Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Comcast To Offer Quadruple Play And It Isn't Cellular

It may not be a sexy business, but it seems to have a lot of synergy for cable. You have a wired home, you have remote connection to it, why not extend it beyond content. "Comcast Corp is adding home security to its package of services for homes where it already delivers cable television, broadband and phone. The largest U.S. cable provider sees security technology and home management technology as another way to enter new markets and tighten its relationships with existing customers." I love this idea and hope that Comcast and other cable operators pursue this farther.

But given that Comcast has no expertise in this field, I might suggest either an exclusive partnership with an existing security firm or better yet, buy one and rebrand it. This is great opportunity for both internal and external security. For families employing a Nanny, a chance to check in from work; for vacationers, an easy way to remotely adjust the HVAC system, and for security from intruders, more chance to protect and identify robbers.

Obviously safeguards need to be built in against power outages and battery limits, but these can all be figured out. With all the competition in the online space, cable operators may have just found a new business that will bring a nice revenue stream while piggybacking on the current infrastructure. Well done!

Content Platforms Shifting Online

What are the big content creators going to do; ABC, CBS, Turner, Scripps, and others have been very comfortable with a two stream revenue model of subscription and ad revenue. The cable operators have paid monthly license fees to content companies for the right to carry on their channel line-up. But the consumers want mobility and flexibility to watch what they want, where they want, when they want, and how they want.

And content makers have made separate deals with Hulu, Netflix, Apple, and others to offer programming on line. Where the cable operator can try to differentiate itself is by providing their live channel line-up content on line as well. "As the line between traditional TV and web video blur, it will no longer make sense for networks to distinguish between TV and every other video-capable device. This means migrating not only single programs to the web—along the lines of what Hulu, Apple, and others do now—but also letting viewers access traditional linear television from mobile phones, iPads, and of course computers." Slowly, apps are being offered to offer live feeds although the consumer is restricted to watching inside the home. That is not what the consumer ultimately wants. They want complete freedom, untethered from their cable line and cable settop box. For those with a Slingbox, mobility already exists, but it still requires a devoted settop box not being used at the same time in the home.

Online right fees for live network carriage adds another wrinkle to the cable operator. Ultimately, live content mobility is a game changer in the cable industry. Will franchises still be required or will cable companies actually start to compete with each other as consumers get the opportunity to select their mobile cable carrier? Will programming networks think to bypass operators to offer a direct subscription to the consumer? Or will Apple or Amazon come and offer themselves as the platform to sell subscriptions to networks? If so, the cable operator business changes from being a network platform to a broadband platform and they will change their pricing models as well to reflect usage fees.

"Executives from Disney, Turner, and Comcast were in unanimous agreement that we are only two years away from 75 percent of TV content being available online and on mobile devices." On demand content yes, live content, not so fast. And as you can see, it will only lead to many more questions and many more new opportunities.