Showtime chmn/CEO Matt Blank was kidding (we think), but when you're sitting on a panel with Comcast chmn/CEO Brian Roberts and Charter pres/CEO Tom Rutledge, saying “it's great to be up here with the entire cable industry” isn't altogether inaccurate. After the smoke clears from the Comcast- Time Warner Cable deal and subsequent system spinoffs and swaps with Charter, Charter will be the #2 cable op in the US second only to longtime reigning king Comcast. Rutledge, whose company railed against the Comcast-TWC deal in regulatory filings after Charter's failed bid for the MSO, of course changed his tune in light of the Charter-Comcast spinoff deal announced Mon. “I do think it's a great deal,” Rutledge said. “I think it's a great deal for the industry… it's a different deal than what I was describing previously.” Roberts noted that Comcast will only add 7mln subs net, adding that Facebook has 1.2bln global users. The panel emphasized the need for innovation and competitiveness, with Blank explaining that Showtime doesn't consider itself a content incumbent. “We're not incumbents,” he said. “We view ourselves as insurgents. If you view yourself as an incumbent, you're finished.” For example, he said mobile apps have become a “core competence” because of how consumers are watching and interacting with shows. As for the explosive growth of WiFi, panelists agreed that cable needs to further leverage its growing wireless infrastructure. “I think WiFi is a huge asset for this industry,” said Roberts. And what about mesh WiFi, which could make it a near-ubiquitous service with no dead zones? “We're working on it,” he said. Arris chmn/CEO Bob Stanzione agreed that “WiFi is just a booming area right now,” not only metro WiFi rolling out fast across the country but also systems that facilitate “WiFi assurance” to improve consumers' WiFi control and monitoring capability within the home. According to Rutledge, cable's ability to marry private and public WiFi hotspots to its wireline networks “is really our future. And I think it distinguishes us from our competitors and gives us a better future than any one I can imagine.”

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