Advanced Television

Cable Congress – no more arguing over throne?

March 23, 2009

From Nick Snow in Berlin

Tony Ball, chairman of KDG, got the 50th Cable Congress underway by cheerfully admitting he had spent much of his career (at Sky) trying to make cable fail. Now, of course, he’s changed his mind and is particularly proud KDG has invested over E1bn in its network – with no state aid. His plea was that regulators in general, and German regulators in particular, must recognise this level of investment needs a return and that allowing more integration would increase innovation.

The 'view from the top panel’ concluded old arguments over whether content is king or distribution is god were irrelevant and all needed to work together to profit from the consumer. However, back on earth, the conflict was still there with Parm Sandhu, CEO of Unitymedia, Germany’s second largest MSO after KDG, flatly disagreeing with Rich Ross, President of Disney Channel Worldwide, over whether carriage fees and minimum guarantees were outdated.

Mike Volpi, CEO of Joost, who would not be so welcome if the service had taken off as some cable operators feared it would, believes its new direction of alliances with social networks will encourage recommendation and the 'stumble across’ factor for VoD. Others including Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, and Darren Childs, MD BBC Worldwide Channels, were adamant linear channels were essential to VoD; users watch material related to what they’ve seen on regular TV, the amount of unprompted VoD was still very small.

There was also agreement that cable shouldn’t fear the 'Internet to TV jump’ (though Volpi claimed existing platform resistance was the only reason it wasn’t already prevalent) as it had the broadband to deliver it and – so long as it got its User Interface act together – was best placed to exploit it. On i-Player – such a disruptive technology in the UK in terms of free VoD – Fries agreed it was a great example of good content well promoted and an excellent UI, but it was an anomaly – there was no other non-P+L organisation in the world like the BBC that would bring such a thing to market.

In terms of changes needed, Fries also lead the rallying cry for the industry to work together more effectively drawing comparisons with the standards work and lobbying effectiveness of the telco industry.

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