Denver's Cable Meet: Style Over Substance?
If you attended the Denver cable meet last week, you were likely greeted with much enthusiasm about the prospects of a better economic situation, the direction of initiatives like TV Everywhere, and the general hype of cable's future competitive offerings.
While attendance of the myriad conferences and events making up the week-long "Cable Connections-Fall" to-do was a mixed bag, it did attract a respectable crowd from a cost-conscious industry standpoint. [Ed. note: Attendance at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo, for example, was down 18 percent year-on-year.]
At the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) Summit earlier in the week, comments from Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) COO and cable division president Steve Burke signaled that the Internet is still having an impact on how the linear video programming model is making way for alternatives that let consumers decide how, when, and where video is consumed. One answer to that realization is TV Everywhere, which is coming to life initially via Comcast's On Demand Online service. Comcast's offering that to about 10,000-customers in a tech trial, but anticipates a national rollout before the end of the year. (See Comcast Web TV Trial: 10,000 Being Served and Comcast COO: Nat'l Platform Key to Interactive Ads.)
There continues to be some controversy surrounding TV Everywhere, since viewing its online content requires subscription to both the Comcast video and broadband offerings. Does this equate to a customer hostage scenario, or does it mean Comcast is thinking smart by gathering content with programmers, and perhaps applying that strategy to its purported bid for NBC Universal ?
It does give some benefit to current Comcast customers, which is probably the point, since without TV Everywhere those subscribers would be migrating to sources like Hulu LLC and Netflix Inc. (Nasdaq: NFLX) to watch their favorite content online.
However, the fact remains there continue to be obstacles ahead for TV Everywhere initiatives, particularly when it comes to "authentication." (See TV Execs: Don't Be Distracted by 'TV Everywhere' .)
At the same time, some of cable's largest MSOs, including Comcast and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), are trying to boost their traditional TV ad models by introducing interactivity via the Canoe Ventures LLC joint venture.
Although that campaign will start off with Enhanced TV Binary Interchange Format (EBIF), some of the larger MSOs appear to still be interested in using the more advanced tru2way platform as well, with Comcast indicating that it should have its plant ready for that by year's end, giving it a platform that offers a meshed TV/Internet experience. But not all North American MSOs are on board with tru2way. Canada's Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI), for example, indicated last week that it's seeking out an alternative as it develops its next-gen interactive TV platform. (See Comcast Wired for Tru2way by Year's End and Rogers Seeks Tru2way Alternative .)
Although perceptions of the Denver Meet were positive and uplifting, it remains to be seen whether this is just rhetoric or something more substantial in cable’s move to align itself with current and future customer online preferences.
— Leonard Grace, a cable industry vet, is a telecom strategist and blogger. He can be reached at [email protected]. Special to