For more than a decade, the wireless industry catchphrase was “anytime, anywhere communications.” In today’s world, that’s a reasonable expectation for voice calls, but consumers want more. The latest buzzword is “TV Everywhere.”

However, a more accurate descriptor of what truly is available when it comes to video or high-bandwidth content is TV “a lot of places,” as video is limited to areas where robust broadband connections are available. Currently, several of the large MSOs have rolled out the TV Everywhere concept, but today’s current expectation of instant gratification is not always met.

As different types of service providers all try to accomplish delivering TV Everywhere, they can learn from one another’s hurdles and successes. After spending more than 20 years in the wireless industry, I have observed that there are key challenges and lessons cable operators could apply to their business.

Years ago, in the wireless industry, two competing carriers had to learn to work together to deliver service in areas where one had a footprint and the other did not, and the term “roaming” was born. Cable now faces a similar dilemma.

“Managing consumer expectations is an important lesson cable can learn from the wireless industry.”

As society becomes more mobile and video-hungry, cable operators will need to deliver video to customers both in and out of their territories to remain competitive. As they begin encroaching upon each other’s territories — and go from being industry colleagues and friends to sudden competitors — it will be challenging to work together. However, this is exactly what needs to be done to meet customer demands for TV Everywhere with fast speeds, high quality and affordable prices. Whether or not the term “roaming” is used, it is the type of structure that can help cable providers deliver TV Everywhere.

In addition, many of the MSOs also are rolling out TV Everywhere services through wireless networks, which include the new 4G network from operators like Clearwire that provide high-speed wireless services with significant capacity gains.

If providers are going to sell TV Everywhere, it is inevitable that end users will expect that “everywhere” truly does mean everywhere, just as they did years ago in the wireless space with the popular marketing phrase “anytime, anywhere” communications. While it might sound obvious to some, managing consumer expectations is an important lesson cable can learn from the wireless industry. Because of the confusion surrounding the various types of coverage and plans available, many consumers now have differing opinions about which carrier has the best coverage or service. When they have a bad experience, they share these opinions with friends, family members or anyone who will listen, which potentially could be an expanded audience with the use of social media. True disclosure and communication of what services are available and where can help properly manage expectations to keep subscribers happy.

This is why wireless carriers as well as other service providers enable access to accurate and detailed coverage maps on their Websites. With this information, consumers can determine if a plan is right for them. As the promise of TV Everywhere services evolves, defining “everywhere” and letting customers know what to expect in terms of service will be imperative.

Another lesson learned is that growth likely will come faster than service providers expect, creating demand that continually will exceed the ability to deliver. What started as the demand for e-mail has evolved into other bandwidth-hungry services. While this still presents its own set of serious challenges for the industry, the takeaway for cable providers is that they must over-anticipate a higher demand and faster growth for TV Everywhere services than the most aggressive projections indicate or they run the risk of disappointing consumers.

Bryan Darr is CEO at American Roamer. Contact him at bryan.darr@americanroamer.com.

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