Cablevision Systems CEO James Dolan said the cable operator’s future lies in the growth prospects of wireless connectivity, adding that more products to take advantage of its network are in the pipeline.
WiFi, Dolan said, is the wave of the future, adding that a trip to the January Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas helped solidify that concept.
“I don’t think there was hardly anything on the floor that wasn’t connected using a WiFi device. I didn’t see one thing, by the way, being connected using a cellular device,” Dolan said of the CES Show. “Connectivity, particularly wireless, is going to become more and more important to our consumers. We want to be the company that provides that connectivity.”
But that could mean that video, once the benchmark of a cable operator, drops a notch on the priority chart.
“Connectivity has surpassed video as the primary product for a company like ours,” Dolan said. “And we need to continue to strategize our product offerings to reflect that with different packaging, etc., which is something I think we will do in 2015.”
Dolan wouldn’t give specifics about future offerings, but said that the company is open to whatever its customers demand, including “skinny” video packages and over-the-top offerings.
“We are going to be very reactive to what we see what the consumer wants,” Dolan said. “The consumer wants their connectivity first. They're a little less concerned with what their video packages are and some of them would prefer to save money on those. We're going to be reactive to that and we're going to continue to package our products so that we meet their needs and their demands. More to come; maybe the next call.”
Cablevision has been a pioneer in WiFi service and earlier this month launched the first cable WiFi-only phone – Freewheel – aimed at data hungry consumers and priced at $29.95 per month for non-Cablevision customers and $9.95 monthly for current cable customers.
Dolan has expressed his connectivity vision in the past and he said on a conference call with analysts that given the choice between a video service and a wireless data offering, consumers will pick data every time.
While Freewheel is still in its infancy – it launched on Feb. 5 – Dolan said it is the first of what will be several future products and services aimed at taking advantage of Cablevision’s superior WiFi network. Cablevision began building its WiFi network in 2007 and currently has about 1.1 million hotspots throughout its footprint.
Freewheel is the first product to tap Cablevision’s WiFi potential, “but there will be others,” Dolan said. “We will be poised and ready to take advantage of the strategic position we have created by investing in WiFi.”