannot discuss them.”

I have asked representatives from Comcast about Nuon, but have yet to hear back.