NCTC's CEO said the organization is making progress on supporting MVNOs among its members. And he hinted that NCTC is preparing a skinny bundle of video channels as well.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies

March 13, 2024

4 Min Read
NCTC CEO Lou Borrelli, right, speaks with Light Reading's Jeff Baumgartner at the Cable Next Gen event.
NCTC CEO Lou Borrelli, right, speaks with Light Reading's Jeff Baumgartner at the Cable Next Gen event.(Source: Mike Dano/Light Reading)

CABLE NEXT GEN – DENVER – The chief executive of the NCTC said his organization is making progress in setting up its members with MVNO deals they can use to enter the mobile industry. And he hinted that NCTC is also getting ready to release a new skinny bundle of linear TV channels that the association's members can offer to their customers.

"Content is still important to us," said Lou Borrelli, the CEO of the National Content & Technology Cooperative (NCTC), in comments here at the Cable Next Gen show. He acknowledged that a number of cable companies have edged away from the video content industry, but other providers continue to view video as a key part of their overall sales offering.

In order to help NCTC's members remain competitive in a constantly evolving video industry, Borrelli said the association has inked deals with a number of unnamed content providers in order to assemble a skinny bundle of around 30-40 channels. He said NCTC members will be able to sell that bundle for a relatively low price point while still making money on the deal. He said tests of the bundle will begin in the next month or two.

But Borrelli declined to provide any further details on the offering, including how much it might cost and what channels might be available. Cablefax previously reported that NCTC might reveal details on the offering in August.

The MVNO angle

But skinny video packages aren't the only advancement NCTC is offering to its roughly 700 members. The organization cuts programming and technology deals for cable, telecom, co-ops and other providers collectively serving around 40 million broadband customers across all 50 US states. Mobile – via MVNOs through AT&T and Reach – has been another focus for NCTC.

Borrelli said NCTC has around 100 members kicking the tires on its MVNO offering, which was introduced last year. Borrelli said he had expected the first MVNOs to launch through NCTC in July of last year, but that didn't happen. 

"I was off by about eight months ... but some things are harder than they look," he said.

Last month cable company TVS Cable became the first NCTC member to launch mobile services via AT&T and Reach. Allo Communications, a fiber network operator serving parts of Nebraska, Colorado and Arizona, is set to become the second.

"The onboarding [process] is not that difficult, but you have to answer a lot of questions internally," Borrelli said, explaining that each NCTC member needs to figure out what its strategy will be in the mobile industry before moving forward with an MVNO.

Borrelli explained that NCTC members can take two basic paths into the MVNO market through the association's program: They can either use the NCTC's MVNO template or they can design their own customized offering via negotiations with AT&T. He said NCTC is seeing equal interest in both approaches. NCTC member costs can range from $5,000 to several hundred thousand dollars, depending on the size of the operator and its mobile goals.

Borrelli added that NCTC is also offering its members the ability to obtain smartphones to sell through their MVNOs, including both Android and iOS models.

Refocusing on video

Finally, Borrelli offered some insights into the constantly evolving market for video services. The latest: ESPN, Fox and Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) recently announced a joint venture to develop and launch a streaming sports service that features content from all major sports leagues.

"They are doing exactly what we would like to do," he said. He explained that NCTC members are bound by their existing video contracts, and therefore cannot offer the kinds of content bundles that are now available from some direct-to-consumer content companies. "We would like to do that," he said. "We are not able to do that."

"What stings a little bit is that each one of those services were created by companies like our members," he added. "We would like some of that action."

But Borrelli said he expects an eventual detente between the video industry and distributors like those represented by NCTC. "They still need us in some fashion," he said. "We still need to figure out the business relationship."

About the Author(s)

Mike Dano

Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading

Mike Dano is Light Reading's Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies. Mike can be reached at [email protected], @mikeddano or on LinkedIn.

Based in Denver, Mike has covered the wireless industry as a journalist for almost two decades, first at RCR Wireless News and then at FierceWireless and recalls once writing a story about the transition from black and white to color screens on cell phones.

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