||June 20, 2011 @ 1:00 AM
Maxwell: After a Long Week in Chicago Traffic ...
by Paul S. Maxwell
Some post-show musings and random notes ...
• Terrific Cable TV Pioneers’ dinner in the same Palmer House ballroom that hosted the 1st dinner 45 years ago. Great new class, too. Last thing I saw that evening was Mike Fries and Bill Roedy planning “something.”
• Nothing terribly new (except IP search, see below) ... but serious incremental steps being taken - both technologically and content-wise - to make all of the everything everywhere on every device actually come true.
• Wrigley Field is quite lovely in the rain. I’d actually thought Comcast had spent enough money during The Cable Show to keep the rain in Milwaukee.
• The cutting-edge Comcast test down in Georgia might be pointing in one of the biggest potential game-changing directions: complete freedom from legacy electronic program guides and simple grids. Basing the computing in the cloud (not the storage) coupled with a fully IP-based guide feature could help cable leapfrog ahead of OTT, DBS and more.
• About the Cable Center’s Cable TV Hall of Fame ... and who might get picked and why.
Some choices are obvious: they have been successfully involved on the business side of cable itself (Rocco Commisso and Jim Gray this year) or building the programming business (Jeff Bewkes this year).
But it takes more than the business “suits” to make it. So some choices aren’t so obvious ... like why Maria Bartiromo? Step back a moment ... why watch some of that programming? Ted Turner’s news channel changed the world ... and the whole world was watching as former winner Bernard Shaw ducked beneath that table in Baghdad. Now we - and other millions - all watch CNBC because Maria gets behind the business news. The on-cable “talent” counts, too.
So why an ex-Senator? Well, for that, you need to know your history (and we and the Cable Center will do a little better job of explaining that) ... if it weren’t for former Colorado Representative and then Senator Timothy Wirth reining in AT&T’s blatant attempts to stop cable by over-charging for pole attachments ... well, we simply wouldn’t have the vibrant industry we have today. Tim was one of those rare politicians who listened, verified the facts and then acted via legislation. Were there more such as he.
And, an analyst and newsletter maven like Paul Kagan? Yeah ... his incessant, and correct, preaching about cash flow over ephemeral profits also seriously contributed to cable’s long-running success story. That’s why.
Next year the Cable Center will do a little better job of explaining it to you.
• Ethics in cable ... for real. During this year’s Cable TV Hall of Fame ceremonies, the first recipient of the Bresnan Ethics in Cable Award went to Bob Miron. (Talk about the obvious!) This is an award that will grow to truly mean something. Bill Bresnan, who died late last year after decades of being a paragon of virtue (except for the somewhat, sometimes tasteless bad Irish jokes ... he called me just a few days before he died and told me 2 very bad ones ... but I laughed; then cried later) and one of the finest leaders the business has known, set the bar quite high for the award created in his honor and remembrance. The award to Bob, though, goes to him and his whole family and company. Going to be hard to name the next recipient ... hard to fit in the same sentence with those two.
• About retrans, carriage, renewals and more ... one very clear thing about the short term: programmers and their distributors are at odds. Though almost all deals get done, the long-running reality of the necessary partnership - and all that word implies - is fraying at the edges. The fact that subscription costs to the consumer are pushing the envelopes or reality needs to be better understood by all ... or else. There’s Netflix in the background and OTA antennas, too.
• And what can DBS do as Cablevision's John Bickham and others target their subs? If you're DIRECTV, keep heading upscale (and hope the subscriber has broadband. If you're DISH, well ... buy a lot of spectrum, target Sprint/Nextel and LightSquared as takeover (or junior partner) targets and get broadband via wireless? Just askin' ...
• Reflecting on spectrum issues and the singularly disgusting cell service within McCormick Place, I wonder if AT&T wasn’t trying to convince the various attendees, including the FCC Chairman, that T-Mobile spectrum is necessary for serving convention-goers. AT&T’s motto sure doesn’t try to clone Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” ... it should be “NO SERVICE.” Does make you wonder, though, how the smaller 4G conference in the North Hall got their service fixed while NCTA’s wasn’t.
Meanwhile, next year is Boston ... more traffic again ... but better cellular service?•
Taking the CEA to Task
Taking aim at CEA Chairman Gary Shapiro's assertion that consumers are not abandoning pay TV for over the air services, Richard Schneider, president of Antennas Direct says,
“How is it possible that an organization who claims to be
representative of the consumer electronics industry seems to be
blissfully unaware that a multiyear Inc. 500
honoree and one of the fastest growing consumer electronics companies
in the United States is none other than an HDTV antenna manufacturer?”
That, of course, would be Mr. Schneider's firm which is in its eighth
year of triple digital sales growth.•
Etc: Online Gains – LightSquared Woes – Bad News for Liberty/Kabel BW
Online: Online video continues to gain ground as Nielsen
reports that in May 2011 Americans streamed more than 15B videos, up
2.2% from April. Viewers are also multiplying, up 2.5% for the month to
145M unique viewers. --- The UK's Red Bee Media
has launched a RedPlayer which it describes as the first ‘media grade’,
end-to-end, next-generation online video platform (which) allows
broadcasters and content owners to deliver and monetise high quality
video to multiple devices, including iPhone, iPad and Playstation, in a
secure and scalable manner."
Inside the Beltway: In the face of a potentially disastrous report on GPS interference, LightSquared is marshaling its defenses with 31 signers to a letter to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
noting the potential value of the Lightsquared wireless network and
calling on the FCC to "create an environment where LightSquared and GPS
can co-exist." Meanwhile, the company's hopes for a spectrum boost via a
TerreStar purchase appears to have been blocked by Charlie Ergen's
bid. --- The FCC wants you all to remember that "video programming
distributors – including broadcasters, cable operators, satellite
television services, and “any other distributor of video programming
[for example, over fiber] for residential reception that delivers such
programming directly to the home” – have an obligation to make emergency
info accessible to people with hearing or vision disabilities.
Over, Up & Under There: Potentially bad news for Liberty Global as the European Commission assigns scrutiny of the proposed Liberty/Kabel BW deal to German domestic anti-trust authority the Bundeskartellamt.
The move reflects concern over how the deal would affect competition
... and puts Liberty Global/Kabel BW in a far tougher forum for mergers.
SkyREPORT: According to the latest from Euroconsult,
global revenues from mobile satellite services will rise 7%/year over
the next 10 years with MSS subscribers growing by 13%/year. Much of
that growth is expected in machine-to-machine markets. --- ViaSat has won a "Best Of" award from the American Technology Awards for the innovative design of its high-capacity satellite system provided by the ViaSat-1. --- Intelsat says it will pump $1.3B into its Asia-Pacific fleet with the launch of four new satellites this year and next. --- Inmarsat's SwiftBroadband safety services will be available to marine operators in 2013.
People: Long-time merchandising exec Arthur Lewis will become SVP of Merchandising, Digital Commerce at HSN. --- Bloomberg has tapped ABC News Digital's Andrew Morse to be the new head of Bloomberg Television in the U.S.
Deals: DIRECTV purveyor Multiband Corporation has a deal to buy WPCS International Inc., a design-build engineering company focusing on communications infrastructure. --- Amdocs will buy Bridgewater Systems for approximately CAD $211M ($215.2M US) assuming shareholder approval etc.
Get tomorrow's headlines today with The Evening BRIDGE ... every weekday, after the Bell.•