In a late-January 2012 report from the Pew Internet Project (click here for more information), it was announced that tablet ownership saw a dramatic increase in just one month. The report noted ownership of the devices among U.S. adults was at 10 percent in mid-December 2011. In early January, the ownership nearly doubled to 19 percent. E-book readers took the same jump in ownership — from 10 percent to 19 percent.

As these mobile devices find their way into more homes, the demand for video content on mobile devices will continue to grow. The challenge for the independent cable operators that belong to NCTC is to be ready to support this increasing demand, both in terms of bandwidth consumption and in being able to authorize and authenticate the delivery of video to mobile devices.

TV Everywhere (TVE) will be one of the primary topics addressed at NCTC’s 2012 Winter Educational Conference (WEC), set for Feb. 20-21 in Austin. It’s not the first time the topic has been on the agenda but, as the Pew Report indicates, the time to move on this initiative is now. The theme for the 2012 Conference is “Plan for Progress,” and TVE is a key aspect of that planning.

In a recent Webinar, Justin Connolly, senior vice president/National Accounts at ESPN, said his company firmly believes that as video becomes accessible on more and more devices, the consumer will gravitate to the “best available screen.”

When it comes to live sporting events, for the consumer at home, that is very likely to be the 55-in. HDTV in the family room. But when the subscriber is out of the house, the best available screen may be a tablet device or even a smartphone. Select cable operators, especially larger MSOs like Time Warner, are actively supporting content on mobile devices. Others, including some progressive NCTC members, recently haveadded TVE services or are moving in that direction.

NCTC’s TVE Role

NCTC also is moving in that direction. Under President/CEO Rich Fickle, NCTC has been investigating a variety of options that can be brought to members to help them provide TVE service. On the panel at the WEC, several members and suppliers will detail their TVE plans. It is NCTC’s intent to provide members not just with information, but also with a plan that can help them start down their own TVE paths.

One of the bigger challenges facing NCTC members in the move to TVE is program rights. While some programmers are seeing TVE as just an extension of an operator’s existing rights, others are seeing it as an opportunity to seek additional revenue. NCTC is working with programmers under existing agreements to find the best solution for the end user — the cable customers who want their favorite cable networks and programs to be available anytime anywhere on any device. The consumer doesn’t want to be financially penalized for choosing a mobile device as the “best available screen.”

In addition to TVE, the WEC will feature 6.5 hours of educational sessions and 7.5 hours of exhibit time. More than 55 companies will be on the exhibit floor, displaying the latest technology and services they can provide to NCTC members. In the surveys NCTC conducts after each WEC, spending time on the exhibit floor is one of the primary reasons members attend these meetings.

Suppliers also note in their survey responses that they are “very satisfied” with the many decision makers who are on the exhibit floor at NCTC’s conferences. It is one of the few industry shows left where business still is done on the showroom floor.

Reg/Leg Updates

In addition to the technical sessions, the American Cable Association (ACA) will be in Austin to update members on political and regulatory issues, including the CALM Act and EAS-CAP compliance. While most operators closed out their retrans-consent negotiations at the end of last year, the financial sting still lingers (see  "Reality Check" on page 23). With the FCC’s look at retrans still open, the ACA will provide members an update on what action – if any – that agency may take on retrans reform.

With 2012 being an election year, it also means cable operators face an additional challenge in getting time and attention from legislators more concerned about their own campaigns and reelection. Many NCTC members not only will join NCTC and ACA in Austin, but they also will head East just a few weeks later to attend the ACA Summit in Washington, D.C., scheduled for March 13-15. It will be a busy month for independent operators, as both NCTC’s WEC and ACA’s Summit are focused on helping members plan and gear up for progress.

Dan Mulvenon is vice president/Communications at the National Cable Television Cooperative. Contact him at dmulvenon@nctconline.org
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