• My Cable IPTV Panel Today: Is Cable Bypass for Real?

    I was in NYC today moderating the opening session at Cable IPTV, which is a new and very timely conference organized by Fred Dawson, editor of ScreenPlays magazine (kudos to Fred and his team for a very well run event).

    The panel was entitled, “The Cable Perspective on Trends in “Over-the-Top” and User-Generated Video” and the panelists were Sean Doherty, CEO, Channels.com, Keith Kocho, Founder, ExtendMedia,Jim Turner, VP, Interactive, A&E Networks and Bill Wheaton, VP, Digital Media, Akamai Technologies, Inc.

    We had a wide-ranging conversation, mostly focused around the theme of whether broadband video is going to shape up as a real “cable bypass” or “over-the-top” medium, or whether cable operators are going to maintain their dominant role as video packagers.

    I’ve said for a while that the broadband video aggregation role is cable’s to lose. With tens of millions of traditional video and broadband Internet access subscribers, cable is extremely well-positioned to bring together the best of broadband video with the best of traditional broadcast and cable programming. Yet I’ve been disappointed that cable operators have been slow on the uptake while other aggregators have aggressively ramped up (e.g. Apple, Google, Joost, Yahoo, etc.). Aided by new bypass devices like AppleTV, Xbox, Netgear, etc, these companies are all aiming to eventually steal cable’s video customers.

    Today’s panelists reinforced my thinking that these would-be bypassers are in for a tough fight. Bill pointed out that since operators own their own networks, they can deliver quality-of-service (QOS) that others can’t. This is especially important when it comes to delivering really big Blue-Ray or HD-DVD files. Meanwhile, Jim reminded all of us that “most favored nations” clauses in most cable networks’ carriage agreements with operators will be keeping plenty of lawyers busy just determining if networks can even make deals with the upstart broadband video aggregators.

    And then of course our panel followed Andrew Olson’s opening keynote (who is co-founder of thePlatform, and now SVP, Strategy and Development for Comcast Interactive Media), during which he highlighted all of Comcast’s new broadband video initiatives (Fancast, Ziddio, etc.). Plenty of messages that Comcast is hip to broadband video and is now moving fast to defend its turf.

    Lastly, cable operators are now being offered some interesting new technology that will bridge broadband video over to existing digital set-top boxes inexpensively and without truck rolls.
    I saw a demo of ICTV’s ActiveVideo platform at the Cable Show last week and it was pretty compelling. It is at least one viable alternative for operators to accelerate their own convergence initiatives.

    The broadband video aggregation area is going to be very interesting to watch…..