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Panel: New services mean new customer demands

Mon, 04/04/2005 - 8:00pm
Craig Kuhl

The familiar mantra of creating a valuable customer experience for video-on-demand and a host of new services and technologies, while creating viable business models to advance the experience to a level of profitability, dominated the discussion at Monday's "Attack of the Empowered Consumer: Understanding New Media Markets" panel session at the National Show in San Francisco.

Dramatic changes in TV are coming, and those who execute the best, not who has the best technology, will win, insisted John Chambers, president and CEO of Cisco Systems Inc.

"We're moving from interaction to transaction, and barriers are breaking down among age groups. The vision of appliances is coming together, so the key is to build agility into network architectures."

Simplicity and ease-of-use will dictate just how successful many of the emerging technologies and services will be, noted Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast Corp. "The simplicity and elegance of Google was in its interface. The question is, can we enable cable customers' experiences to be integrated and ubiquitous and give them what they want? We can't lose our aggressiveness or innovation and must continually invest."

Google 's co-founder, Larry Page, conceded the cable industry's on-demand technology has a ways to go in the user experience area. "There's not much experience in this part of the industry."

Google, Page continued, is tinkering with a Google search service to search for TV channels and shows. "We're just starting to have the technology to transport the information to devices and will begin taking video submissions."

Knowing your market and what it wants are two crucial requirements, said Jonathan Miller, chairman and CEO of AOL Inc. "Once you get your head around what consumers want, and you have a business model to support it, it's pretty sweeping, and very different than the old walled garden approach. At the heart is a program environment and search experience."

Delivering a quality experience to the consumer is the thread that is binding service providers and content creators alike. Building a viable business model to complement that experience will be a top priority for both.

"We try to build our business model to balance risk and creativity, and we're seeing business value in delivering quality experiences to customers—both VOD and in theaters. We see an opportunity for both and a future full of promise," said Jeffrey Katzenberg, co-founder of DreamWorks.

A case-in-point, Katzenberg said, was "Shrek 2," which pulled down $1 billion in movie theaters worldwide, and a like amount in VOD, DVD and cable sales.

Video conferencing in HD is also expected to take off, panelists agreed, and a looming challenge for the cable industry will be its transition to advertising.

At the end of the day, however, panelists agreed that simplicity and ease of use for advancing technology will drive more customer demand for on-demand services.

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