The cable industry’s path to expanded bundled services will widen with the inclusion of two key services – wireless and online video.
Those two rising stars were front-and-center conversation at the Cable Show’s opening session Wednesday. And though quality customer service, network reliability and price/value entered into the four speakers’ dialogue, it was wireless and online video that ruled the day.
"Bringing the nature of the Internet and full power to people who move is what we’re doing and will inspire us to enhance entertainment and capacity to full power," said Craig McCaw, chairman of Clearwire.
Adding wireless and online video to the business model is expected to move the cable industry into new territory, albeit getting there in a deep recession will take time, patience and a lot of vision.
"If we have the fastest Internet and take risks, we’ll have a fabulous future," said Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of Comcast. "It’s an entire evolution to broadband. But we’ve got to do some tough things first, like going all-digital and rolling out DOCSIS 3.0. ASAP."
And wireless is near the top of the to-do list. Added Roberts: "Wireless is a conundrum for the industry. How do we take that first step? It’s a tough road, but we’re figuring out how to partner, and this space can change quickly. It’s an interesting road for us to take."
Cox’s road to wireless is opening up as well. "Opening retail stores, tower sites, new back offices and partnering with Sprint are all new to us, so we must put in place the foundation like back office and use existing technology," said Pat Esser, president of Cox Communications.
Suddenlink, with 1.3 million triple-play customers, isn’t so sure about wireless, however, and is taking a more cautious approach. "We have a wait-and-see attitude and (are) just not certain how important it will be for us," said Jerald Kent, chairman and CEO of Suddenlink Communications.
Much of the advancing technology being developed today will be channeled toward online video, along with more investments and partnerships, Roberts maintained.
"Online video is a friend, not a foe, and is powering our on-demand business," Roberts said. "And for programmers, it’s a new opportunity to monetize. And if we go to hi-def video, our network’s last mile is our ace in the hole."
And cable, concluded McCaw, is well-positioned at the table. "Customers don’t want a broadcast model. They want time shifting, DVRs, and we have a massive amount of spectrum. There’s never been an opportunity like this before."
– Craig Kuhl
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