Is OTT a friend or a foe? The industry has been asking the question for years. But like the technologies and services it provides, the answer continues to evolve. During a panel at the Association of Cable Communicators NYC Forum on Tuesday, Evolution Digital marketing vp Tom Bracken indicated that he sat squarely in the friend camp. He’s a proponent of MSOs embracing and integrating video services in order to appeal to consumers. Citing learnings from focus groups in a company study, he said the “simplification of the offering for consumers” is something the cable operators really have to nail down. It’s important to “try to move away things that annoy people,” such as having multiple connections to the TV, multiple remotes, and not providing “flexibility in programming packages.” If he were an MSO? He would allow skinny bundles and work to keep consumers “inside the walled garden” of the TV ecosystem.

The pitch from Samsung Electronics vp and gm, STB Stephen Goldstein was also consumer focused. “Consumers are going to ask and get the content wherever they want it,” and how people want to do that is really up to them, he said. Briefly demoing a Galaxy View product that had a collection of OTT, network and MSO apps all in one interface, he, too, was in the friend versus the foe camp. Goldstein brushed off the potentially alarming stat that 23% of heads of household subscribe to OTT-only services. He pointed to the fact that cable and satellite ops are still making gains in the video business, and that “it also has to do with who’s a home owner.” A college student might have Netflix, but once you’re settled in a home a cable subscription becomes more attractive.

TiVo senior director, content and media operations Susan Sjoblom rebuked the OTT stats as well and referred to her company’s own study that said 70% of those millennials on OTT platforms are actually watching broadcast content. “So while there are some cord-cutters out there, I think it’s not going to be as big as people think… people are still watching broadcast content and they still need a place to do that. And TiVo allows them to do that all in one place.” Friend? Check.

So what does the future of TV look like? Goldstein predicted that TV Everywhere will evolve to include single sign-on to ensure seamless connectivity and a more simplified experience. And mobile video will continue to rise. Currently, “people are rationing their packets in their home,” he said. As a solution, T-Mobile’s Binge On initiative, which allows consumers to watch video without it counting towards their data caps, has set the bar. Bracken envisions more simplification in the home as well, with cable operators offering an OTT service themselves so that consumers don’t actually have to go to a Hulu. And as for TiVo’s Sjoblom, the future of TV won’t look too different—it’ll just be faster.

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