Posts tagged ‘Cable News’

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?


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.


Kroes-aid for a Connected Continent

Invest, Innovate and Compete (and growth will come organically)

imageTimes are challenging in Europe. And for some it is tempting to use a wide brush to paint a dark picture for the whole continent. While there are difficulties for some players in the ICT arena, it is too early to draw comparisons to a Lehman Brothers-style collapse for the sector. It’s no coincidence that companies peddling negative messages are the ones with negative or flat growth. But it’s not just a “can’t do” attitude that is holding some in the sector back. The debate kick started by Vice President Neelie Kroes’ “Connected Continent”, pro- posed EU telecoms legislation, represents an opportunity to get Europe back on track.

28 Elephants, 28 Rooms

Judging from the importance that governments across the globe give broadband policy, Commissioner Kroes is right to be pushing the broadband envelope. She also makes an important link between investment and performance. But to invest, you need a good investment environment where risk levels are not aggravated by significant variations in the market that Europe is still trying to turn into a single one. One cannot ignore the differences in Europe among member states – it remains the
proverbial elephant in the room for both the business and political community. And it’s a big enough elephant that it got a mention in European Commission President Barroso’s State of the Union address. He asked a poignant question, “Isn’t it a paradox that we have an internal market for goods but when it comes to digital market we have 28 national markets?”

The F Word

The European Parliament who will be combing through Neelie Kroes’ proposals along with the European Council which brings together relevant ministers from Europe’s 28 members (which the Commissioner recently referred to as “28 ring-fenced telco markets”). Breaking up Kroes’ proposed package into pieces – an – other kind of equally unwanted fragmentation – brings with it significant risks in urgent times, as the Commissioner warned the European Parliament (its first reading is expected to take place in March 2014).


Cable is the new cinema

The Net Effect:
Evolving Landscapes on What We Used to Call Television Encouraging Investors

A net effect imageCable is the new cinema. Or so AMC’s CEO Josh Sapan says in this issue of Cable News when talking about TV’s second golden age which many attribute to long-arc shows that define modern TV today. But Sapan calling cable TV the new cinema is more than just pithy CEO talk. It is shorthand for an evolution in how people watch television and connect to the internet.

TV: Hey, We’re Trending!
Consumers are also using a second connected device when watching the long-burning plots that have come to define the television landscape of today. A recent study by Ericsson ConsumerLab tells us that 75% of people multi-task by using mobile devices while watching TV. It’s not hard to guess why Twitter is testing “TV trending”, has teamed up with Neilsen for Nielsen Twitter TV rating and even acquired a social TV analytics firm earlier in the year. It’s easy to make stats sing the right tune but at the same time, it’s impossible to not spot the trend when considering that the number of connected TVs in Europe has exploded by over 120% in the last year according to IHS (see the back page for more detail).

Are you experienced?
Cable industry leaders like to refer to the melded TV/internet offering as an “experience” given the reworking of what was once a mono-directional broadcast into a viewer’s home that has now evolved with the consumer at the centre. Holding the remote control these days means holding a lot more power than even just ten years ago – the viewer can decide when and on which device they want to watch whatever they want. TVs are smarter and they have to be given the increased sophistication of the cable consumer.


Cable growing faster than satellite, says IHS Screen Digest #CC2013

Cable is growing revenue faster than satellite competiton, according to IHS Screen Digest.

Looking at the triple-play bundle taken together, cable’s success in marketing telecom and internet services, which now accounts for the majority of cable revenue in 10 EU markets, has led it to outpacing satellite TV companies in terms of overall revenue growth, IHS Screen Digest TV research director Guy Bisson told Cable Congress attendees this morning.

Growth over the last five years has come from eastern Europe and some western European markets such the Benelux countries, said Bisson. Over the next five years, Germany will continue to grow strongly and eastern European growth will accelerate. The Nordic countries are expected to grow strongly, with others including the Benelux turning in moderate growth.

Growth will come from digitisation, said Bisson. Digital penetration across the EU 27 countries is growing and will give cable ongoing growth even if it does nothing else, he said. However, this growth will be accelerated by converting more single-play customers into telecom and internet customers as well as TV subscribers.

Bisson said cable operators also had the opportunity to embrace new lines of business, including CDN services and delivery of services from the cloud to devices outside the home.

Be Careful What You Wish For (You just might like it)

The only people who don’t change their minds are those in insane asylums or cemeteries, said Everett Dirksen, an American politician. 2012 was marked by a fundamental development in thinking amongst European Union leadership that was hailed by the wider telecoms sector as not only a capital market conscious move but one of anticipated stability after a decade of what one cable CEO termed a “decade of price erosion for the telecoms sector.” It may not have seemed immediately obvious why an announcement on enhancing the broadband investment environment was such a big moment.

Evidence based decision making
Vice President Neelie Kroes said, “After examining all the evidence, and given the significant competitive relationship between copper and NGA networks, we are not convinced that a phased decrease in copper prices would spur NGA investment.” The European Commissioner for all things technology continued, “We now see fibre investment progressing relatively well in some Member States where copper prices are around or above the EU average.” Cable industry execs would be quick to agree, citing the crucial element that fibre plays in the Hybrid Fibre Cable (HFC) networks that help garner the cable’s reputation for speed-based performance.

The benefits of doubt
But there must have been a healthy amount of doubt about the wider effects of price intervention. Having consulted far and wide with the very industry building Europe’s communications networks of tomorrow, Vice President Neelie Kroes finally settled on a policy solution, something that many market players would characterize as reassuring.

Regulation 2.0
Markets aside (which rebounded on news of the decision), political thinking beyond the Berlaymont recognizes the need to re-assess – even recast – regulation. A thought piece put out in a personal capacity by Georg Serentschy furthers the discussion of what he calls “Regulation 2.0.” The CEO of Austrian national regulatory authority RTR and 2012 head of BEREC, the grouping of European telecom regulators, majors on what some have termed a “paradigm shift” in regulatory thinking by Commissioner Kroes.


The Expert View: Cable investments through the eyes of HSBC

By Stephen Howard
Head of Telecoms Research

Stephen Howard HSBCThe EC’s fresh direction in the regulation of fixed-line access networks is likely to prove, in our opinion, the most important driver of the sector this decade.

Regulation remains the most decisive driver for the telecoms sector, and no decision is more important than that on how pricing is to be determined on the fibre-based fixed-line networks of the future. We regard the EC’s new proposals in this area as very positive for any operators that invest in their own access infrastructure (rather than merely unbundling that of the relevant local incumbent).

This outcome will surprise many industry observers, with many having been very bearish on prospects for regulation. By contrast, however, we have long argued that regulation would need to improve in order to promote investment. In our Four Steps for Fibre thematic (February 2012), we highlighted four things needed to get investment going, and three of these are relevant specifically to this EC consultation – namely: first, pricing flexibility on wholesale fibre; second, a better copper ULL pricing environment; and, third, technology agnosticism (which translates in practical terms to the flexibility for incumbent telecoms operators to deploy FTTN, not just much more expensive FTTP).

The EC’s fibre statement should, in our view, underpin much more extensive NGA investment.

The EC has unveiled an approach that should give incumbents the necessary flexibility to justify upgrading to NGA (next generation access) platforms (ie those that are typically fibre-based). Firstly, national regulators will no longer be compelled to apply price regulation to wholesale NGA services – provided incumbents make these available on the basis of equivalence (ie on the same terms to third parties as to their own retail divisions) and subject to a margin squeeze test. Secondly, there is the assurance that there should be stable copper prices in future. And thirdly, the EC has The EC’s fresh direction in the regulation of fixed-line access networks is likely to prove, in our opinion, the most important driver of the sector this decade.

Regulation remains the most decisive driver for the telecoms sector, and no decision is more important than that on how pricing is to be determined on the fibre-based fixed-line networks of the future. We regard the EC’s new proposals in this area as very positive for any operators that invest in their own access infrastructure (rather than merely unbundling that of the relevant local incumbent).


Power Has No Gender

Rosalia Portela, CEO of ONO and Dana Strong, CEO of UPC Ireland speak to Cable News on challenges encountered along the way to the top and give some free advice on what it takes to get there.

Power has no gender

Fortune 500’s current list of female CEOs is currently at its longest ever. Women are at the top of 18 of the companies. It is safe to say that the glass ceiling is cracked but by no means has it been shattered. And when we look closer to home in the tech sector, the list is shorter – HP, Xerox and Yahoo! stand out. The cable industry has some power brokers of its own who are pioneers, role models and the face of inspiration for women in business leadership in Europe and beyond.

Challenge Management

Reaching the top requires good challenge management skills. ONO’s CEO, Rosalia Portela was forthcoming about encountering hurdles, “Throughout my career I have found many preconceptions that I have had to face by proving, with work and effort, that women are capable of achieving all the professional goals we set ourselves.” Ms. Portela went on to say that she “found preconceived ideas on how far women could go, a fact that included a certain fear of the unknown that required more effort and determination in our case.”

Sitting in class back in secondary school, Dana Strong, CEO of UPC Ireland recalls one of her teachers leading a discussion about the proverbial glass ceiling. “It just seemed like a challenge too good to refuse” for Strong. Having changed her mind on becoming a doctor, she was searching for something new. “Whether consciously or sub-consciously I chose a university that has one of the best business schools in the world. Once I achieved the right grades and enrolled in Wharton, I set the wheels in motion.”

Cable’s chiefs offer free advice: “I urge young women to have the tenacity to believe that good performance will be recognised. Also I would council young talent to have strong self-awareness about what you are good at and what you aren’t. Use your strengths and work on your weaknesses,” says Strong.

Results Based

Leadership in the business world is changing, giving reason for optimism. “Giving a woman a position of responsibility generated a lot of insecurity in those who dared to make that decision and, of course, any mistakes that could be made were placed on our shoulders,” concedes Portela. “We have been able to overcome this by showing, with great determination and guaranteed results, that we are capable of everything we set out to achieve.”



Rosalia Portela and Dana Strong are joining Annet Aris of Kabel Deutschland, Sanoma and Adjunct Prof. INSEAD, Berit Svendsen of Telenor Norway and Miranda Curtis of Liberty Global in the Panel Discussion: View from the Top, moderated by a CNN news anchor, Nina Dos Santos. View the latest agenda here.

Swisscom TV subs up 31% y-o-y

Swisscom had reached 728,000 subscribers…

… for its IPTV service ‘Swisscom TV’ by the end of September, up 31% from one year earlier, with 34,000 added in the preceding three months alone.

The number of fixed line broadband connections served in Switzerland rose by a far more modest 4.5% annually to reach 1.71mn, with 14,000 connections added in the third quarter. In Italy, the bundled TV and broadband offering launched a year ago by its local subsidiary Fastweb in partnership with Sky Italia has attracted 123,000 customers to date. Total revenues across all operations and markets for the first nine months of this year declined very slightly (1% year-on-year) to reach CHF 8.427bn (US$ 8.9bn), while net profits fell at a similar rate on an adjusted basis to reach CHF 1.528bn.

IP&TV News Editor’s view: The company deployed a “taste-and-mood” based content discovery engine last July for its IPTV service from Israeli firm Jinni – it will be interesting to see how this affects video consumption rates, and we will try to glean some information on this from Swisscom.

NEW REPORT: Re-thinking the Digital Agenda for Europe Report

Re-thinking the Digital Agenda for Europe Report

This new WIK report, “Re-thinking the Digital Agenda for Europe,” was commissioned by Liberty Global and finds that European policymakers are paying insufficient attention to the potential of cable networks to deliver a substantial portion of the European Commission’s Digital Agenda targets, and considers available solutions to reduce the cost of full broadband deployment. It argues that a more technologically neutral approach to the Digital Agenda targets could provide benefits to consumers and to the competitive process itself. The report also:

  • Quotes European Investment Bank (EIB) analysis that cable competition to incumbent telecom operators can lower high-speed broadband deployment costs by up to 30%
  • Examines what the medium bandwidth expectations of consumers are Finds that cable investment spurs investment into FTTN/VDSL by telecom incumbents
  • Illustrates the coverage of cable, telecoms and mobile networks and their service uptake across Europe
  • Examines the technology and performance of cable networks, and their short term evolution toward symmetrical high-speed broadband services

You may download the report here.

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