Crystal Balls: Home Networking and TV Sets


For this week’s episodes in the never-ending saga of “Encouraging Forecasts,” we turn our attention to two promising prognostications involving home networks. As always, we offer the proviso: check back next year – or in a couple years – to see if these predictions, like any others, come even close to future reality.

Not that the there’s anything inately wrong with these or any other important forecasts.  The industry needs some roadmap. Carriers and content providers – and especially technology vendors – want guidance for their own development plans.  I’m not cynical, just cautiously skeptical about the ongoing promises about consumer behavior, especially going into an unsettling economic period.  With my usual caveat, I’m confident that there’s plenty of upside in the industry (I’d be a fool to stick with it if I didn’t believe in it) – just cautious about all the authoritatively upbeat outlooks.

Amongst this week’s deluge of mega-forecasts about connected TV deployments and smart TV installations, the following two isolated studies caught my eye:

Infonetics Research gave a shout-out to MoCA (the Multimedia over Coax Alliance standard for home networking) in its study on “Home Networking Devices.” The report concludes that MoCA drove the growth of such devices during the first half of 2012 and goes on to predict “a cumulative $46 billion to be spent on consumer home networking devices” between now and 2016.  “Sales of MoCA set-top boxes rose 33%” during the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year – compared to overall residential gateway sales growth of 12% in 1H12 versus 2H11.

“We expect MoCA to become the de facto wired technology for video distribution to devices in the home,” insists Jeff Heynen, directing analyst for broadband access and pay TV at Infonetics. He adds that, “multiscreen video will be a key driver for MoCA.”

A far less formal study about how viewers will watch TV emerged from the first annual Commercial Integrator Summit  in Houston this week. Wireless and networking systems were deemed the “most exciting technologies for 2013” according to a summary by CEPro, a consumer electronics report.

But even more encouraging – or perplexing, depending on your viewpoint – is the strong belief that “TV may be the biggest opportunity” for audio-video retailers and installers. Nearly 16% of attendees put TV at the top of their list, with many citing the upcoming 4K format (now dubbed “Ultra High Definition” TV) as the motivation for their expectations.  “Cloud services” also ranked high on the A/V dealers’ roster, although there appeared to be some foggy understanding of how the “cloud” affects the home networking projects they envision.

Instant analysis of the study focused on the dealers’ redirection from audio systems, which have dominated their operations in recent years, to this rediscovered attraction to video. CEPro also noted that 3D and Smart TVs did not come up in the survey responses, although home-networked TV has a touch of smartness to it.

Curiously, this study amplifies recent research from CTAM, Nielsen and other content-centric groups, stressing – but from a very different perspective – the continued and growing appeal of plain old TV. Well, not exactly “plain old,” but still an emphasis on core linear video delivery.

As with other research, these studies are at best directional, not guaranteed quantitative promises of where the industries are going. And as usual, the forecasts encompass a lot of “faith and belief.”

By coincidence, a psychologist friend introduced me this week to the term “perseveration.”  Its approximate definition suggests that persistent repetition triggers “continuance of activity after cessation of the causative stimulus.”

In other words: say it  (or forecast it) often enough and people will agree.  So believe what you want about these networking and video delivery forecasts. And please check back in a year or two to see how close they came to reality.

Gary Arlen is president of Arlen Communications LLC in Bethesda, Md., and a long-time interactive TV enthusiast. Reach him at