NEW YORK -- The Future of Cable Business Services -- Business services are a major growth engine for the cable industry, and Wall Street isn't paying enough attention. Those were two of the messages imparted by renowned financial analyst Craig Moffett in his presentation at the Light Reading Future of Cable Business Services conference today.
In a chart modeling cable financials, Moffett illustrated a standard gross profit growth rate of 4.1% including combined income from video, broadband, voice, commercial and advertising services. He called that number the "comfortable consensus" of how the market sees cable companies performing. Commercial services only make up roughly 10% of revenue contribution today, but they're growing at a 20% rate. And they'll have to shoulder a much bigger load in the future if things go further south in the video business, or if growth declines in the residential broadband market. (See Cable Gives Thanks for Business Services.)
Referring to issues like cord cutting, increased programming costs and broadband market penetration, Moffett pointed out: "There's reasons to be cautious about a negative variance in [video] subscriber growth. There's reasons to be cautious about a negative variance in broadband subscriber growth."
He also got very specific about what those negative forces could do to cable's dependence on business services.
"If we're still at negative 2% on video and broadband is still 9% growth, then I need 8.8% growth from business services; really easy because I'm already getting 20%," noted Moffett. "But if things slip just a little bit and suddenly the video business is a negative 4% business… and the broadband business decelerates just a little bit to 7%... well suddenly I need to take my 20% to 28% growth. And so there will be more and more and more pressure going forward on business services to deliver the goods."
A jump from 20% to 28% sounds difficult, but potentially doable given the upside in business services at the enterprise level, and through increasing speed and efficiencies gained from New IP technologies like SDN and NFV. However, Moffett went a step further to show just how far business services growth would have to accelerate if traditional lines of revenue fell a bit further.
"At 5% declines for the video business, and the broadband business going from just 9% to 5% growth, I would need an extraordinary 44% growth from business services to make the numbers work."
Despite the importance of business services, Moffett said that Wall Street is barely paying attention. In fact, most investors in the telecommunications space don't even focus that heavily on wireline issues, much less how they pertain to the commercial services sector.
"Business services as a category tend to be reasonably low on people's priority list on Wall Street," he stated.
Wall Street might want to rethink that position. In the near-term future, business services will be increasingly critical to cable's continued success.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading