The focus at the Parks Associates’ luncheon Thursday was consumer demand and how the cable industry can position itself to be the one to meet it.
"Consumers increasingly are putting more importance on time shifting and HD as the core attributes of video," said Bob Benya, senior vice president of video product strategy for Time Warner Cable. "Historically, (the focus was) number of channels, picture quality and few outages." His company now offers its Start Over service in 27 markets.
"The television set is still the most preferred display by consumers," Benya said. "They want to watch TV on that big screen. We want to partner with programmers to enable time shifting on that big screen to fit consumer behavior, which is to watch when they want to watch." Benya noted that there also are partnership opportunities related to making Internet content available on television, provided the subscriber can be authenticated.
This doesn’t mean bringing everything about the Internet to the TV screen. "The minute my son’s Facebook chats appear on my TV, it goes in the trash," said Richard Bullwinkle, chief evangelist, Macrovision. "We have to be careful in the living room environment." What he would like to see on the TV set is better imagery, better metadata, and real-time social networking that would allow you to see what your trusted friends are watching or thought of a show.
"You don’t have to shoot the firehose of the Internet at the TV, but (can use) certain aspects of it," Benya agreed. Time Warner, for example, partnered with its broadband arm to allow subscribers to create photo slide shows for VOD channels. "It is a way to show off. It plays into fun consumer behavior patterns."
Thorn in the side?
The concept of broadband enabled TV sets is something that at least one operator admits to not being wild about.
"It is a means of facilitating over-the-top services," said Steve Necessary, vice president, video strategy, Cox Communications. "I understand the desire of manufacturers to do that and the desire of participating in the revenue stream from doing that. But that is our business …. That happens to be one area that I am not particularly thrilled about."
Necessary’s company, and the cable industry as a whole, does, however, remain bullish on tru2way and is very motivated this week to convince people it is no longer a concept but a reality. "We mean it this time," Necessary said. "The top MSOs have made a very firm commitment to the consumer electronics industry for the roll out of tru2way. We meant that as an industry, and we are living up to it."
– Monta Monaco Hernon
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