On the Circuit with CableWorld editor Seth Arenstein It could have been yet another industry breakfast session. A great opportunity to schmooze with friends, reconnect with former colleagues, network for that next gig and eat cold scrambled eggs, washed down with weak java. The panel usually is gravy.
Not at Wednesday’s CTAM Blue Ribbon session; there were no eggs in sight. The repast was a healthy fruit salad, granola and sensibly small bagels and pastries. And the panel, about broadband video and how cable could benefit or die from it, was terrific, although not diverse (see "Looks Are Deceptive at CTAM Breakfast").
Moderator Will Richmond tried to coax his panelists into admitting that cable’s pay model would go away, eventually being overrun by the Internet’s free way of doing things. No go, here. Not yet, at least.
Even from Google VP David Eun, who’s either vying for the Nobel Prize in diplomacy or actually believes that cable’s success is also Google’s. Eun’s take: Google’s search mission means its myriad partners—cable, too—are crucial. We want to offer “infinite choices” to customers, he said. On the other hand, it could also be the donut and hole thing. Only 15% of the world’s information is digitized. Google’s eyeing the other 85%, Eun said. Cable’s a small blip on Google’s radar.
You expect the cable guys—Cox SVP Dallas Clement and Comcast SVP Matt Strauss—to defend the fort, and they did, admirably. After Discovery digital chief Bruce Campbell said Discovery is putting many show episodes on the Internet before they debut on the linear channels, Clement put at “low” the probability that people one day will be able to use devices to transfer streamed video to their televisions. Apple TV et al are “interesting devices,” but they don’t provide multichannel, high-value content,” he said. He conceded, though, that cable must provide consumers with the best linear, online and mobile experience.
Strauss of Comcast also pushed cable’s bundle, and the importance of “increasing the value proposition,” and delivering a great package of services, including quadruple-play elements like caller ID on the TV screen. His other thrust had a slightly different twist, though. The pay TV model is the “economic engine” that drives content creation. That won’t end soon. He also gently pooh-poohed broadband video generally. People who are buying large-screen sets don’t want to use them to stream Obama Girl, he said.
But even old cable hand Herb Scannell, now running online property Next New Networks, said the pay model “will always be there.” He, too, added, however, it’s crucial for cable to understand that the consumer is getting more tools to make the ultimate choice on content, doing things to block the consumer’s choice is a misguided strategy. “That’s the sea change.” [A podcast of this panel will appear on CTAM NY’s website during the week of Sept 24.] • More commentary from Seth Arenstein >