Video services

5 Things Cable Didn't Deliver In 2014

Because we all need a little cynicism around the holidays, it's time to consider the list of things that US cable companies failed to deliver in 2014. Sure we got a sprinkling of gigabit deployments, some cloud DVR rollouts and more smart home services. But does that really make up for all we're missing as the year comes to a close?

Get your scorecards ready. It's time to tally up the disappointments.

In 2014, cable did not deliver:

1. A broadcast-free bundle
Lawmakers tried, but creating a broadcast-free cable bundle proved too controversial to allow. Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va) proposed adding a Local Choice provision as part of the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA). Local Choice would have allowed pay-TV subscribers to knock broadcast stations off their cable bill if they preferred to watch those "free" channels for no charge over the air. However, the Local Choice rider didn't make it to final STELA passage. Legislators had to satisfy themselves with standard reauthorization… and an end to the CableCARD mandate. (See Obama Signs CableCARD Death Warrant.)

2. HDMI sticks
Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) and Roku Inc. . It seemed like everyone had a streaming media stick out this year. However, the cable companies weren't ready to jump on board. Despite initial enthusiasm for the concept, sources say MSO expectations for cable hardware were too high to push forward with an HDMI adapter. Set-tops are getting smaller, but not that small yet. (See Can Amazon Light a Fire [Stick] Under Cable?.)

3. Retail cable boxes
Remember the promise of CableCARD? We were supposed to get new retail gear that would allow us to watch cable TV on the box of our choice. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. And although TV Everywhere is making select pay-TV streams available on smartphones and tablets, the options for watching cable fare on an actual television set without an MSO-provided set-top are still pretty limited. Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) launched a Roku app in early 2013, but other operators aren't following suit. Maybe in 2015? (See Roku: Pay-TV Is Just Another App.)

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4. A US OTT cable service
We had a few over-the-top trials from MSOs, including Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK)'s Streampix and Redbox Instant by Verizon. But ultimately those attempts floundered, and no one was willing to push the envelope this year by attempting to go outside their regional footprint. Canada is a different story. Rogers Communications Inc. (Toronto: RCI) and Shaw Communications Inc. collaborated to launch Shomi in November. For the US, however, OTT is getting folded back into VoD. (See Shomi & Showtime & Sony, Oh My!.)

5. 4K TV
Yes, DirecTV Group Inc. (NYSE: DTV) has 4K flicks available on pay-per-view, and Comcast did launch a 4K TV app as promised on select Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. (Korea: SEC) sets. But that hardly makes for a large-scale 4K rollout in the pay-TV universe. For all the excitement around 4K, particularly after the latest failure of 3D TV, the Ultra HD phenomenon is taking a while to catch on. HDR anyone? (See Comcast Launches 4K Streaming Service and HDR: The Next Big Video Thing .)

— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading

MikeP688 12/28/2014 | 5:23:56 PM
Re: outlook I had a chance to test out ROKU.  The problem is that once you figure out a way to bundle in all the services--it is not as seamless--but I'll keep trying to figure out how to make it work to be able to work.    Beyond its' "seamless" challenge, there is obivously the cost--once you factor in the monthly costs for all the key services (netflix; amazon prime; etc) it will get somehwat expensive.  The challenge for ROKU/Google/Amazon is to figure out how to make it seamless and more cost effective..and whether the content providers are able to be cost-effective in whether they wish to provide the feed.    One thing is for sure: Cable has a fight on its' hands for its' long-term viablity.    

Never a dull moment as we bid Adieu to 2014 :-) 


kq4ym 12/27/2014 | 10:36:27 AM
Re: outlook I've been looking forward to the unbundling of cable boxes and local over the air TV stations for longer than I can really remember. What seems like reality just turned out to be trial ballooons by the industry to see if the public and it's legislators are really serious about mandating freedom to choose their entertainment options, and save a few bucks if they choose those options.
nasimson 12/24/2014 | 11:34:59 PM
HDMI sticks I am particularly hopeful about HDMI sticks. Although it was not delivered this holiday, I feel it will be delivered by next. Since HDMI slots are also appearing in some tablets and almost all laptops, this can finally deliver cable TV on multiple screens. If cable takes too long to deliver, OTT is already catching on and satisfying the need to some extent.

devinw.cn 12/24/2014 | 9:00:13 PM
Re: outlook seen from now that the cable operation is quite active in this industry, and they want to sell STB by taking advantage of their contents. and I am really curious if they are interest to bundle the TV into their package. after all the TV with their content can archieve the best experience for end user. 
Ariella 12/24/2014 | 9:14:08 AM
outlook I don't call it cynicism; I call it realism. Even if things are generally good, that doesn't mean everyone gets a pass under the general outlook. 
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