Mixed Signals

Today’s Telecom: A Plethora of 'Mixed Signals'

More Convergence Than Ever 7/09/2014 3:15 PM


Four years ago, the editors at Multichannel News asked me to create a title for my new column.  

 

Even back then, it seemed like “Mixed Signals” made a lot of sense.

 

I liked “Mixed Signals” because even back then, there was so much actual or oncoming overlap between cable, broadcast, satellite, telco video and other forms of video, including the then-burgeoning Over-The-Top (OTT)/streaming/online video sector. And that “convergence” (as in a “that vastly-overused word, but a word that tells the story pretty well”), is what I wanted most to write about.

 

That’s because it just made sense.

Today’s Mixed Signals
Add in a (real) fast forward to today, mid-2014, and there is more evidence than ever of silos invading silos, and the “Mixed Signals” and “Convergence” trends proliferating.

 

Indeed, a huge part of the rationale for “Mixed Signals” was the idea that consumers don’t care about the delivery system, rather, they just care about the delivery. That is a telecom maxim as old as Walter Cronkite.  The viewer just wants to watch the show, using the easiest and best valued video possible.

 

One obvious example from last month, is that of the wireless and fiber-to-the-curb (FTTC) video provider, AT&T, deciding to step big time into the Direct Broadcast Satellite (DBS) sector, by purchasing the DBS pioneer, DirecTV.
Most recently, closer to my Northern California office location, Mountain View, CA-HQd Google revealed that it was delving deeper into the vast depths of Videoland, by adding a new satellite broadband delivery project to its pre-existing video entrees, ChromeCast and Google Fiber.          

 

Tomorrow’s Mixed Signals?
Ahead will be cable getting more vigorously into wireless (watch for Comcast to lead continue to lead the way), DBS getting further into wireless (as in Dish buying into and implementing its own mobile and wireless platform), and Verizon doing its own reach deeper into all forms of video and video delivery, a la its purchases in the past six months of Content Distribution Network (CDN) Edgecast and of Intel’s OnCue TV project, for example.

 


Look also as an example for Verizon to sneak a new peek or two at another possible prize: the content side of Time Warner (See, The Wall Street Journal, by Shalini Ramachandran, July 7, 2014, “A New Media Landscape in Sun Valley.''

 

On the traditional cable and broadband side, each and every content rights holder and owner, and each and every distributor worth its salt, is watching the scope and breadth being achieved (and likely) by Comcast’s proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable, and trying its best right now to strategize a significant response. That is because it is hard not to see a future where these behemoths controlling the industry pricing and other major dynamics is not the norm.

 

Not Just the Big Names
Yet these big names buying the other big names are not the only deep forays into the land of “Mixed Signals.” Several smaller name deals are also catching attention.


In addition to Verizon buying CDN Edgecast, witness for more the movement of big media players like CBS Interactive, Warner Brothers, Fox, and others into the online gaming business, picking off one after another of these hot new video providers. Perhaps the most noticeable of these new deals is that of Disney buying Maker Studios, so that Disney can obtain instant cache and presence in this specific division of the new online gaming and video worlds.


In summary: for the creators of long-term, solid video strategies, the real world demands that the projects never thought of before, might be thought of again, and again, and…like EchoStar’s and Dish Network’s Charlie Ergen recently discovered when he and team seriously reached out to acquire both Sprint and DirecTV…acted on with the hope that someone else doesn’t make that next deal first.  

 

Jimmy Schaeffler is a telecom author and chairman and CSO of the Carmel-by-the-Sea-based streaming/broadband, broadcast, and pay TV/video consultancy, The Carmel Group (www.carmelgroup.com).