Light Reading

WOW Cozying Up to OTT With Good Reason

Carol Wilson

The once-combative stance between broadband service providers and over-the-top content and application providers has eased significantly over the past year, as both sides have come to appreciate the value the other brings to what is potentially a profitable relationship.

For many broadband ISPs, a changing attitude is the result of recognition that broadband is, in fact, their primary business -- and that's a major shift for companies that have thought of themselves as cable TV companies or phone companies. At two very different events this winter -- and sorry, I live in the Chicago area and it's still winter -- I have heard first a group of small telcos and then a group of large cable operators admit that they are primarily in the business of delivering ever-faster pipes into businesses and residences.

One of the final panels of Thursday's Next-Gen Cable Technologies and Strategies conference in Denver was probably the most vivid illustration of this change, and John Childress, Director, Product Management, Residential, WideOpenWest Holdings LLC (WOW) , its most articulate advocate.

While sharing the stage with representatives of OTT content providers ToonGoggles and Pandora Media Inc. , and OTT enablers Roku Inc. and QuickPlay Media Inc. , Childress said he sees WOW's role, in part, as helping enable its consumer customers to discover and more easily access the widest range of content and applications available to them.

"It's a very fragmented experience today," Childress noted. "There's the set-top box with VoD, the DVR, then all these other boxes -- like Roku and others. No one is bringing that altogether for the consumer. Over the next year, we want to see if we can do that, and bring the same experience to the consumer over all devices."

As an individual who regularly has to dig through the basket of remote control devices on the end-table in the family room to find the one which allows me to reset the input on my TV to the cable box from whatever online video source SOMEONE was watching before me, this is an attractive proposition.

But as Childress and moderator Alan Breznick, Light Reading's cable/video practice leader, noted, for cable providers, the seamless experience may be a lifesaver for their video content delivery business. If online video becomes part of the cable service and is delivered seamlessly, as opposed to thorough a parallel but separate connection, consumers like me will see the greater value of the cable/broadband provider's role.

And higher customer satisfaction is never a bad thing.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
4/8/2014 | 6:49:41 PM
Re: Hopefully
MarkC73: "At least there's movement in getting to select your own content, as well as mobility in the TV world.  Unlike the music world that needed a crisis to make it start content delivery changes."

I don't see a lot of movement in that direction. Consumers still need to buy whole channels, or packages of channels, to get access to prime premium content. Otherwise they can wait a year for individual episodes of individual programs to become available legally.


User Rank: Light Sabre
3/30/2014 | 9:17:17 AM
Re: Hopefully
At least there's movement in getting to select your own content, as well as mobility in the TV world.  Unlike the music world that needed a crisis to make it start content delivery changes.  Those cable packages and the channels you pay for but don't watch keep the balance of the universe, for now.
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/29/2014 | 10:06:27 AM
Re: Hopefully
You could always buy the Blu-rays, Mitch.
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/29/2014 | 10:05:12 AM
Re: Big and dumb is smart again
OTT now looks like it will be far more damaging long-term to the big video content providers than to network operators -- at least the operators that figure out there's more profit in doing the plumbing rather than filling the pipes.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/28/2014 | 9:17:43 PM
Re: Big and dumb is smart again
People are actually saying that. At the NTCA event I attended in early March, rural telcos were saying they make NO money selling video - in fact they lose money -- so they are looking to SkitterTV Roku and others to deliver a video product that drives up demand for their higher-speed tiers of broadband. And they can make a profit on broadband. 

At the cable event, one person said this a lot - Alan Breznick - and Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia as well. But you can also follow their actrions. The cable industry is investing heavily in figuring out efficient ways to deliver more bandwidth to businesses and to consumers. 
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/28/2014 | 4:06:37 PM
It would be lovely if carriers, OTT providers, and content companies could join together to start offering channels and individual programs a la carte. A consumer shouldn't have to sign up for a bajillion foreign-language channels (in languages the consumer does not speak), a gazillion sports channels, and forty-eleven home shopping channels just to watch Mad Men.
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/28/2014 | 2:33:02 PM
Big and dumb is smart again
Carol, so the pendulum appears to have swung back to the idea that being the arms merchant (i.e., supplying the broadband capacity) is a better business to be in than trying to claw out a space in low-margin markets like video services. Is anybody actually saying that, or do we let the actions speak for themselves?
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/28/2014 | 2:10:11 PM
About time
Glad to see this relationship changing for the better, I think OTT content can bring a lot of value to cable for both content and experience. 
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