Cable Show 2011: Cable Execs: Give the People What They Want

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Chicago - The movement toward content on any device at any time presents new challenges but also new opportunities for cooperation between programmers and distributors alike, a panel of top industry executives told the audience at the Cable Show Opening General Session Wednesday.
Insight Communications CEO Michael Willner said operators shouldn't look at so-called over-the-top video services and the availability of content on multiple devices as a threat but rather as an inevitability. And in the end, it's still a cable service
Willner pointed to the latest device to enter the content debate, Apple's iPad. Willner said that whether it is connected to a set-top box was never a consideration. Insight will still continue to offer conventional cable packages to its customers, but those that want to watch TV on different devices will have that ability as well.
"It's a cable service," Willner said. "Consumers expect it today. That train is out of the station. You're either on it or not."
While all on the panel agreed of that inevitability, a lot of the controversy has focused on how content providers will be compensated. While operators, like Time Warner Cable chief operating officer Rob Marcus said that customers continue to expect to have that flexibility baked into their existing cable bill, some programmers have insisted on additional compensation.
Scripps Networks Interactive CEO Ken Lowe said that thanks to the resurgence of the advertising market, programmers will probably have to rely more heavily on advertising revenue from those different screens. He added that programmers are aware that passing off additional costs to consumers won't be acceptable.
"We can no longer just continue to tap into the consumer and expect them to pay the price," Lowe said.
That doesn't mean that programmers won't be able to tap new revenue streams from technology. They'll just have to be a little more creative.
Fox Networks Group chief operating officer David Haslingden said cooperating with distributors can unlock new revenue doors. He pointed to Comcast Cable president Neil Smit's comments at yesterday's general session that working together with NBC Universal- in which Comcast owns a controlling interest - helped boost ratings for the networks by 41% in Comcast markets.
"We're working hard to make sure we can convert this new viewership into a currency," Haslingden said. "There is a lot of blocking and tackling to be done so that we can take advantage of an incredible opportunity for us."
And though there are concerns about over-the-top services encouraging cord cutting or cord shaving (reducing the amount of cable services a consumer purchases), Willner said that one key point is being overlooked: all of these services require a broadband connection, which cable provides.
"Over the top would imply that there is a wall to cross," Willner said. "There are no walls here. We have a big thick pipe that goes into 90% of American homes. Lots of people can do lots of things with that pipe."