Year Ends on High Note


Once again, the wisdom of our cable forefathers has been borne out. The industry’s vital signs are healthy as 2013 comes to a close.

Though some of the catalyst may turn out to be a myth — the theory that big cable companies will combine for big bucks — operator stocks will end a second straight year with significant gains. Programmer stocks also are benefiting from merger talk, as have broadcast stocks from both talk and action on acquisitions. The leading cable human-resources survey (from the Cable Telecommunications Human Resources Association) found employers reinvested cash into compensation, at least at the 3%-raise clip companies are seeing nationally.

Frankly, industry fundamentals are also strong. Total TV viewing continues to rise, as does TV ad spend, which will hit $62.6 billion this year, per MagnaGlobal. The year ahead will bring campaign-ad and Sochi Olympics revenue.

So-called cable threats such as Netflix and other over-the-top services thus far seem to stimulate viewers’ appetite for more TV. Investment in flexible, cloud-based guides and expansion of on-demand inventory of hit shows have helped the video-ondemand category expand its advertising base even further. The availability of TV Everywhere apps is increasing, adding value to the cable subscription at a time when that’s crucially important.

The International CES is coming up, and no doubt will raise awareness of ultra-HD screens, the next big breakthrough in TV.

Sure, battles loom ahead on costrelated concerns such as the rise of retransmission-consent payments and a slowdown in broadband growth, and it’s unclear whether a cable-TV subscription will mean as much to future adults who now spend the bulk of their screen time on YouTube.

But close readers of our pages know the extent to which innovation investments are being made in the TV ecosystem and can feel confident that the healthy state of the union will continue for quite a while.