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Fearless Predictions for 2014

Tue, 02/11/2014 - 8:04pm
Brian Santo

Last year I predicted that people will grow weary of hearing about machine-to-machine computing. It wasn’t as if M2M was going to go away, but it was renamed – The Internet of Things, or sometimes The Internet of Everything.

Whaddaya think, hm? Some of the greatest marketers of the age got together and came up with a couple of phrases both only slightly less awkward than twerking. They’re amazing in that sort of so not-amazing-at-all way that you have to sort of admire them.

Okay, but so, yes, consumers will be buying more wearable Fitbitty kinds of things this year, and more connected cars, and thermostats, and security monitors, and…, and…

Sorry, I can’t go on. Did CES seem a little desultory to you too?

From a service perspective, home automation is low margin, but more still tends to be better, especially when you’re talking about revenue.

I also suggested last year that Google has better things to do than Google Fiber, and I’m claiming victory on that too. Google’s expansion into robotics and its acquisition of Nest = something better to do.

Retransmission consent reform didn’t happen, but enough real people (in contrast to industry people) got upset about the escalating blackouts that Congress might do something to reform telecom laws this year. Or more likely next, but serious prep work happens this year.

4K TV is a pain in the bandwidth. Netflix aside (and maybe Netflix included), there will be a lot of high-profile demonstrations this year, but 4K will be little more than an expensive prestige play until late next year or sometime in 2015. But that’s how stuff like that starts.

Last year, Comcast and Time Warner Cable started aggressively marketing their basic tiers plus HBO. Both can reasonably expect some uptake about a week before the new season of "Game of Thrones" begins (Joffrey appears to have surpassed Wesley Crusher as the most hated character in the history of television). A modest amount of success will certainly lead to some additional bundling flexibility with other MVPDs and other programmers.

But it won’t lead to a la carte. The Canadians can do what they will, but U.S. programmers will not tolerate that malarkey here.

By hook or by crook, AT&T and Verizon will get access to more airwaves. Both act desperate for spectrum, which increases its value, which plays into their hands – they’ll end up the only two companies who can afford it. And yet, even with the growth in wireless broadband usage, their networks are holding up. Spectrum is indeed a limited resource, but T and VZ are so notoriously whiny it’s difficult to fully credit their complaints.

Amazon is going to ditch the drones and switch its delivery model to rely entirely on Uber.

Everybody has been on the verge of deploying small cells for so long now, you might be forgiven for thinking that we’ll get telepathy first, but this year, wireless trends become clear enough to make a decision on how to proceed with a Wi-Fi / picocell strategy.

There are a lot of people that think non-traditional video providers like Netflix and Amazon and Google and Sony will continue to be disruptive, but I don’t think so. It pays to be disruptive while you’re trying to get established. Once you’re established, it pays more to play nice with the old guard, who are already finding ways to accommodate Netflix in their product offerings. Expect more of that.

John Cioffi, CEO of Assia, has been touting vectored DSL for a while now. In his opinion, this is the year. “In 2014, more and more service providers worldwide, following the lead of AT&T and Deutsche Telekom, will roll out vectored VDSL services exceeding 50 Mbps to their customers,” he predicted.

With upgraded DOCSIS, any MSO can beat 50 Mbps – if they want to. This will be more of a marketing decision than a technology decision. The fastest tier in any market also tends to be priced far too dearly for the vast majority of subscribers. And while I’m among the faster-is-better people, few people are going to need 100 Mbps any time this year. DOCSIS 3.1 advances at a deliberate pace.

Pace VP of product marketing Peter Simpson thinks the RDK has the potential to go international this year. Sounds reasonable.

Joel Espelien of TDG thinks that this might be the year that an existing MVPD decides to start selling outside of its facility-based footprint. “Verizon is the most promising candidate for this role, but others are viable candidates, as well (including AT&T, Sprint/Softbank, and Liberty Global).” I agree someone is going to do this sooner rather than later.

Conrad Clemson, VP of business development, Cisco Service Provider Video, expects that dynamic ad insertion (DAI) is going to expand significantly, not just for content delivered to set-tops, but also in over-the-top content, and advertisers are going to shift their spend significantly away from traditional TV.

Maybe. I can’t help but wonder if the effect of expanding the total number of avails by adding multi-screen dilutes the product. In other words, I can’t believe the number of avails will ever go down, but some of them – the ones in linear content – might get cheaper, on average.

I keep doing sports picks because some people seem to be legitimately entertained by how very consistently I am very wrong. Last year I said 49ers (still possible as of this writing), Knicks, Predators and Dodgers. This year I’m going with Eagles, Trailblazers, Blackhawks, and Tigers.

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