Cable Is Cool Again?

All of this cable iPad attention reminded us of an article we published a little more than a year ago, in which Comcast’s Brian Roberts agreed on “some level” that cable is on the opposite end of the coolness spectrum than Apple.
 
The interview at the State of the Net conference took place the same day Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. At the time, Roberts said cable could do a better job telling its story (Cfax, 1/28/10). Fast forward to today when Business Insider’s Dan Frommer published an article titled, “Against All Odds, CABLE COMPANIES Are Now Making the Coolest Video iPad Apps.”
 
Ted Turner is often remembered for his early ’80s “I was cable when cable wasn’t cool” song, and now it might be time for Jim Dolan’s JD and the Straight Shots to dust off Turner’s 45 rpm and record it for MP3s with Glenn Britt singing back-up.
 
Yes, there is legal wrangling and uncertainty over the apps—but all of that has brought cable more attention, even if some programmers are not singing the apps’ praises. As the incumbent, cable’s watched telcos and DBS have the innovation upper hand at least in the public’s eye for years. Remember all the handwringing over why it was taking cable longer to roll out remote DVR scheduling? But now cable—or at least Time Warner Cable and Cablevision—are getting to bask in glowing reviews.
 
“This is absolutely incredible! I was super skeptical, but [Cablevision] really pulled it off. Works great, some pixilation and breakups at times, but that’s probably because I’m far from the router. Amazing stuff, real advantage over FIOS,” read one review on a message board for Cablevision subs.
 
“Time Warner Cable’s new app requires users to jump through several hoops of varying difficulty just to log in for the first time. In this case, at least, that persistence can pay off, as the end result is a streaming-video product that may be a new killer app for the iPad and eventually other tablets,” writes CNET’s Gadget Blog.
 
Sure, cable has other innovations—DOCSIS 3.0, Comcast’s 4500 hours of On Demand streaming to iPad, Cablevision’s 9-screen, self-selected mosaic and the list goes on. But they just haven’t gotten the buzz that these iPad video apps have. Can the industry build on this momentum? One believer, of course, is cable’s marketing group CTAM.
 
“Customers are experiencing the ‘next big thing’ from their cable companies every few months—from On Demand to DVR, HDTV to 3DTV, iTV to iPads. With the biggest and best network, this is just the beginning of cable’s coolest-kid-on-the-block future,” said CTAM pres Char Beales.

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