Imran Shah, co-founder/managing partner at boutique consultancy IBB Consulting, shared his take on the latest cable earnings trends, business challenges and recent M&A activities.
1. 1Q earnings season is here. What will be the growth drivers for cable MSOs during the quarter?
We expect to see continued healthy growth in high-speed data and commercial services businesses. Video will likely be an area where performance and growth varies from one operator to the next.
2. What will be some of the major trends in the cable industry this year?
MSOs are expected to continue to focus on the growth of TV Everywhere as content providers become more comfortable with the business model. The supporting technologies make it easy for subscribers to access and consumers become more aware of viewing options.
We’ll also see more rollouts of next-generation user interfaces and set-top boxes based on IP technologies. There will be trials and early deployments of network DVR, continued performance boosts to high-speed data products, and more innovation around pricing and packaging for entry level video and high-speed data customers, including pre-paid options.
Finally, the customer experience will continue to be an important competitive differentiator, supported by advertised guarantees like smaller appointment windows and ensuring the installation goes right on the first visit.
3. What are some major barriers to cable MSOs going forward?
Increased competition in video, rising content costs and changes in consumer tastes will continue to impact how operators design video offerings. There are increased challenges, but the key to ongoing success will be creating value, convenience and flexibility around the product and packages. Cable is well-positioned during a time when competition is quite fierce. To maintain an edge, operators will need to get better at more quickly and efficiently developing and rolling out new services that drive adjacent growth.
4. What does the Verizon/cable deal as well as the DISH/Sprint merger proposal mean for the cable industry?
Wireless continues to be a very important part of consumers’ lives and so cable is paying close attention to opportunities there. Operators are already offering services seamlessly over wireless devices and we’ll see more of these services moving forward. An imperative for the industry will be giving consumers the flexibility to enjoy video both in and out of the home on wireless devices. Second screen strategies that leverage wireless devices will also become more prevalent and an important component of interactivity that more and more subscribers crave. Wi-Fi accessibility will grow in importance for subscribers, especially as seamless roaming between MSOs drives further uptake.