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October 17, 2012

What's New on Cable?

Posted by Mitrankur Majumdar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 5:50 AM

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With U.S. cable operators offering telephone and broadband services, telecom companies entering the cable's television stronghold, and Internet upstarts joining the fray, everyone is now in the same race. Amidst cutthroat competition and the blurring of lines between telephone, Internet and cable providers, cable companies are stepping up their innovation efforts to achieve differentiation and growth. This is ushering in an exciting new phase, where the focus is on delivering better user experience and experimenting with different business models.  

Currently, most cable companies are full service operators, with a phone and Internet offering on top of traditional cable programming. They're active in the home as well as the enterprise segment, from enabling simple business facilities for SMBs, such as email and Internet connectivity to offering backhaul and infrastructure for large enterprise customers.  However, the obvious gap in their suite of services is wireless or mobile communication. This is leading former rivals from the cable and telecom space to come together in "quid pro quo" alliances, whereby they leverage each other's complementary capabilities in addition to focused investments on Wi-Fi across their footprint.

Mobility is also a top priority for cable operators, who want to ensure that subscribers have access to their services anytime and anywhere. Infosys is helping cable companies reach that goal with innovations which transform smartphones into a plethora of devices including a remote control for landlines, TVs, and home appliances, or a movie player, or DVR controller or unified communication hub. 

Content is the next battleground because cable subscribers want to consume hundreds of TV channels, plus unlimited content from the Internet.  Consumers can get content from their cable company or from online providers who deliver content "over the top" (OTT) directly to consumers in their living rooms, bypassing the incumbent cable provider.  This is the battleground where OTT players are going head-on with the cable companies.  Original content is king and rightly so that this was the weapon that cable companies were yielding against the on take of OTT content players like Netflix, Hulu and Google. 

Realizing this, OTT players have started investing in original programming - like Netflix's Lilyhammer series, and YouTube's promise to deliver 100+ original channels of exclusive programming....  It will be interesting to see how these OTT players succeed in this content game and compete with the cable companies. And if they do, the content offerings of cable providers will look similar, which means that user experience will be the only lasting differentiation - this is where anytime, anywhere access to content via Internet to a range of connected devices is gaining significance in the cable world. 

Cutting edge experiential technologies will catapult the current user experience to a new phase, one that we call "connected life".  Connected life, as the name suggests, forges deeper ties between television content and the audience by enabling viewers to engage with it long after the show is over, through a mobile device.  Love the beach location in a movie? Find out where it is and book a vacation online.  In a connected life, viewers will view content on the first screen (TV) and continue to interact with it from the second one (mobile or tablet). As smartphones and tablets are increasingly dominating the consumer engagement in the living room, the second screen strategy is a key for cable companies to increase user engagement. 

Once a cable provider makes the transition from the home to the mobile, its integration into its customer's life is complete.  Where cable can go from there is only limited by imagination. I can easily imagine a scenario enabled by cable, mobility and intelligent technology, in which cable-connected devices monitor the health condition of the old or infirm and send back a live feed to their healthcare providers. Or evolve into a home security system. Or even water  gardens by masterminding the sprinkler system!

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