Independent POV: Show Talk Tackles Consolidation, Gigabit Speeds, Video
As smaller operators keep a wary eye on distributor consolidation, WaveDivision ’s Steve Weed offered some comfort. A couple weeks ago, a Comcast customer service call went viral when a customer tried to cancel his service to switch to WaveDivision’s Astound. “To some extent, Comcast and Time Warner Cable —the bigger they get, the more consumers dislike them,” he told the crowd gathered for Mon’s opening general session of NCTC and ACA ’s Independent Show. As Comcast creates its own walled garden of content— Streampix instead of Netflix and its own Youtube -like service—Weed doubts that’s what consumers want. Carmel Group ’s Jimmy Schaeffler said that Comcast can’t expect to follow an Apple business model. “They don’t have that cult following,” he said. Consumers want choice, Weed said. For his company, he wants to step away from video and be a broadband provider that enables customers to get content directly online from content owners. “We’re working on that now. The reason we stay in the traditional video business is consumer behavior takes a long time to change,” Weed said.
Wave launched Roku boxes 3 years ago, then the Arris Media Gateways and now is using the TiVo platform to bring customers Netflix. On the flip side of the consolidation coin is content cost. “That’s clearly a bad deal for us,” he said, citing concerns over price and forced bundling. However, if that content is made available to his broadband customers directly (instead of Wave offering it through video subscriptions), that could be a good relationship, Weed said. How fast that’s really feasible remains to be seen, with Imagine Comm ’s Steve Reynolds pointing to the importance of live sporting events and other content that is best supported through the existing business model. “I think consolidation is inevitable… I don’t know that it’s bad for the consumer. I think a lot of that depends on the folks in this room,” Reynolds said. “Their role can either be opening up the pipe and making sure the customer has access to all that content… I think there may still be packaging options that smaller operators can bring together that make a lot of sense for customers.”
Cloud DVRs could be a great example, he said. Do small cable operators need to be offering 1 Gig Internet? “People love that product. I was quoted 2 years ago as saying people didn’t need that product. Theoretically, if you’re streaming… you still won’t need 100-megs,” Weed said. “But there are things people do when they get gigabyte Internet we hadn’t thought of.” For example, downloading a movie in a few minutes instead of 15-20 so they can take it with them to watch on a plane. Schaeffler urged operators to jump on board and leapfrog the competition. “There’s an opportunity for you to start off with those speeds, realizing that it’s inevitable,” he said. “That pipe is going to be more valuable.”