Video

Cable CTOs: Plenty of Life in Video

11/21/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Atlanta— Cable operators are experimenting
with new products and services
— remaining paranoid about competitive
threats — while they also see tremendous
growth opportunities ahead in commercial
services, top technology executives
from several leading
MSOs said on a
panel.

Comcast chief
technology officer
Tony Werner said the
MSO is “investing in
and building out, for
the lack of a better
term, the digital ecosystem.”
By the end
of 2012, Comcast will
be carrying virtually
no more analog signals
in its systems
nationwide.

In moving to adopt
new technologies,
such as HTML5-
based interfaces and
delivering content
from “the cloud,” Comcast sees an opportunity
to provide video to customers where
they want it.

REFRESH OFTEN

The need to regularly refresh products “in
days and weeks, not months and years,” is
driven by a dose of paranoia about competing
services, Werner said.

“We were paranoid that the satellite guys
would kill us,” Werner said. “There were
things we were afraid of that we didn’t
need to be afraid of, and there were things
we weren’t afraid of that we should have
been.”

Time Warner Cable CTO Mike LaJoie
agreed that some amount of paranoia is
healthy, quipping, “Just because you’re
paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t out
to get you.”

LaJoie noted that multichannel video
revenue is now less than half of TWC’s
business now. “That’s not because the business
is dying, it’s because we have more
growth in these other products,” he said.
“The future of multichannel video is robust.
There is a programming function that
survives. That business is going to continue
to grow and to change.”

Cable actually has an opportunity to
capitalize on new video services, said
Nomi Bergman, president of Bright House
Networks. She cited the Digital Entertainment
Content Ecosystem (DECE) consortium’s
UltraViolet
digital-rights locker
that would let an MSO
offer a movie for purchase
on VOD that
could then later be
streamed on another
device.

“That’s a great example
of where the
technology is there,
but I think the business
negotiation has to
move along at the same
time,” Bergman said.

Beyond video, cable
has opportunities to
grow broadband and
commercial services,
the panelists said.

“This industry invented
broadband … Without that invention,
I think we’d all still be using ISDN,”
LaJoie said, referring to the Integrated Services
Digital network technology deployed
by telcos in the 1990s.

BACKHAUL BUCKS

With the rise of 4G wireless services, which
provide broadband speeds to mobile devices,
cable operators are well positioned to
expand their wireless-backhaul businesses,
LaJoie said. “Everybody talks about the
wireless revolution, but the truth is a very,
very small percentage of a wireless session
travels over the air. Most of it is over
the wire.”

Cox Communications CTO Kevin Hart,
previously the chief information officer of
Clearwire, also noted that the operator’s
commercial services team is anticipating
rapid growth, with wireless backhaul a big
piece of that pie.

“Business services are 10%, maybe 20%,
of the revenue for any MSO,” Bergman said.
“There’s so much potential for wonderful
growth there.”

September