Archive for January, 2014

Guest Blog: Guy Bisson, Research Director, Television, IHS

Guy BissonBy Guy Bisson, Research Director, Television, IHS

As head of IHS Screen Digest’s television department Guy directs all TV-related research and statistical modelling activities. He has been researching and writing about the global television business for 15 years and was instrumental in building IHS Screen digest’s TV research department and the online statistical information service, Television Intelligence.

Guy will be speaking at the Cable Congress 2014 event taking place in Amsterdam on 12-14March 2014. For more information on how to register, please click here.

What were the most significant developments for the cable industry in 2013 and what are some of your predictions for the industry in 2014 and beyond?

If only I was a ‘glass half full’ type of person. If I was, I could claim to be 50 per cent right in foreseeing what I think were the two key developments for the cable industry in 2013. Trouble is, I’m not. Not only do I generally see every glass as half empty, but I believe that half a glass is already as good as gone. That means I have to admit to being half wrong last year in thinking that Vodafone would not push ahead with its acquisition of German cable operator KDG—one of the two key developments in 2013.

The other key development was the moves by Virgin Media and Sweden’s Com Hem to bring Netflix on board as a content partner within the TiVo platform. That one I did predict some years back, as any regular at the Cable Congress will know.

On the face of it, these two events seem unconnected. What links the acquisition of a German cable company by a telecoms operator eager to access a local fixed-line network, and the content and channel negotiations of two Northern European cable companies? Well, not only are these two events closely related, they set the scene for my five predictions for 2014 and beyond in terms of key industry developments.

1/ Mobile operators will increasingly seek alliances with cable infrastructure owners and other TV platform operators and content owners.

Here’s a true story: some years ago I got a call from a client in the telecoms business telling me my forecasts for European pay TV ARPU were “obviously wrong”. The reason, they argued, was that ARPU always goes down, not up as my forecasts showed. I politely explained that in the pay TV business, it was indeed possible for ARPU to increase over time, a concept that was completely alien to the client concerned.

In this anecdote lies an illustration of why the Vodafone/KDG deal may not be the only alliance we will see between mobile and cable. Mobile operators are sitting on increasingly fat distribution networks driving the industry more and more into the realm of video and entertainment distribution. For the mobile players, entertainment means an opportunity to get a bite of that mysterious upward ARPU flow.

At the same time, cable and pay TV operators not only see broadband as key to their offer, but are looking to provide entertainment services on the move to multiple devices. Suddenly, alliances that some years back looked like questionable partnerships to add quad-play to the cable service portfolio take on a whole new rationale. Mobile is one of the key planks in the future of multichannel entertainment, broadband provision and, of course, telephony: the cable Holy Trinity.

2/ The Content Distribution Network (CDN) will become the next area of focus for cable investment and acquisition.

Here’s another one that has been on my predictions list for some time, but I believe that another area not only of investment but of potential strategic merger activity will be cable operators and CDN infrastructure owners. Cable operators have always been in the business of investing in and owning infrastructure. Now the CDN is crucial to successfully scaling entertainment delivery in the OTT space. By investing in or acquiring CDN infrastructure, cable operators have the opportunity not only to maintain their central role as entertainment pipe providers, but also to establish a new business-to-business revenue segment offering channel and content partners CDN services. To me, a natural fit for the industry.

3/ ‘Quint-play’ by adding Wi-Fi and out-of-home access to entertainment content will be the norm.

By now you can hopefully see a pattern. If mobile alliances become common and CDN investment becomes the norm, then as cable operators look to move beyond triple and quad-play, the out-of-home entertainment network will become the fifth service in the cable arsenal. Wi-Fi access is already available from a number of cable providers, but this will evolve to embrace a full provision OTT service offering that reflects the best of the cable content offer and encompasses broadband and mobile services on the move. This will mean that…

4/ Super-fast broadband will no longer be enough to differentiate the cable proposition, and content will again be thrust to the fore: cable’s position as broadband pipe provider will make content investments and alliances important again.

All of this means that control of content, something the industry has backed away from in recent years with content division divestments, will again be pushed to the fore as a means of service differentiation. Fast broadband has been a major driver for growth in the cable industry over the last decade and an essential part of the triple-play proposition. To date, cable has been highly competitive, winning the price-to-speed battle hands down across Europe.

Now though, as broadband is seen as a way to access full-service entertainment content (indeed some of the first widely available 4K HD will be distributed over broadband rather than via traditional broadcast means), cable operators will differentiate their broadband offers on the content access and services that they bundle. That could mean that money that is no longer being spent on linear channel operations is diverted to OTT content propositions. But, of course, one source of content alliances and immediate differentiation are the existing OTT providers like Netflix, meaning….

5/ OTT providers will be seen as friend, not foe.

OK, so this can’t really be a prediction anymore as it’s already happening through the deals that Netflix is inking with the likes of Virgin Media and Com Hem, but it’s important to re-iterate because these deals unify all five of the predictions made here. Let’s summarise:

  • Cable is moving beyond triple-play…
  • Mobile operations that also embrace Wi-Fi are looking like attractive partners as data and entertainment on the go become core…
  • CDN investments will be needed to fully participate in both the future of entertainment delivery and the future of entertainment service provision…
  • To differentiate bundled services in the future, the content proposition will be key, and this content proposition will increasingly be about OTT…
  • Meaning, OTT content will be essential to the overall bundle. Of course, this doesn’t mean only third-party OTT providers like Netflix, but cable-curated services too. Today though, existing OTT propositions with a well-established name represent a quick win for cable operators.

So there you have it. My top predictions for 2014, and beyond… at least near-term ‘beyond’. But in the fast-moving entertainment industry, predicting any further out quickly enters the realms of Science Fiction: cable operators offering neural implants for entertainment and communication? Ask me again in a few years.

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Exclusive Q&As with Vassilis Seferidis of Samsung Electronics

Vassilis Seferidis of Samsung Electronics

vVassilis Seferidis is Director of Business Development for Samsung Electronics responsible for driving revenue growth and strategic development of Samsung’s Consumer Electronics business in Europe. Vassilis has more than 20 years experience in the Consumer Electronics industry mainly in Strategic Business Planning and Product Management roles.

Vassilis will be speaking at the Cable Congress 2014 event taking place in Amsterdam on 12-14March 2014. For more information on how to register, please click here.

Innovation in technology is focused on delivering for the end user. What are some of the biggest technology advances driving new and better services for the consumer?

Vassilis Seferidis: It seems that 2014 is the year that Ultra High Definition (UHD) is the main focus of all TV manufacturers. Samsung is leading this wave with the introduction of a wide range of UHD products including flat and curved UHD TVs. Two enabling technologies have been instrumental in making the UHD TVs possible in 2014: The new HEVC compression standard and the new version of the HDMI interface (HDMI 2.0).

Another significant technology development is the maturity of the connected TV platforms which offer now a wide range of premium over-the-top (OTT) services. In the context of the cable industry, Smart TVs enable the virtualisation of the set-top-box (STB) by delivering pay-TV services directly onto the Smart TVs without any external hardware components (STB, CI+ CAMs, etc). This results in a better user experience while reducing the CAPEX and OPEX for the operator.

What are some of the biggest technology advances that the average consumer may not notice?

VS: In 2014 several manufacturers introduced NFC-enabled TV-sets. Today there are only a handful of applications that use this capability so there is a risk that the NFC feature can be overlooked by users unless services providers and developers come up with exciting new applications to utilise this technology.

Another technology advancement which generates quite a lot of excitement worldwide is that of wearable electronics. However, it seems to have a little impact on the TV industry at least in the short term!

How is cable using technology to differentiate itself in the marketplace?

VS: Cable is an unparallel provider of high speed broadband and television services. Key to its future success is the expansion of its broadband network in terms of speed and reach which will enable new products and multi-location/ multi-device services. However, in the long term, the only way for Cable to sustainably differentiate itself from its competitors is by enhancing its overall consumer experience both in terms of content delivery and customer service.

From a technology standpoint, what are cable’s priorities for 2014?

VS: Cable is facing today many diverse technology choices which in many occasions have created a “FoMo effect” (i.e. Fear-of-Missing-Out). In the last year for example we have seen large investments in many and varied technologies which, although credible in their own right, make little sense as pieces of the same jigsaw puzzle. Therefore, the highest priority for a cable operator today should be to formulate a consistent technology strategy by deciding where they want to be in 5/10 years time and then working backwards define the stepping stones required to achieving those goals.

Technology in this industry moves at an incredible place. Today we talk about on-demand, connected life, wireless, over-the-top, ultra-fast, and multi-screen, but what new buzzwords will emerge in 2-3 years’ time?

VS: I believe that Smart Home and Internet-of-Things (IoT) would be the next buzz words that would become every-day terms in the next 2-3 years. The progress in this area is really fast with all major players investing heavily for a piece of the action. Thankfully, these are technologies where the cable industry can play an important role in both the technology development and the commercial deployment of products and services.

How does an organization like Samsung Electronics embed tech innovation into its culture?

VS: Recognising the importance of innovation in the fast changing and highly competitive market today Samsung has endorsed a global program for infusing innovation to the company’s culture. The programme has the executive management endorsement and targets all three areas of the innovation process: (1) Creating new ideas (2) Implementing new ideas to technologies and (3) Commercialising technologies into new products, solutions or services. In simple terms the program aims to empower and encourage the employees to come up with new ideas, foster their creativity and recognise and reward their efforts.

#CableCongress 2014 | Conference Programme Now Available

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With over 850 attendees from 39 countries, Cable Congress is the undisputed annual meeting place for the Who’s Who in the cable industry. Check who attends here.

OFFICIAL PROGRAMME NOW AVAILABLE

We have released the official brochure and agenda for this year’s show – download here. Check what hot topics and new features you can expect in 2014 and who will lead discussions on where to invest, and how to stay ahead in an increasingly competitive space.

To whet your appetite we bring you a taster of what we have in store for this year:

The Wheel of Fortune

Hear from key industry technology executives as they engage for the Cable Congress audience on a variety of topics from all IP to network evolution and television platforms. What drives – and what will drive – cable’s very own wheel of fortune? It’s all about the technology but not for technology’s sake. Come give the session a spin and see for yourself why cable occupies the enviable space between entertainment and technology.

Flipping through the dealmakers’ play books

Exciting times abound for the cable industry. With recent deals in the foreground, big deals in the future would appear to remain on cable’s agenda. With opportunities for growth, consolidation and continued competitiveness vis-à-vis incumbent operators, finance at the heart of cable’s growth strategy. The state of finance in cable will continue to play a crucial role in the future of a business increasingly seen as competitive given the strategic nature of its investment choices which are yielding positive results. Join the very people in the finance world with a both a high level and coal face view of the dynamics of deal making capture the attention of the markets.

The Story Behind the Numbers

Some will tell you that cable is all about the numbers. And if there is anyone who can take the numbers and let them tell a story, it’s IHS’ Guy Bisson who joins us for his annual data-driven overview of where cable is today and where it’s going tomorrow. Whether it’s looking at ARPU, RGUs, EBITDA or the role of OTTs in relation to the international community of DOCSIS ready ISPs, Cable Congress delegates will be sure not to miss a must-see presentation laying out fresh pan-European numbers for the cable business.

Another Golden Age of TV

In a world where the length of the sound byte seems to be shrinking every year, why are cable customers tuning in more than ever for long-arc, slow burning TV? It’s no wonder that the magic that is grabbing and expanding viewers’ attention is something attractive not just to cable customers but also its competitors. Moving into a world where TV is shorthand for TV everywhere with the consumer calling the shots, the partnership between content providers and the cable industry has never been more vital – or fruitful. We will look at the unseen role of technology and what it enables cable customers today and how cable wants to enable viewers in the future.

12 – 14th MARCH 2014, RAI, AMSTERDAM

Register before 31th January to save on the Early Bird rates. Book online, or alternatively email us on telequeries@cablecongress.com or call +44 (0) 20 7017 4334. Remember to claim your VIP code I7VAZ/BL when registering.

Exclusive Interview: Josh Sapan, President and CEO of AMC Networks Inc

Episodes of Evolution: Slow-burn Drama, High Speed Connection

4Cable News spoke with Josh Sapan, President and CEO of AMC Networks, the company largely credited for changing modern television with groundbreaking slow-burning original scripted drama. An early adopter of VOD and a believer in working with OTT, Josh gives us an exclusive on TV’s second golden age. Josh gives us an exclusive on TV’s second golden age. Josh will join us this year at Cable Congress to give a keynote presentation. Check the event programme here.

1. It’s great to catch up with you, Josh. You’re considered a true cable pioneer on your side of the Atlantic. And on our side of the Atlantic, Europeans are rather familiar with your pioneering programming whether it is Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, the hipster-mocking comedy Portlandia, The Killing and most recently Rectify which we premiered this year in London at Cable Congress. Let’s start with what might be a tough question because it’s so obvious but, why cable? Why is cable such a good home to the new wave of must-see television in what you have termed TV’s second golden age?

Josh Sapan:
I think that probably the best answer that I might provide is that cable has been able to pursue quality craft storytelling, writing, directing and casting without the compromise or the ambiguity of early on in the process being seized with a focus on how big the audience will be in week three. And that may sound like a smallish thing, and indeed some of our shows have got big audiences, but if they’re developed with anxiety about week three or week two and how big the audience is, it leads to what one sees in American broadcast television: There is very little that is seriously distinct. That’s not accidental because if you want a big, big audience it is riskier to follow the “great creative” and it is statistically more likely and better to follow degrees of formula. So I think that’s “why cable.”

32. Innovative ways of reaching audiences are not new to you as we know that you ran a mobile cinema project literally driving 16mm projectors around the Midwest in your younger days before you got into the cable business. Fast forward to today and your award-winning content is available on-air, online, on demand and mobile. As an early mover with VOD, can you tell us a bit about the strategy behind such wide availability for your content over so many platforms?

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Cable Europe Innovation Awards: A good New Year’s Resolution

Cable Europe Awards
12-14 March 2014, RAI, Amsterdam

Submit your innovation or nominate a fellow by 31st January

At the beginning of the year we often look back on the past year and make our resolutions for the year to come. You can combine both by submitting your most innovative project of 2013 for the Innovation Award or your brightest candidate for the Fellow Award.

The nominees will get the deserved attention at Cable Congress, for example by giving the nominees for the Innovation Award the opportunity to showcase their innovation in a 3 minute video shown to all attendees on Day 1 of the Conference. Of course being a Cable Congress Awards winner is a clear message of excellence, quality, innovation and leadership that will bolster your position in the eyes of your existing and prospective customers, partners, suppliers and competitors.

So don’t hesitate and submit your project or nominate your candidate for the Fellow Award now. You have until January 31th to submit and get the opportunity to shine in the spotlights at Cable Congress 2014.

About the Awards:

Cable Europe Innovation Award

Innovation is what makes our industry flourish and that innovation deserves to be put in the spotlight for all to see, share and be inspired by. Read more on the Cable Europe Innovation Award. Submit your project now.

Cable Europe Fellow Award

The Fellow Award allows the great people that go the extra mile to make the impossible happen to shine in the spotlight. Read more on the Cable Europe Fellow Award. Nominate a Fellow.

DEADLINE FOR ENTRIES IS JANUARY 31ST 2014

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Extra information on the nomination process:

Anybody connected to the European cable industry is invited to put forward innovation projects & fellow candidates.

– Nominees for the Cable Europe Innovation Award can only be projects from a European cable company, which can include joints projects with a partner vendor, content provider, consultant, etc.
– Nominees for the Cable Europe Fellow Awards can only be individuals from a European cable company. Nominees are not part of the C-level management team of the company.

Based on entries received, the jury of Cable Europe will put forward a list of three nominees for each award. Nominees will be informed three week prior to Cable Congress.

The Winner of the Innovation Award will be chosen by the attendees of the Cable Congress via an interactive voting.

The Winner of the Fellow Award will be chosen by the Executive Committee of Cable Europe.

Statement on the Single Market #cable @cableeurope

A Single Market as a Platform to Boost Investments in Networks and First Class Broadband Experience in Europe

European Heads of States have given their green light this week for EU action in support of the digital economy to create an integrated single digital and telecoms market. It is the first time that the digital economy has been brought to the highest level of European decision making and this is applauded by Cable Europe.

To support a booming European digital economy there is a need for a continuous flow of investments in to underlying broadband infrastructure. A number of network providers have emerged over the last 15 years competing for customers and supplying broadband connectivity to the benefit of the whole economy at large.

“We are committed investors in our networks that we upgrade in anticipation of our customers’ needs. Cable companies have recently launched 500 Mbps services and further upgrades of the networks to deliver ultra fast speeds are yet to come, pushing competitors to react.  The continued growth of 8.4% in cable broadband subscribers tells us that the demand for connectivity is healthy – and on an upward growth trajectory” says Cable Europe Chairman Matthias Kurth.

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