Building a Bigger Box

Managed Broadband TV a Hot Topic

A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.
A picture of the Savannah City Hall at night.

Growth was definitely the vibe of this week’s NTCA’s Southeast Regional meeting in Savannah. Operators and vendors provided examples and ideas for how to generate new revenue through the introduction of new products and services that complement the broadband infrastructure. Although one of the panels referenced the idea of “out-of-the-box” thinking, it is clear that operators want to build a bigger box by complement their broadband offering with services that help their customers and result in new revenue.

Video has always been a challenge and some operators and vendors demonstrated some out-of-box thinking in marrying web technologies with local expertise to come up with offerings that provide a win-win for the rural consumer, content providers and the operators’ efforts to promulgate broadband. NeoNova and Skitter discussed and demonstrated their solutions, while Star Communications explained why, even though they already are a provider of CATV and IPTV, they see Managed Broadband TV as a way to expand their video reach.

Local Management and People Are the Key to Making Broadband Relevant

Understanding the unique needs of customers is one of the advantages that local operators have, compared to conglomerates where management decisions are often made thousands of miles from the customer and/or the decisions that are made not tailored to a particular locale. Jimmy Blevins, CEO of SkyLine Membership Corporation provided several examples of how local knowledge can create broadband demand.

He and his staff noticed that people with second homes weren’t signing up for telecommunications’ services and were presumably bringing their wireless devices from their first homes to fulfill their telecommunications’ needs.

As they dug into it, Blevins and his staff found that people still wanted the reliability and speed of a terrestrial network, but they only wanted to pay for the network when they were at their respective get-away homes. SkyLine came up with what they call a “Weekender Plan” that provides a lower cost ($15 for 12 Mb/s solution with options for phone and unlimited long-distance) for those who are at their homes only on the weekends.

Unique Broadband Solution for Students in Low Income Households

Blevins described a unique way to reach low-income households without subsidies or devaluing their existing broadband plans. The local school superintendent had come to Blevins with the challenge of reaching students from low-income households who had been given tablets by the school district, but couldn’t do their home work on them because their families couldn’t afford broadband.

SkyLine and the school district devised a low-cost, monthly broadband plan, whereby SkyLine routes Internet traffic through the School’s Internet connection. This is an off-peak time for the school district, so it doesn’t add to its costs. At the same time, this technique lowers the cost of connecting to the Internet for SkyLine, which they can pass on to the low-income household.

The Video Exchange – A Dream Realized

Local content is a proven driver for broadband and video services. The challenge is producing content on a consistent and ongoing basis. As Jimmy Blevins suggested,

“It’s easy to produce several hours of local TV sports programming each week, but what do you do the rest of the time?”

A screenshot of thevideoexchange.com website.
A screenshot of thevideoexchange.com website.

SkyLine saw this challenge as an opportunity to help not only its own community, but the community of independent operators.  SkyLine has developed thevideoexchange.com. In a nutshell, this is exactly the sort of content exchange that has been promoted in various forms on these virtual pages for the past decade. They have done an impressive job with this web portal which allows content producers to upload and sell their content to local channels.

The objective of the video exchange  is to help an operator program their local content channel with content that complements what the operator is already producing and airing. The exchange collects the content, stores associated metadata and serves as the clearinghouse between sellers and buyers. With a fee of 15%, it is very affordable.

The fact that it was started by an independent operator to address their long-term need is an indication that they are in this for the long-term. Look for ViodiTV content to be on the site in the near-future.

[Note, there are four more chances to check out one of NTCA’s excellent regional meetings this summer and fall, including next week in Denver. For the full schedule, click here.]

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