Technology pundits typically offer annual forecasts in late December and early January. If you’re a professional prognosticator, however, such as TV Predictions (link: http://www.tvpredictions.com/) CEO Phillip Swan, any month will do.

Swan was a luncheon speaker at January’s SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies, and he shared 10 predictions and other insights with National Cable Television Cooperative members attending the group’s annual Winter Educational Conference last month.

Toshiba having just announced its exiting of the HD-DVD business, Swan was in a position upfront to crow about his prediction that the alternative Blu-ray would win this war over DVD formats. Swan also upfront addressed the February 2009 digital transition anxieties shared by many of the smaller operators who make up the NCTC membership with a prediction that may comfort neither cable operators nor regulators and elected officials in Washington, D.C.

"I think there is going to be an uproar of protest," Swan said, describing the scheduled deadline for ceasing over-the-air analog signals as a looming "Katrina of technology."

In that light, Swan offered this preliminary prediction: "I think it’s at least 50-50 that you see the transition date moved back from February." Ten more predictions Swan’s subsequent 10 predictions ranged across the competitive landscape, with special emphasis on consumer behavior:

• "This year the (direct broadcast satellite) providers will emphasize their video more than ever." Something well underway already.

• "Telcos are going to try to buy subs over the next 12 to 18 months." (Possibly through an acquisition of a DBS provider.)

• "Don’t take (over-the-top insurgents) too seriously." The friends of Apple TV, NetFlix, Vudu, etc. in the popular media overemphasize their role.

• Do customers want more services? "Actually, customers want less. What they really want is simplicity and convenience."

• "Digital distribution (of media) will not take off for several years."

• "Americans will buy fewer retail set-tops … Americans have set-top fatigue." (A refrain from above): "People want simplicity and convenience."

• "Americans will get even less patient with new technology." (Again, see above.)

• "In some markets, telcos will start cherry-picking their fights."

• "AT&T will get out of the video business in two years or less." (Perhaps Swan’s most remarked upon prediction from ET; he says shareholders will lose patience.)

• "I think (the insurgents, see above) are going to largely disappear over the next 12 to 18 months." His recommendation to cable: "Let them play it out to see what’s successful, and then steal it."

– Jonathan Tombes

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