I read an article about competition between cable and satellite in the Wall Street Journal the other day. It was pretty good, pointing out that the satellite companies were feeling competitive heat from cable’s introduction of the "triple play" of video, voice and data services-something the DBS folks cannot offer. The article was generally accurate, until the writers inserted what seems an obligatory line when it comes to cable: "Historically, competition from satellite has reined in cable prices, and forced the notoriously slow-moving industry to innovate." "Notoriously slow-moving industry?" Well, I couldn’t let that go by, so I sent a note to the two authors of the article. I didn’t bother to discuss cable prices, which allowed DBS to price itself competitively with existing cable prices, thus letting cable take the "rap" for bringing prices to where they had to be in the first place. I could have also noted that satellite price hikes have easily matched and in some cases outpaced cable’s. No, it was the "notoriously-slow-moving"-on-innovation line that got me going. Let’s see. Who created innovative programming? The broadcasters? Nope. They all offered the same sit-coms until cable came along. Was it satellite? Nope. They still don’t create their own programming. Where did C-SPAN come from? Discovery? The Weather Channel? CNN? I have advice for "journalists" who simply repeat "conventional wisdom": look at what really happened rather than take the easy, and palpably wrong approach of writing the same "truth" over and over again. Who developed and promoted high-speed data to the home? It was an innovation that the telephone industry could easily have promoted but didn’t. It took cable to do it. That’s why we have the largest percentage of home broadband customers today. Slow-moving on innovation? Who rolled out more high-definition programming sooner than anyone else in the country? Cable. Who designed and built … really built, not just talked about building… an infrastructure that delivers not only video but voice and data service to the home before anyone else, including competitors like the telephone industry, which are more than twice as large as the cable industry? Cable. What other industry with a nationwide infrastructure do you know that has rebuilt and upgraded that infrastructure on average once every seven years? The telephone company? The broadcasters? DBS? Nope. Cable! Well, you get the point. I am tired of written "truths" that don’t come close to the truth. I know, some of these "journalists" grew up when DBS was announced and "took off" with very rapid customer increases. It made a very impressive story. But it took the DBS industry well over ten years of delays to get their technology to the point of offering service at all! That’s the part these stories seem to miss. To be sure, cable responds to competition. But the idea that we do not innovate until forced to and that we are "slow moving" persists. The fact that we have plant in front of 95% of all American homes (and that every time we upgrade our technology we have to revisit that plant) seems to be missed. It shouldn’t be. When you read stories like that in the future, don’t just shake your head. Respond!

The Daily


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