& cplSiteName &

Pondering Pre-Paid Cable TV

Jeff Baumgartner
The Bauminator
Jeff Baumgartner
7/9/2012
50%
50%

8:00 AM -- There's an interesting idea floating about that would give cable an opportunity to offer video services under a pre-paid model that's proved popular in the cellular phone world.

The notion is to sell a simple and inexpensive set-top box at outlets like Walmart, Target and Walgreens and pair them with pre-paid cards (or maybe codes of some sort) that would load services by the hour, week or month. Or maybe it could be taken a step further and let consumers also buy some services individually – for example, an HBO card that's good for a month.

The rumor is that at least one major U.S. MSO is currently exploring a pre-paid model, and, according to a source, would involve a low-cost, two-way box that has yet to be developed. Another source said Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) looked into this idea years ago, but didn't follow through with it. It's not known which major operator is the one that's looking at it in this go-round.

My first reaction to the idea is that it could let an operator market video services to lower-income households and remove the non-payment risk factor from the equation -- something that Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) has had to contend with over the years by tailoring some of its packages for the lower end of the market.

But some other potential usage scenarios were brought to my attention. It could give cable a form of a la carte or a more metered option in which the customer would only buy services during a particular season (i.e., for students and snowbirds that churn out in droves in the second quarter of every year), or long enough to catch a TV series or the NFL football season. Or perhaps it could be made into something that would be attractive to consumers who have never subscribed to cable. Maybe it would make a good Christmas gift for grandma or weird Uncle Charlie. Who knows? There are lots of directions a pre-paid cable TV service could go.

But it's not without risk. Regular, recurring customers that take a cable's full subscription TV packages might be encouraged to drop them in favor of a pre-paid model.

And a lot would need to happen to make this idea go. As I understand it, the discussion also involves a two-way set-top box (so it could support video-on-demand and an interactive guide, perhaps?) that's yet to be developed. And it's not known if just any manufacturer would be allowed to make these boxes, because it's apparent that the cable operator would still be the one pulling the strings. But if the box is to be low-cost, I don't see how that happens using a CableCARD slot and module, which would keep such a device prohibitively expensive.

Digital Transport Adapter (DTA) boxes are dirt cheap (less than $50 per unit for hi-def versions) and use integrated security (thanks to an Federal Communications Commission (FCC) waiver) but are inherently one-way and can't be sold at retail under the current rules. Perhaps a two-way cable device with "removable" downloadable security could be developed that also sidesteps the FCC's current ban on boxes with integrated security. Just a thought.

And cable's billing, provisioning and backoffice systems aren't really setup for this sort of thing yet. So there are still lots of questions about how this would be put together and what a pre-paid cable service might even look like.

But if this exploration turns into something real, it could give cable a new way to establish a retail model for video services and succeed in an area that tru2way did not, and give the industry a new way to target consumers with video services. (See Tru2way: Epic Fail at Retail.)

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable



(7)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
shygye75
50%
50%
shygye75,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:28:20 PM
re: Pondering Pre-Paid Cable TV


Jeff -- Isn't this a bit of a stretch? The user premises still has to be connected to the cable network for this to work, right?

craigleddy
50%
50%
craigleddy,
User Rank: Blogger
12/5/2012 | 5:28:19 PM
re: Pondering Pre-Paid Cable TV


The pre-paid concept has been kicking around in cable marketing circles for awhile and I recall that some local systems use pre-paid cards for certain services (multicultural tiers, premium services, etc).


There is a sizeable population that purchases mobile and other services in this manner. As Jeff notes, it can be used for seasonal cable subs (college kids, vacation homes) and the large number of people who re-locate each year. The trick is using a cheap box -- and either selling it or making sure you can get it back at the end of the pre-paid period.


Yes, the connection already needs to be in place, but that's not a tall order since most homes and MDUs already are wired. Cable Internet and phone might come into play but at this point I think this is intended for traditional cable TV.          


 

shygye75
50%
50%
shygye75,
User Rank: Light Sabre
12/5/2012 | 5:28:19 PM
re: Pondering Pre-Paid Cable TV


There's definitely OTT potential, but the business case for this seems more suited to a company like Netflix.

paolo.franzoi
50%
50%
paolo.franzoi,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:28:19 PM
re: Pondering Pre-Paid Cable TV


Mendyk,


 


This seems like a perfect OTT addon for a cable guy.


 


seven


 

spiral
50%
50%
spiral,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:28:18 PM
re: Pondering Pre-Paid Cable TV


This sounds like a job for ActiveVideo. They could run the whole thing from the cloud to a bare-bones device, and use smartphones and tablets to control the experience.

AESerm
50%
50%
AESerm,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:28:18 PM
re: Pondering Pre-Paid Cable TV


Can you get around the two-way hurdle by pairing the DTA and subscriber with an Android or iOS app? Granted, that narrows the lower income target market somewhat. 

msilbey
50%
50%
msilbey,
User Rank: Blogger
12/5/2012 | 5:28:13 PM
re: Pondering Pre-Paid Cable TV


jtombes- I agree. Why deal with two-way tech and a cablecard when everything's moving in the direction of IP anyway? Especially for on-demand content. A DTA already provides the linear content. How expensive can it be to add IP connectivity to the box to provide access to an interactive guide and VOD? It would be different if the MSOs didn't have another use for those IP assets, but they do. That's not something they'd be building for this service. It already exists, or is in progress. 

More Blogs from The Bauminator
Don't expect anything more to pop for a while, but one analyst sees John Malone & Co. as the 'logical, ultimate acquirer of Ziggo' if the price is right
Cable operators will need to free up at least 24MHz of spectrum for Docsis 3.1. But why is that the magic number?
Liberty Media's rumored plan to snag a 25% stake in Charter for $2.5B could aid the MSO's M&A strategy
Top US cable operators lost 1.41 million video subs in 2012, but the bleeding continues to show signs of slowing in a saturated pay-TV market
Aereo streams its 'no cable required' tagline into the video world. Will consumers tune in to the message?
From The Founder
The independent evaluation of Nokia's key virtual network functions (VNFs) was a defining moment for the Finnish giant.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP’s Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it’s going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Documentaries
Leading Lights 2016 Highlights

5|25|16   |   02:26   |   (1) comment


Some of the high points from this year's Leading Lights awards dinner at the Hotel Ella in Austin, Texas.
LRTV Documentaries
Light Reading Hall of Fame 2016

5|23|16   |   05:43   |   (0) comments


Find out who has been welcomed into Light Reading's Hall of Fame this year.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE TM Forum Highlights

5|23|16   |     |   (0) comments


ZTE showcased its new ICT solutions at TM Forum in Nice.
LRTV Interviews
Gamma's MD on the Emergence of UC2

5|20|16   |     |   (0) comments


Gamma Communications Managing Director David Macfarlane believes the unified communications (UC) market has reached a tipping point.
LRTV Custom TV
The Ultimate 5-Minute Guide to Digital Customer Engagement

5|20|16   |     |   (0) comments


In this short video, you will hear all about how Digital Customer Engagement is the key to meeting customer expectations, keeping them happy, and maximizing revenue. VP Product & Marketing at Pontis, Ofer Razon, breaks down for us the five essential capabilities for successful Digital Customer Engagement. Don’t miss!
LRTV Custom TV
NFV in 2016: Part 1 – NFV Use Cases Get Real

5|19|16   |   05:57   |   (0) comments


Consensus is building around the key use cases for NFV, including managed IP services at the network edge and on customer premises, which can generate new revenues from enterprises/SMBs and consumers; Evolved Packet Core to support LTE migration; and adjacent technologies, such as TAS and IMS, to support VoLTE and next-generation charging and policy control ...
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's Steve Vogelsang on NFV – Part 3

5|19|16   |     |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang discusses the challenges of operational transformation and how Nokia helps its customers. Join Steve at the Big Communications Event in Austin the morning of May 24, on his keynote and optical networking panel.
LRTV Interviews
Level 3: Why UC Is In Demand

5|17|16   |   04:12   |   (1) comment


Andrew Edison, Level 3's senior VP of sales, EMEA region, talks about the drivers of growth in the unified communications services market.
LRTV Custom TV
ARM's OPNFV Action

5|17|16   |     |   (0) comments


At the ARM booth at MWC 2016, Joe Kidder and Bob Monkman speak to Light Reading about OPNFV and their upcoming action.
LRTV Custom TV
Nokia's Steve Vogelsang on NFV – Part 2

5|16|16   |     |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang gives advice to service providers on how to move to NFV. Join Steve at the Big Communications Event in Austin the morning of May 24, on his keynote and optical networking panel.
LRTV Interviews
Interoute CTO on NFV's Maturity

5|13|16   |   06:46   |   (1) comment


Matt Finnie, CTO at international operator Interoute, explains how NFV has made life easier in terms of logistics and how Interoute can now enable a 'software-defined moment' for its customers.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
UBBS 2016 Highlights

5|12|16   |     |   (0) comments


Highlights of Huawei's UBBS event in Hong Kong.
Upcoming Live Events
September 13-14, 2016, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
December 6-8, 2016,
June 16-18, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
A new survey conducted by Heavy Reading and TM Forum shows that CSPs around the world see the move to digital operations as a necessary part of their overall virtualization strategies.
Hot Topics
WiCipedia: Short Skirts & Back-Up Plans
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 5/20/2016
AT&T to Start 5G 'Friendly' Trial by 2016 End
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 5/24/2016
DT: Telcos Must Escape Vendor Prison
Iain Morris, News Editor, 5/24/2016
Google Doubles Down on Machine Learning, AI
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 5/19/2016
Eurobites: Be More European, EU Tells Streaming Services
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 5/20/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
In this latest installment of the CEO Chat series, Craig Labovitz, co-founder and CEO of Deepfield, sits down with Light Reading's Steve Saunders in Light Reading's New York City office to discuss how Deepfield fits in with the big data trend and more.
Grant van Rooyen, president and CEO of Cologix, sits down with Steve Saunders, founder and CEO of Light Reading, in the vendor's New Jersey facility to offer an inside look at the company's success story and discuss the importance of security in the telecom industry.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Our world has evolved through innovation from the Industrial Revolution of the 1740s to the information age, and it is now entering the Fourth Industrial Revolution, driven by technology. Technology is driving a paradigm shift in the way digital solutions deliver a connected world, changing the way we live, communicate and provide solutions. It can have a powerful impact on how we tackle some of the world’s most pressing problems. In this radio show, Caroline Dowling, President of Communications Infrastructure & Enterprise Computing at Flex, will join Women in Comms Director Sarah Thomas to discuss the impact technology has on society and how it can be a game-changer across the globe; improving lives and creating a smarter world. Dowling, a Cork, Ireland, native and graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program, will also discuss her experience managing an international team focused on innovation in an age of high-speed change.