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Execs talk about what's next

Tue, 03/21/2006 - 7:02am
Jeff Baumgartner, CED

Las Vegas -  The cable industry and the telcos set aside their swords for a few moments here Monday at the TelecomNEXT confab to discuss what's on the horizon for both, touching on a common theme that they must embrace change in order to remain relevant to consumers.

Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt acknowledged that change is "scary," but in the same breath noted that the winners in this new game will be the ones who leverage change as an opportunity.

"I don't think being a fast-follower is enough in this business," Britt later said, noting Time Warner Cable's historically early and broad rollouts of new services and applications such as video-on-demand, digital video recorders and IP-based digital phone services.

He said the MSO will maintain that trend with apps such as TV-based caller ID, interactive television and "Start Over," a service that allows customers to restart select programs (i.e. those with copyright clearance) that are already in progress.

Britt also touched on Time Warner's mobility plans, particularly those linked to the joint venture with Sprint Nextel and fellow cable operators Comcast Corp., Advance/Newhouse, and Cox Communications.

In addition to supplying mobile voice services to the cable arsenal, the J.V. will also add mobility to the MSO's other product lines, Britt said. Specific apps that will emerge from the J.V. include giving customers the ability to program their DVRs remotely and to watch shows recorded via a mobile device.

Ivan Seidenberg, CEO of Verizon, also gazed into his crystal ball, noting that "the next wave of the Internet revolution" will include speeds of 100 Mbps-plus, and a mix of fiber-based, wireless and cellular technologies, particularly EV-DO, WiMAX and WiFi.

"Speed wins," he later said, when summing up how the competitive forces will align.

Speed is also a key component of Verizon's fiber-fed platform. The telco ended 2005 with 3 million homes passed with fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) technology. That number is expected to reach 6 million by the end of 2006, and hit the range of 18 million to 20 million by the end of the decade.

Fellow keynoter Bob Iger, the CEO of The Walt Disney Co., said the riskiest thing a producer of content could do is to maintain the status quo as consumers establish more control in how and when they obtain and view media.

He said Disney will embrace portability, rather than become a slave to fixed media. "At Disney, we are refusing to do that," he said, referring to the latter.

Disney's TV show distribution deal with Apple's iTunes last year has produced more than 4 million video downloads so far, Iger said.

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