The Broadband 50
CED’s readers participate in what has become one of the most dynamic markets the world has ever seen. Technologies are being introduced and are evolving at break-neck speeds. Everybody has their fingers in everyone else’s pies. Competitors pop up, fall by the wayside, morph into allies. Nothing is nailed down, everything is in flux, from advertising to regulations to how to talk to subscribers.
It’s exhausting to keep it all straight, but CED’s editors are up to the task – with the help of several of the industry’s most plugged-in players, who provided guidance and moral support.
We not only figured out what the most important trends, technologies, companies, and people are today, but also ranked them in order of importance. Voila: the 2014 edition of the Broadband 50. Enjoy.
1 Consumers: Shiny, Happy People
Consumers are calling the shots these days, and that’s why they top the Broadband 50 this year. Keeping customers happy is job one, and multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) know full well that they forget that at their peril.
On the other hand, what customers want doesn’t always jibe with what’s best for their service providers, so keeping customers happy can be tinged with peril too. If you doubt that, peruse the rest of our Broadband 50: there’s not a lot of upside to viewers flocking to over-the-top (OTT), and it is an expensive and complex task accommodating expectations of access to any content anywhere; those expectations still exceed what is both technologically and legally feasible.
Consumers are also unpredictable and fickle. How many people said they were excited about 3D TV? Millions, right? How many people actually bought 3D TVs? Seven? Eight? The flip side of the 3D fizzle is that just because the consumer electronics (CE) segment wants to push something, it doesn’t mean the public is going to bite.
Which brings us back to “unpredictable and fickle.” It’s hard to say what consumers will glom onto, and when they do, there’s no telling if it will be another iPhone phenomenon or another passing Furby. Keep everyone on their toes, consumers do.
– Brian Robert Santo
2 Customer Experience: UI
It was the year of great expectations for customers demanding content anytime-anywhere, with more speed, WOW graphics, and better quality, all combining to make “customer experience” the mantra in 2013 and beyond for service providers.
With Hulu reporting 2.5 million of its five million subscribers streaming exclusively on devices such as iPhones and iPads, Roku and Apple TV, and half of them in their living rooms, along with a growing passion for mobility, enhancing the customer experience is becoming top of mind for service providers.
Binge-watching (2-6 episodes of the same TV show in one sitting) emerged in 2013, with a Harris Interactive poll reporting 61 percent of respondents saying they binge watch.
“The new customer experience started with Netflix and user interfaces. The idea is to keep control of the cable subscriber, and engaged. The trend is to move guides to the cloud to better the customer experience,” said Dave Helfrick, partner at IBB Research.
Also trending up, he noted, is search, discovery and recommendation. “The biggest opportunity we see to enhance the customer experience is finding content easier, with voice and speech recognition the trend.”
Everyone is trying to figure out how to display a consistent user interface (UI) across all devices. Going to the cloud and relying on HTML5 is helping a lot.
– Craig Kuhl
3 Malone: Rex Redux
As even the most casual observer would agree, John Malone loomed large in 2013. In March, the former TCI honcho plunked down $2.6 billion to give his Liberty Media a 27 percent stake in Charter Com-munications.
Malone proceeded to espouse at investor conferences about how Charter would serve as a good investment vehicle in the pursuit of other cable operators, namely Time Warner Cable. (Does anyone else see the dynamic duo of Malone and Charter CEO Tom Rutledge as the new Batman and Robin?)
While Charter was said to have lined up the resources to pull the trigger on a Time Warner Cable buyout at year’s end, no deal was in place by press time.
But make no mistake, Malone wants back into the North American cable operator business, and he’s not going to be content to be a role player. Malone made it clear that consolidation needed to take place in order to help offset increased programming costs and create other economies of scale, but he’ll need more than Time Warner Cable to top Comcast.
Malone’s Liberty Global also bought up Virgin Media for $24 billion last year. As the year ended, Liberty Global was in hot pursuit of Dutch cable operator Ziggo. Also in 2013, Liberty Media obtained the majority control of satellite radio’s SiriusXM for $158 million.
– Mike Robuck
4 Rocky Road: Time Warner Cable
Seriously, did anyone think last year at this time that Time Warner Cable would be consolidation chum for the likes of Malone/Charter, Comcast and Cox Communications?
Last year was akin to a Greek tragedy for the nation’s second largest cable operator. There was the bruising, month-long blackout with CBS that, along with increased competition from AT&T and Verizon, contributed to the nation’s second-largest cable operator bleeding out 306,000 basic video subscribers in the third quarter (more than 800,000 for the year). The dustup was allegedly over TV Everywhere rights that CBS’ Les Moonves wasn’t about to let slip through his fingers.
Time Warner Cable also had to contend with the noise of John Malone, through his Liberty Media’s stake in Charter, telling everyone who would listen that it would make sense for Time Warner Cable’s shareholders to sell out to Liberty/Charter.
The company also announced last year that after 41 years in the industry, CEO and chairman Glenn Britt was retiring at the end of the year with former COO Rob Marcus taking over the reins Jan. 1. Britt also disclosed that he was undergoing cancer treatments.
On the technology front, Time Warner Cable updated its TWC TV app and turned up an additional 17,000 Wi-Fi hotspots to increase its coverage by 160 percent. – MR
5 Charter: in charge
When Charter Com-munications filed for bankruptcy in 2009, the company looked close to flat lining. Fast forward to 2013 and Charter Communications is a major player that is, thanks to a $2.6 billon investment from John Malone’s Liberty Media, looking at “moving on up to that de-luxe apartment in the sky!” (Google “The Jeffersons” theme song if that reference is too obscure in 2014.)
Charter was clawing its way back to relevancy prior to the hiring of former Time Warner Cable and Cablevision exec Tom Rutledge in 2012, but last year Rutledge started to hit his stride.
Charter got out of the gates early in 2013 as the sweepstakes winner for the former Bresnan systems with a winning bid to Cablevision of $1.625 billion. In April, the nation’s fourth-largest cable operator nabbed a two-year set-top box waiver from the Federal Communications Commission that served as a building block for its all-digital conversion that is slated to be finished this year.
In October, Charter kicked off a new cloud-based user interface trial in Fort Worth, Tex., that worked on legacy devices as well as MPEG/QAM boxes.
As the year closed, Charter had lined up investment funds for a run at Time Warner Cable, but it faced competition from the likes of Comcast and Cox. – MR
6 Comcast: Xfinity And Beyond
Comcast’s aggressive rollout of its X1 cloud-enabled video platform and a flurry of launches, enhancements and initiatives kept the giant cable company, well, giant in 2013.
While Verizon FiOS and AT&T U-verse were adding out-of-home streaming capabilities to their mobile apps, Comcast was adding 35 live networks on Apple iOS and Google Android devices.
A recent quote by a Comcast executive pretty much sums up its Xfinity intentions: “With Xfinity TV Go, we’re giving customers all the entertainment they want in one place, in the palm of their hand.”
Education got a lift as well in 2013, with the company providing “hundreds of thousands” of PSAs and digital promotions via a strategic partnership with the Khan Academy, which according to Comcast represents one of the largest commitments to a non-profit in its history.
Trending up for Comcast in 2014 are the cloud, Wi-Fi, security, TV@work, tablets, bandwidth and speed.
The question will be how to monetize and leverage this expanding group of services, particularly the mobile/SMB market.
And with customer expectations on the rise for content when and where they want it, services such as Comcast’s SEEiT twitter entry, Neighborhood Hotspot Wi-Fi initiative and others such as Open Stack, Upware (cloud app for small business), and
IPv6 are considered 2014 must-needs by most analysts. – CK
7 Consolidation: Happy Together
While Time Warner Cable was left twisting in the wind at the close of the year, there were plenty of deals, some large, many smaller, that took place in 2013.
Charter Communications landed the former Bresnan systems from Cablevision for $1.625 billion early last year. Time Warner Cable and Suddenlink were also reported bidders (Suddenlink for the second time) for the Optimum West systems before losing out to Charter.
John Malone’s Liberty Global bagged the biggest prize with its $24 billion deal to buy up Virgin Media. In March, Denver-based Liberty Global bought a 13 percent stake in Dutch operator Ziggo for about $808.3 million. In October, The Netherland’s largest cable operator rebuffed a subsequent attempt at a full takeover. In December, Liberty Global submitted another bid.
In January of last year, BCI Broadband, a company formed by several former Bresnan executives, purchased Allegiance Communications. BCI followed that acquisition up with the purchase of James Cable in April.
Lastly, Suddenlink Communications added 12,000 residential subscribers and close to 300 business customers via its pick up of four systems in Texas from Northland Communications. – MR
8 Fiber Neighborhoods: Gonzo for Gigabits
In 2013, Google doubled the pace of its Google Fiber rollouts, and now it’s available in parts of three cities (Kansas City, Austin, TX, Provo, Utah). It was a full year before Google started signing up additional customers in KC, its first market.
Google clearly isn’t trying very hard.
The competitive threat can be trivialized, but it cannot be dismissed. Even if Google decides against being a bigger MVPD, the company has whetted appetites for gigabit broadband, forcing traditional service providers to respond (Cox and Bright House are just two of the many service providers with gigabit trials), and encouraging cities of all sizes all across the country to not only agitate for gigabit installations (usually for new technology hubs) but also to offer municipal access, typically only Wi-Fi, but also typically backed by gigabit fiber optic networks. It’s all creating opportunities for even more competitors (e.g., C Spire, Gigabit Squared).
Even though the number of people today willing to pay for (let alone legitimately make use of) a gigabit-per-second stream is vanishingly small, more is better when it comes to bandwidth, and the heart wants what the heart wants.
And it’s not as if the end goal for everyone isn’t fiber-to-the-X anyway; the issues are how many decades until we all get there, and how to manage expectations until we do. This is
an issue that is going to simmer for a long, long time. – BRS
9 Home Automation: Stickum
More than 7.5 million home automation systems will be in peoples’ homes by 2015, with security and energy control taking the top spots in home managed services.
For the cable industry, that is an impressive number, and represents a fertile market that is expected to produce even greater gains in 2014.
Once considered a niche market, home automation systems are now a vital part of cable’s business model. And rightfully so. The home security market is a $10-15 billion spend opportunity and a potential $1 billion business for companies such as Cox Communications.
Google just dropped $3.2 billion on hipster home auto operation Nest Labs.
“Home automation and security certainly fit into our larger goal of connectivity. In certain areas we expect a 55 percent CAGR. And we will market home automation and security as a separate service. This year we’ll expand to MDUs and SMBs, which have been heavily ignored,” said Cox’s VP and GM of home security and smartphones, Kristen Faulkner.
Competition will push more cable operators into the home automation and security market, as AT&T launches its Digital Life service and others follow.
“Competition is changing the way they market home security, with lots of variations of how cable takes home automation and security services to market. The challenge is to educate consumers on what’s available,” said Jonathan Collins, principal analyst for ABI Research. – CK
10 Multi-screen: Everywhere (In The Home)
Multi-screen services matured last year with the aid of search and recommendation engines from likes of ThinkAnalytics and Jinni.
Cable operators and their vendors also pushed the needle on monetizing multi-screen services, particularly in advertising, as vendors such as Arris and Seawell, BlackArrow and Clearleap, and Comcast Spotlight and Rhiza forged alliances.
Time Warner Cable Media (TWC Media) launched its TWC Media Ads Everywhere, which it said was the first multi-screen ad service for iOS and Android devices, that worked in conjunction with its TWC TV app. – MR
11 Netflix: Partner Hunting
Netflix’s traction in Europe as part of Virgin Media’s TV bundle is sending a message to its U.S. counterparts: the shared revenue model could play a complementary role in the cable ecosystem, especially with tier 2 and 3 operators.
“It’s hard for tier 2 and 3 operators to get access to multi-screen and VOD content, so it makes more sense for them to partner with Netflix,” said ABI Research practice director, Sam Rosen.
Netflix is choosing its U.S. partners carefully, however, with Cablevision clearly one of them. Buckeye, Bend Broadband and the more progressive lower tier cable operators are also getting the Netflix message.
But Netflix must be careful about its pricing, analysts caution, after a 2011 subscriber revolt sparked by a significant price increase.
Netflix is testing a multi-use plan that will allow customers to stream content on up to four screens simultaneously, with monthly fees ranging from $6.99 to $11.99. – CK
12 Set-tops / Gateways: Options galore!
Set tops, set backs, sticks, DTAs, DVRs, Sling, headed gateways, headless gateways… Meanwhile you need at least two hands to count the number of suppliers. Five years ago, you would have needed one and even Mickey Mouse would’ve still had fingers left over. New designs get cranked out at an almost CE-like pace, thanks in no small part to the RDK.
This year, gateways should begin to be deployed in volume, but since different subscribers will continue to
have very different requirements, all options are likely to remain in play for some time
to come. – BRS
13 TV Everywhere: Gradually
Last year, Time Warner Cable started serving up to 11 live linear channels to iOS and Android devices, as well as live and select VOD titles via its TWC TV site.
AT&T updated its U-verse App to stream more than 100 live channels, including around 20 that could be viewed outside of subscribers’ homes on iPads and iPhones while Cox Communications’ Contour app served up video content on the go for both Android and iOS devices. Verizon upgraded its FiOS Mobile App to offer out-of-home access to nine live channels while Comcast updated its app to offer 35 live channels out of the home on Apple and Android devices. – MR
14 A la carte: Pick ’Em
This would’ve been in our Top 10, except that even if the fight started today, it could never be resolved before next year. Most programmers do not want to blow up a functional TV model; their lack of support helped doom Intel’s plan to introduce an OTT TV service last year. Also, viewers are finally beginning to comprehend that with a la carte, prices are as likely to go up as go down. But Canada is flirting with requiring a la carte, and in the U.S., consumer groups and key senators keep agitating for it. Even some traditional MVPDs think it could be a good idea. – BRS
15 Business services: Ka-ching!
Business services might just be the unsung hero of cable operators’ bottom lines. While MSOs continued to bleed out basic video subscribers last year, business services continued to make the cash register ring.
The business telecom services market clocks in at roughly $140 billion, with cable operators accounting for almost $8 billion of the commercial services revenue. The good news? Cable is not only killing the telcos in the SMB space, but is also moving up into the medium and enterprise sectors. – MR
16 Cloud UIs: Consistency
Shifting the processing of interfaces and guides to the cloud is turning into the boon that cloudheads always said it would be: operators can deploy CPE of nearly any level of sophistication –and expense – depending on customer need. Changes in UI or guide can be made ASAP instead of in months (or years). Apps can be integrated. And if the industry can successfully make cloud UIs work on all those Paleolithic boxes that are still out there? Whoo, doggie. – BRS
17 Compression: Half off!
HEVC/H.265 promises to compact video by another 50 percent, halving bandwidth consumption. MSOs are now toying with HEVC; expect a trickle of demos of 4K TV (sporting events; Comcast Xfinity with Samsung 4K TVs), but most activity will be in labs to see what kind of bandwidth savings can be gained with all content, not just 4K. Google thinks it could almost eliminate YouTube buffering this year with its own VP9 codec or with HEVC. Dish and DirecTV both could use the breathing room. Video clogs cellular networks too, but maybe not yet enough to induce carriers to adopt HEVC wholesale this year. Look for MPEG-DASH in labs, too. – BRS
18 Cord Cutting: Continues
Over the past three or four years there has been almost a continuous debate on whether cable subscribers were “cutting the cord” to go with OTT providers. That debate is so 2010. In the third quarter of 2013, MSOs lost 687,000 subscribers, according to research firm MoffettNathanson. Out of that number of losses, some subscribers did defect to Verizon or AT&T, but the decline in basic video subscribers has been steady.
Cable subscribers can pick from Netflix, Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Prime, and others for their streaming needs, but some cable operators have chosen TiVo to try to keep their subscribers from cutting over to OTT services. –MR
19 Retrans: Bitter fruit
By 2019, U.S. TV station owners’ retransmission fees are expected to reach $7.6 billion, reports SNL Kagan. Not exactly chump change, so it’s added motivation for change in 2014.
“Retransmission issues didn’t go away in 2013, but in Congress there are signs of life and bills that address re-transmission consent. The table was set in 2013,” said Seth Davidson, partner at the Edwards Wildman and Palmer law firm.
One contentious issue is broadcasters buying up stations knowing re-transmission fees can fund the purchases, so a crackdown on duopolies and collusion is expected to be in the retransmission discussions.
Meanwhile, two bills that address the retransmission issue have been introduced. One would repeal it, the other would give the FCC clear authority to stop TV station blackouts. – CK
20 Aereo: Ick. No, wait…
Aereo sells people stuff they can get for free. Is this a great country or what? Okay, to be fair, you get your otherwise free over-the-air signals with DVR functions. Aereo is as yet insignificant, but then the retransmission consent battle between Time Warner Cable and CBS broke out, and MSOs took note that Aereo does not have to pay retrans fees. If broadcasters try to increase retrans revenue as much as they say, MSOs might opt to work with Aereo or install their own antenna farms instead. As one BB50 judge put it, the approach has the “potential to overcome must-carry’s money sucking.” That’s if the Supreme Court affirms its legality. –BRS
21 Chromecast: Global dongle
Google’s Chromecast, which last year launched its TV dongle that plugs into TV sets and allows people to view online content on big screens, will now dangle the dongle globally.
The expansion decision to move the $35 thumb-sized device to the international market is a big deal for Google TV.
It will open up the SDK to make thousands of apps Chromecast-compatible.
“Any device in your home can become a remote control for the television,” said Mario Queiroz, head of Google TV, in a written statement.
Look for a flurry of compatible apps to be released in 2014. – CK
22 Carriers: Spectrum Obsession
Neither Verizon nor AT&T has much stomach for expanding their footprints, preferring to let their respective FiOS and U-verse units battle for market share. Both have been successful enough, at cable’s expense. But both are rightfully preoccupied with their wireless units, fending off price pressure from Sprint and T-Mobile (who might merge) and trying to secure more spectrum for their wireless units. Video consumption on smartphones is on the rise, clogging wireless arteries. That keeps backhaul opportunities open for MSOs. AT&T might yet buy DirecTV for its spectrum holdings. – BRS
23 Wi-Fi: Roam Where You Want To
Through the Cable WiFi consortium, five of the nation’s top six cable operators laid claim to having the largest public Wi-Fi network in the nation with more than 200,000 hot spots as of September. Late last year, Cox and Bright House Networks worked to integrate their hotspots in with other members of the alliance that also included Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and Cablevision.
In order to combat the lure of Google Fiber, Comcast and Time Warner Cable were active in turning up thousands of hotspots last year, while New Jersey Transit’s board put its stamp of approval on Cablevision’s plan to make its Wi-Fi services available to commuters on trains. Several of the biggest ops are well into the process of partitioning the home routers they’ve installed for combo private/public access. – MR
24 Motorola Home: Adios
Arris’ $2.35 billion deal to buy Motorola Home from Google closed in April of last year. Prior to the deal closing, Comcast agreed to pay $150 million for 10.6 million shares of Arris in an effort to shore up one of its main suppliers.
Arris initially integrated former Moto execs John Burke and Rob McLaughlin into its executive leadership team, but both left Arris around the same time before the year was over. – MR
25 OTT: Cap That
According to a survey last year by Incognito Software, over-the-top video is the driving force behind various methods used, such as bandwidth caps and fair usage policies, to manage broadband capacity. Half of the service providers in North America that responded to the survey utilized bandwidth caps as their primary means of managing OTT. Fair usage and service add-ons were the next most common approaches at 33 percent.
Last year, Comcast expanded its trials of new usage-based Internet data plans while Time Warner Cable altered its usage-based Essentials Internet tier. –MR
26 OSS/BSS: More Please
OSS/BSS has never been a frontline dancer in the chorus line, but it continued to play a key backup role.
Transparency Market Research reported that the growing demand for convergent billing systems would be a major factor in the OSS/BSS sector’s growth by forecasting that the market would experience a 16 percent CAGR from 2012 to 2018 to reach $48.54 billion.
CSG Systems International, Ericsson, Amdocs and NetCracker Technology
appear to be poised to take advantage of that growth spurt, but Volubill closed
up shop last year and sold some of its assets to CSG. – MR
27 CableLabs, NCTA, SCTE: Chums
CableLabs and the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) announced last year that they would work in tandem to accelerate the worldwide development and deployment of new cable network technologies.
The deeper relationship between CableLabs and the SCTE was designed to enable the innovation of CableLabs and the applied science, engineering and training capabilities of SCTE to be brought together in a more clearly defined, collaborative partnership.
The SCTE and CableLabs also worked together with the NCTA to develop the educational program for the Spring Technical Forum at The Cable Show 2013. – MR
28 CDNs: Storage Wars
For MVPDs, CDNs have become an indispensable tool for balancing content storage and bandwidth requirements. OTT operations could barely exist without them. CDNs will only become more important as more and more programmers elect to deliver their own content – which in almost every case will actually mean having it delivered by someone else. CDNs have also been successful developing Internet acceleration techniques. By several estimates, CDNs account for over half of all consumer traffic. – BRS
29 DBS: Persistence Pays Off
As the fiercely competitive battle for subscribers rages on between cable and satellite, look for cable to hold a competitive edge in 2014, led by more robust networking that can offer broadband services and more capacity.
“Cable has a slight edge in product and technology development, mainly because of CableLabs and a huge strength to offer multiple services which satellite can’t match. But satellite also has a national footprint and is not tied down by network franchise deals,” said Mike Paxton, senior analyst at Multimedia Research Group.
Cable maintains a lead in packaging, product and pricing as well. And there’s DOCSIS 3.1. “It’s very big for cable,” Paxton noted.
AT&T may yet buy Dish, which would be… interesting. – CK
30 Digital ad insertion
Ad time is money. It really doesn’t get any simpler than that. Ads in linear – been there, done that. But ads in various on-demand situations, including multi-screen? Getting the right ad to the right place at the right time is not a simple process, and talk about your scaling challenges. Like program delivery, ad delivery might end up largely in the cloud, which promises to make it easier. Not easy. Easier. And once the tech is in place, the ad guys will still have to climb on board. – BRS
31 Venture Capital: Back in the Saddle
A slight uptick in VC funding for all stages of investment in the cable, technology, software and social media sectors in 2013 will give the VC community added momentum in 2014.
Leading the VC funding charge in 2014, says Mark McCaffrey of PriceWaterhouseCoopers, will be data and media as advertising moves to multiple devices.
“With the pace of innovation in cable and related sectors, and with lots of cash, it makes sense to get access to technology early on to be sure they get early usage. In 2014 we see a strong year, with VCs investing in early stage companies.” – CK
32 CCAP: Unwrapped
In addition to the trials by Comcast, Cox Communications teamed up with Cisco for two trials of its own. In October, Time Warner Cable launched CCAP with gear from Casa Systems and Arris. Time Warner Cable used CCAP in several markets to provide more bandwidth for the delivery of its data services.
While the end game for CCAP is to eventually combine edge QAMs and cable modem termination systems into one ultra-dense platform, last year was more of a “CCAP Lite” scenario with the denser CMTS and edge QAM equipment. – MR
33 MoCA: Global Dreams
MoCA’s (Multimedia over Coax Alliance) challenge of advancing its mission of becoming a wired connectivity technology of choice in an increasingly wireless world is a daunting one.
Nonetheless, the universal standard for home entertainment networking used by cable, satellite and IPTV has grown its membership by 15 percent since 2012 on five continents with 118 certified products.
Its goals for 2014 are to drive home networking worldwide and increase the number of operators adopting MoCA technology that supports multiple streams of HD video and more.
This year could be pivotal for MoCA in determining just how well that ubiquity mantra resonates with the global community. – CK
34 Monitoring / Maintenance: Yes
Video gets encoded and decoded over and over, chunked and rendered in multiple bit rates for adaptive bit-rate delivery, sliced and diced to make room for ads – there are more and more places in a network where video can get compromised, more of them where the video is out of your control (when it’s your video, let’s not even discuss OTT), and fewer places in a network where you can actually look at an actual video image and evaluate it. Comedy is easy; video quality is hard. – BRS
35 Over-the-top: Détente
More OTT companies are competing directly with original series, and the entire OTT crew is still getting free rides on MVPD/ISP broadband pipes. For now, however, most MVPD subscribers are using Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu, et al, for supplemental viewing (though it’s possible OTT cuts into potential VOD action). So, by necessity, the new attitude is “give the people what they want.” Or maybe it’s “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em”? Whatever. CES saw a slew of gadgets (boxes, sticks, and dongles) designed for MVPDs to give to their subs to enable OTT access; these devices often come with cloud-based UIs that MVPDs can white label to stitch OTT access onto their own portals. This détente should hold for now. – BRS
36 Smart TVs: Calling Smart Users
Against the backdrop of smart TVs being prominent at last month’s CES show in Vegas, a study last year by Analysys Mason found that more than half of smart TV owners weren’t connecting to the Internet with them.
The report cited poorly designed user interfaces and the lack of compelling content and applications as roadblocks.
Last year Time Warner Cable started sending on demand movies and shows to some models of Samsung smart TVs while Comcast has been working with Samsung as well. – MR
37 TiVo: Mini Me
TiVo in 2013 rolled out its “mini” device that allows TiVo users to extend the viewing of live TV, recorded and streaming content and on-demand programming. But will that inspire more from the self-proclaimed “DVR specialist” in 2014?
With just a few minor contentious cable issues (the future of the CableCard, for example), TiVo seems determined to partner with cable, particularly with tier 2 cable operators as they roll out TiVo boxes as home gateways.
Said one industry analyst: “Set-top box vendors consider TiVo a threat, but not cable. And TiVo wants to break into the Tier 1 cable market. But they must convince the big players to partner with them, and they’re not there yet.” – CK
38 UltraHD/4K: Learning Curve
A new service MVPDs can offer to subs; requiring new equipment that vendors will be ecstatic to sell. The classic chicken-and-egg thing might not apply. No 4K content? No problem; 4K TVs are excellent
displays for HD. They’ll sell; the only question is how fast? 4K is the dream app for HEVC, but in 2014 it won’t be much more than a demo app for HEVC gear vendors. Netflix and YouTube expect to do 4K, but what does that mean in an ABR environment? Larger MVPDs who need to look cutting edge will do 4K sports events, and there will be a few narrowly-defined products, such as Comcast Xfinity’s 4K app on Samsung Smart TVs. All bets are off if the DBS companies decide that 4K is the new HD and start beating cable over the head with it. There’s a steep learning curve for creating 4K content – rapid camera movement with ultrahigh resolution can be vomit-inducing. – BRS
39 Whole Home DVR: Upwardly Mobile
DVR penetration is leveling off at 47 percent as the market moves deeper into higher income homes and the whole-home DVR market morphs into a bundling model.
“Whole-home DVR is now a bundling scheme and DBS is ahead of cable in that market with its Hopper and other services. So, whole-home DVR is a must-have service for cable as a competitive tool,” said Bruce Leichtman of Leichtman Research Group.
With 43 percent of households now having more than one DVR, the whole-home DVR market is indeed being saturated, and with limited marketing dollars targeted at the whole-home DVR market in 2013, look for more marketing campaigns aimed at the higher value market in 2014. – CK
40 Wireless Broadband: Spectrum?
In such demand that wireless carriers can barely think about doing anything other than nailing down more spectrum. Picocells will help, but only so much. Consumers want roaming access so bad that MSOs are creating public Wi-Fi networks and partitioning in-home routers for private-public use. Wearable tech is an emerging trend, and will increasingly feature wireless connectivity. Higher-end 2015 cars are going to hit the market with wireless connectivity. There’s a new boom in modulation research – there are ways to cram more bits on a carrier wave. Their practicality is another issue. – BRS
41 Big Data: Big deal
Big data is the next service frontier in commercial services; several MVPDs that offer business services have bought companies with huge data centers for that reason. Meanwhile, MVPDs themselves have such monstrous amounts of real-time data available it is currently impossible to extract much that is meaningful from it. But if it could be sifted? What are customers doing? When are they doing it? What’s their experience with what they’re doing? Answers could help improve everything from network management practices to customer service to marketing. – BRS
42 Cell Backhaul: Let’s Be Small
Cable operators have profited handsomely from their mobile backhaul businesses, but the next frontier is using small cells for managed services.
“What happens with pico cells is very important,” wrote one of CED’s BB50 contributors. “How the cost structure evolves, for wireless carriers, is impactful to how it is sold.”
On the milestone front, Time Warner Cable said last year that it had wired 10,000 cell towers, which may have been an industry first. – MR
43 DOCSIS: Transition Period
The rapidity of the development of the spec was a truly stunning achievement. DOCSIS 3.1 is a train MSOs can ride to gigabit broadband and the inevitable IPTV future. But as inevitable as IPTV is, it isn’t inevitable for lots and lots of years yet. Rivals with FTTP can offer 100s of Mbps right now, but those tiers are nasty expensive, and who needs that much bandwidth anyway? How badly does anyone other than the largest of MSOs really have to compete with that? This year will see a lot of companies prepping their networks for 3.1. And Michael Powell is dead on when he said this thing needs a sexier name. – BRS
44 DPoE: Out Of The Starting Blocks
In June, CableLabs announced qualification of the first devices that used the DOCSIS Provisioning of EPON (DPoE) specifications. At the time, CableLabs said the qualification marked a new milestone in the cable industry; enabling the interoperability of access network equipment based on Ethernet Passive Optical Network (EPON) technology. The new capability allows cable operators to integrate fiber-based access network technology to meet the high bandwidth demands of business customers.
A month later, Broadcom announced that its DPoE 1.0 chipsets were ready to go to market. – MR
45 FCC: The Right Guy
The new FCC Chairman is considered to be an activist. No one should expect favoritism from Tom Wheeler, the only person to be selected to both the Cable Television Hall of Fame and The Wireless Hall of Fame, but it’s heartening to see someone in that position with such a broad range of experience, especially with Congress seemingly serious about revisiting the Telecommunications and Cable Acts sometime soon. – BRS
46 IPv6: Very Necessary
The latest estimate is that IPv4 addresses allocated
to North America will run out about a year from now, yet the transition is still only somewhere in mid-swing. Comcast reported
that its IPv6 traffic skyrocketed in 2013, but also said more needs to be done – CDNs, web hosts, and companies in the consumer electronics space are lagging. Less than
half of U.S. Federal domains have IPv6
enabled. – BRS
47 Metro Ethernet: Perpetual Blossom
Cable operators had a strong showing on Vertical System Group’s recent mid-year Ethernet Leaderboard. Cable MSOs comprised 20 percent of the total Ethernet port base in the United States while the incumbent carrier segment remained the largest with 47 percent, followed by the competitive provider segment’s 33 percent.
Based on port share, the mid-year
U.S. Ethernet Leaderboard in rank order was: AT&T, Verizon, tw telecom, CenturyLink, Cox, XO, Time Warner Cable, and Level 3.
In February, Comcast garnered Carrier Ethernet 2.0 (CE 2.0) certification from the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), becoming the first service provider to achieve 2.0
certification. – MR
48 RDK: Management Is Born
Aware that the rest of the cable industry was concerned that the Reference Design Kit (RDK) initiative was a “Comcast jam down,” Comcast and Time Warner Cable formed the RDK Management joint venture
last year. Following on the heels of its
formation in August, RDK Management named former Comcast executive
Steve Heeb as its president and general
manager, along with picking S3 Group and itaas to provide support services to the organization and its licensees. – MR
49 Search & Discovery: Home
With the plethora of video across multiple devices, personalization and search and discovery features are a must-have for video providers. Last year Time Warner Cable partnered with Digitalsmiths and Jinni for search and recommendation features.
ThinkAnaytics announced in December that it had expanded the capabilities of its hosted ThinkCloud platform for programmers and service providers by adding a turnkey, software-as-a-service (SaaS) component that allows service providers to offload IT resources and use a “pay as you grow” business model. – MR
50 Social Media: Social Viewing
The industry knows that viewers, especially younger ones, use social media all the time, especially when they’re consuming media. The key is figuring out how to deliberately integrate the experience. It starts with the recognition that the best recommendation engine is the friend who shares your tastes, and goes from there. How do you encourage, facilitate, and exploit that? It’s not clear there’s a single definitive answer, but good things might come to those who try. – BRS