It never hurts to have strong friends and allies, it’s always a net positive. No, I’m not talking about the Iraq war, although don’t get me started on that. I’m talking about virtually every one of the challenges and battles we face in the coming months and years. The cable industry would be foolish not to seek as many allies as it can find. Let’s look at a few challenges and trends to get the feel of how busy we will be, and how nice it would be if we could find other folks to help man the oars. I was talking to a friend who is very knowledgeable about the "DTV transition" and HDTV. He just had an HD receiver hooked up to his plasma screen. The regular picture got worse, not better. He brought in video geeks who determined that the DirecTV guys had not set up the system correctly, used the wrong wires, and not programmed the box the way he wanted it. I could just gloat about the DBS folks screwing up and suggest that he get cable, but in reality I am not sure the cable guys could do much better! Why? This is horrendously complicated; with TV manufacturers designing sets with different "zoom" and "letterbox correction" controls, all of which conflict with the HD settings. The result is that if you get the HD looking great, the rest of the video may not look as good as you had it set before you got HD! Do you think it’s any consolation to the buyer to tell him /herthe HD really looks spectacular if that’s the only thing it does? Let’s face it. This is going to be a mess as the "transition" progresses, and cable is going to have the largest number of folks converting. So we need allies to explain that this will be a "…work in progress" for some time, and that it is not as simple as just blaming the cable guy, or the DBS folks, the television set manufacturers or the broadcasters. I have long questioned the wisdom of this whole conversion, but that’s water over the dam. We have to deal with it, and we’re foolish if we don’t make sure all of those groups – yes, including the broadcasters, become "allies" in explaining this process to consumers and helping with the transition. Here’s another one, and I know some of you think it’s boring and too complex, but if we don’t get a handle, and lots of allies, on digital rights management (copyright) reform, we will all be in a never-ending battle. We’ve seen the latest numbers of declining cable subs (more on that soon). But the bottom line is that we have the best technology to deliver what folks really want: control. That ultimately translates to VOD. But we can’t do full VOD until we figure out a beneficial deal with copyright owners, and at the same time protect the rights of our customers. We need allies on both sides, and we need them soon! "Conflict resolution" experts say the way you end disputes and create allies is to find the "bottom line" need of each party and see how you can satisfy that need. I think with both of these examples that can be done. And the sooner the better.

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On the Hill

House Commerce will hold a committee organizational meeting on Tuesday at 1pm, where it will announce

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