Cable Show 2013: Rutledge: Video, Broadband Are Now Intertwined

Charter CEO Says Separation of Cable, Internet Causes Business Model, Regulatory Issues
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Washington -- Broadband access should no longer be viewed as a separate business from video, because the two services are becoming increasingly intertwined as consumers acquire video from traditional means or via new over-the-top services, Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge said here at Monday’s general session moderated by CNN anchor Jake Tapper.

“It’s the TV business,” he said. “The service is the content,” Rutledge added, whether it’s being delivered as a bundle or a la carte. “It’s content and it’s sold a certain way and people are confused, by the notion of Internet and cable. It’s all television.”

He said consumers are also becoming flummoxed by a fundamental shift in viewing habits that is also a key item discussion here in the nation’s capital. “People are confused by the notion of Internet and cable. Separating the two creates regulatory issues and business model issues," Rutledge said.

New technologies are changing some of the fundamental way consumers react and interact with the television, other panelists agreed.

Social networking, for example, is driving content discovery and other TV-focused behavior, said Ali Rowghani, chief operating officer of Twitter. Apps like Twitter, he said, create a complementary content experience around real-time viewing, and drive complementary advertising revenue.

“You won’t find a bigger fan of…the television business than Twitter,” he said. Twitter, he added later, is “now interested in building [a] complementary experience…we are at the very beginning of that.”

Another big fan of TV is Roku, which has shipped more than 5 million streaming devices that support OTT apps as well as authenticated cable services, including Time Warner Cable’s TWC TV app. TV Everywhere, Steve Shannon, general manager of content and services for Roku, has become a major focus for the streaming video specialist. And he said many of Roku’s customers should be considered friends of the cable industry.

He acknowledged that his company tends “to get painted with the cord-cutting brush,” the fact is that 70% of Roku users also subscribe to a pay TV service, he said.

 “TV Everywhere is a seminal moment for the industry,” he said, but later added that the process needs to become easier, because people aren’t typically used to logging in just to watch TV. “The problems are ripe for solving.”

Rutledge said it is imperative that cable and programmers continue to embrace the multiscreen model, because that content will become accessible to consumers whether they participate in that process or now.  “Anything you put anywhere is going to end up on every screen, and you can’t control it,” he said, adding that even if barriers are put up, someone will build a device that will bring that content in. “There’s no way to control where your content goes, ultimately.”

Early into the panel discussion Rowghani sidestepped questions from Tapper about Twitter’s role in PRISM, a project at the National Security Agency that is reportedly collecting data from some of the nation’s largest Internet companies.

“The truth of the matter is I can’t common on any details of the matter,” the Twitter COO said, but later said Twitter does defend the voice of its users “We believe tweets belong to the users that create them.