Comcast: OTT is our friend

Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts told NCTA in Washington that cable programming online could be a boon for distributors who are smart enough to figure out how to monetize it. “I think it’s a friend, not a foe. It is powering our broadband business, one of the fastest growing parts of Comcast. For programmers, it’s a new opportunity to try to monetize in this horrific advertising environment.”

The sentiments echo those in Europe in recent times; OTT has turned from foe to friend as it emphasises the speed comparison of cable against other networks. But operators recognise if they can't monetize it, it will commoditize their entire proposition. The phenomenon, called “cord cutting” has been seen as a major threat to the cable industry.

Online video has been a bone of contention with several operators – especially Time Warner Cable – who have voiced concern about the growing amount of programming that is available online for free. Other content providers have proposed a compromise – charging a fee for online content or making it a part of a regular cable subscription.

Suddenlink Communications CEO Jerry Kent said that online video, especially bandwidth intensive high-definition video, could be good for operators who sell high-speed Internet connections. Kent noted that while the music industry was failed because it ignored the Internet and the newspaper industry has wavered because they embraced the Internet too much – basically by giving away their content – cable operators and programmers need to find a middle ground.

Roberts said there were still several issues to work out, but that the industry cannot simply ignore the fact that some people, especially younger people, are increasingly watching programming online. He said that already the cable industry has developed some solutions – more and more programming is finding its way on demand, for instance – and others will develop over time. “This is a great opportunity for us to find an additional revenue stream,” Roberts said, adding that the trick will be to provide a service “in a way that adds value, not destroys value.”

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