NCTC 2010: Meet the ‘Frenemy’

Spoke at the National Cable Television Cooperative’s 2010 Independent Show in Baltimore, offering a thought or two about Internet video and competitive implications for cable providers. Below is a write-up by Communications Technology (thanks, Debra) on my remarks.

Live From The Independent Show: Living With The ‘Frenemy’

Debunking all the talk of cable customers “cutting the cord,” Stewart Schley, One Touch Intelligence’s senior director/industry intelligence, was quick to tell Independent Show attendees at the show’s closing session that there were 590,000 new aggregate subs reported by all cablecos during 1Q10, even with the specter of Internet video.

“The number of people who actually would cut cable service in favor of Internet video is less than 4 percent,” he added.

In fact, while most cable subs spend nearly 150 hours a month watching some kind of video, Internet video viewers spend barely three hours per month online.

Schley also predicts that much of the free video now available on the Internet will not remain so for long, and some sort of fee will be charged within the next two years a la Hulu.

That’s not to say that there aren’t threats to consider. Some premium customers could reduce their cable subscriptions in favor of downloads from NetFlix or iTunes, and those who have started streaming content from their PCs to their high-end TVs are more likely to disconnect.

And more people have started using the iPad as a portable video viewer, with 3 million of the devices sold to date and so many TV-oriented apps available. “At some point, cablecos need to learn to deal with these new devices,” Schley said, going so far as to suggest operators sell TV-oriented consumer electronic gear in their retail establishments.

He also reminded the small-carrier audience that Apple continues to work on a possible video platform that offers cable channels. Indeed, more than 400,000 iPad owners downloaded ABC’s iPad player app in the first month of its release, using it to view 1.5 million shows.

“Why should Google be the cool entity with the new box in the house that gets all the glory,” he continued. “You can make this kind of functionality available. Sell this stuff. You already have the customer.”