Cable Show: New tech brings more opportunities, challenges for MSOs
The “Big Show in the Big Easy” kicked off Sunday with a general session comprising big-name presidents and CEOs as panelists, all of whom acknowledged that new technologies and an increasingly fragmented world will bring both opportunities and challenges.
Kyle McSlarrow, president and CEO of the NCTA, keynoted “Generation Next: What's Now and What's New in Broadband Media,” saying that in the face of an uncertain economy and with more competition than ever, the cable industry continues to grow due to a renewed focus on the consumer.
“When it comes to TV, cable invented choice and competition, and that hasn’t changed,” McSlarrow said.
Cable is investing in better content, more high-definition (HD), better platforms, more services and faster broadband speeds – and consumers want more of all of it. If we do our part, consumer choice, and not government mandates, will grow our businesses for years to come, McSlarrow said.
By next year’s show, tru2way will be sold in retail stores, McSlarrow declared, and panelist Yoshi Yamada, president and CEO of Panasonic Corp. of North America, agreed. And the most attractive point for consumers, Yamada noted, is that tru2way will allow the set-top box to disappear, because the device will be incorporated into the TV.
Tru2way’s open architecture will enable creative new applications to be developed in the future, Yamada continued, and that is the most significant point. Traditionally, the cable industry has been a closed industry, he said, and tru2way is the first attempt for it to open up, which will benefit everyone – cable operators, consumers and consumer electronics manufacturers, as well as application software developers.
In addition to competition in the marketplace, the cable industry also faces extreme fragmentation, which is increasing exponentially.
“Whether we like it or not, more fragmentation and more competition are coming,” said News Corp. President and COO Peter Chernin, also a panelist. We need to build new business models faster than the older ones erode, he said, and search for new ways to give content to consumers. He noted that Comcast has done remarkably well with growing its video-on-demand (VOD) sector.
And the industry should be embracing fragmentation, according to panelist Philippe Dauman, president and CEO of Viacom. The example he gave was the MTV series “The Hills,” which is not only a success on TV, but also a hit online and in the mobile sphere; and the show has its own virtual online world that consumers can delve into.
This plays into the mantra that consumers want what they want, when they want it, and the future will be about connecting broadband to the television, and about connecting cable with the PC, said Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts. “We’re going to try and do all of that.”
New technologies are increasing the time that people spend with entertainment, Dauman said, and the industry needs to view that as an opportunity to reinforce the TV platform by creating more engagement with programming, and by digging deeper into the online realm.
Chernin said that News Corp. plans to premiere new drama series with half the number of commercials. We think that advertisers will pay a premium for spots, he said, and that consumers will be more likely to stick with the programming. It also challenges advertisers to make ads more engaging and more interactive, and it challenges cable operators to more effectively target consumers, he added.
Project Canoe is the cable industry’s next-big opportunity when it comes to addressable advertising, and a CEO will soon be named, Roberts said.
The session was moderated by Bill Kennard, the managing director of The Carlyle Group, and included Paul Otellini, the president and CEO of Intel Corp., as a panelist.
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