Seibert: Cablevision Looks At Monetizing WiFi

CFO Says Should Be Ops ‘Next Leg’ Of Growth
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Cablevision Systems vice chairman and chief financial officer Gregg Seibert said the Bethpage. N.Y. based cable operator is looking toward eventually monetizing its WiFi network, a data service that at least until now has been free to existing high-speed data customers and used more as a retention tool.

While he didn’t say just how Cablevision would go about it, Seibert said at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference in Los Angeles Tuesday that it a hot topic of conversation among company executives.

“Our next leg of growth should be involved in the monetization of the WiFi network we built,” Seibert said. “We were first in WiFi, I believe we have the densest WiFi footprint in the business. The challenge now is making sure our customers are aware of the great value that provides to them and ultimately we can get additional revenue out of that business in addition to just getting the benefit from a customer retention standpoint.”

For example, Seibert said Cablevision customers save about $30 per month on their cell phone bills by being able to access data over the Cablevision WiFi network.

“That’s very substantial,” Seibert said at the conference.

Cablevision was an early champion of WiFi Service –  in 2008 it said it would spend about $300 million building out its WiFi network   – and has one of the largest WiFi hotspot footprints among cable operators. Siebert said the company is on track to reach 1 million WiFi hotspots by the end of the year.

Seibert said that Cablevision has no big product announcements on the immediate horizon, although it does test new offerings constantly, many of which are in the WiFI space. One area it won’t be concentrating on in the near term is home security.

Although other operators like Comcast and Cox have had success on the home security front, Seibert said the market in Cablevision’s footprint doesn’t warrant an offering.

“While we never say never, you won’t see us introduce a home security product in the next year or so,” Seibert said.    

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