SAN FRANCISCO — Attendees at this week’s Independent Show heard a mixed message from Wall Street experts regarding the future of money and competition in the cable industry.

First, they were told to be afraid, be very afraid. “The number of competitors in the video space is growing, and they aren’t your friends,” said Laura Martin, founder and managing partner at Media Metrics LLC. “I am less worried and more scared about competitors. This cloud stuff is much more insidious because you don’t know who’s in there.”

Martin also predicted the days of Tier 1 cable operators staying within their footprints out of respect to their smaller brethren could be over within the next 10 years. “Tier 1 MSOs may go national (with IPTV offerings), forgetting that loyalty,” she said.

Her partner on the panel, Miller Tabak & Co. analyst David Joyce, believes software will override hardware when it comes to how MSOs will offer new services and, if operators don’t get into that game, they will be left behind.

“Time Warner introduces a new app every six months – every nine months, if something has gone wrong,” he said. Joyce also said cable’s “black hole” continues to be how to handle content to mobile devices.

On the plus side, however, Martin noted that operators have three paths to growth: from the network, from modem services and from video. Concentrate on modem services, she said.

“Modem services are the most profitable, with people saying they would pay as much as $80 a month for high-speed Internet,” she said. However, on the video side, she suggested cablecos should “disaggregate” and offer smaller video bundles at cheaper prices.

But Martin’s big surprise was her stance on threats from Google. “Have no fear from the likes of Google,” she said. “On a scale of 1 to 10, Google presents a zero competitive threat to cable.”

Joyce told showgoers he doesn’t believe there is going to be a double-dip recession, suggesting MSOs pursue the MDU marketplace to take advantage of potential subscribers who have moved out of single-family homes and into apartment buildings due to personal financial downturns.

Mark Cuban Speaks

Addressing the lunch crowd yesterday, HDNet founder Mark Cuban didn’t mince words when he gave an impassioned plea for media independence, railed against big content companies that he said strong-arm small operators and vowed to keep educating lawmakers about preserving independent voices.

"You don’t look at earnings per share,î he told attendees. "You look into the eyes of the people you work with." He said that, despite his personal wealth, HDNet as a business also struggles against larger competitors and tries to hold down programming costs. "We feel the exact same pain, so we’re working hard to come up with solutions," he said.

Cuban also slammed big media companies for bundling networks into discount packages, making it hard for smaller operators to pick and choose channels to carry, noting HDNet has started pushing hard to lobby Capitol Hill and the agencies on that issue.

"We’re doing our best to free up space because it’s not right that you have to carry networks that nobody watches," he said, adding it’s wrong for those same companies to stream content they’re also charging operators to carry (HDNet doesn’t stream).

Cuban also spoke more generally about how TV will evolve, arguing that traditional TV continues to be a simpler experience than retrieving content on the Internet.

"You don’t want to have to work to watch TV," he said, exuding optimism about the TV platform where he said interactivity and advanced advertising will flourish more than it does on the Internet, which involves competing standards.

"There are still so many opportunities on the cable side," he concluded.

From The Show Floor

>> Avail-TVN unveiled Linear Complete, a fully managed MPEG-4 content delivery solution that offers a cost-effective way to maximize existing bandwidth, allowing operators to add the services they need to meet consumer demand, reduce churn and increase ARPU. Zito Media is among the first cable MSOs to utilize the service.   ?
>> IBBS says RCN, the 12th largest U.S. residential and business MSO, launched IBBS’ Broadband Explorer (BBX) Diagnostics platform to support its customer-care and technical operations. The system has been deployed into RCN’s two major call centers, giving customer care, tech ops and dispatch personnel streamlined tools and deeper insight into network operations.

According to the vendor, its BBX platform provides a rich data stream that is easily accessed from a series of integrated, color-coded screens. The platform seamlessly integrates customer data, customer equipment performance data, network metrics and other vital information that allows agents to analyze data, perform diagnostics and reach resolution quickly.
   
>> Stingray Digital, a Montreal-based provider of music services to multichannel operators, reached an agreement with the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) for the distribution of the Galaxie continuous music service for its members.??"The Galaxie music service is already distributed and enjoyed by customers of more than 60 TV operators across the United States," says Eric Boyko, president/CEO of Stingray Digital. "We are thrilled to have reached an agreement with the NCTC so that their members can now consider the Galaxie service as a superior and cost-effective alternative to their existing digital music service.” ??Launched more than 13 years ago, Galaxie serves close to 10 million households in North America, South America and the Caribbean on digital cable, satellite and IPTV television packages; another 10 million in Europe are served under a different brand name.

>> 50 commercial-free channels programmed by music industry professionals covering all popular music genres, including pop, rock, country, jazz, classical and more. ?>> An on-screen presentation that presents thematic images and song information.??NCTC members can access Stingray’s Concert TV VOD service, which offers SD and HD full-length concert and live music content. Concert TV already is distributed in more than 30 million homes and includes a robust “free on demand” offering and a large selection of transactional titles.?

Debra Baker

The Daily

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