Cable Show 2014 Musings

The following are some observations from and reactions to the recent 2014 Cable Show.

A picture of the Comcast booth at the Cable Show 2014
Comcast Booth at the Cable Show 2014

Impressive Demos

Comcast had a series of impressive demonstrations at the cable show. One presentation dealt with Comcast’s new techniques for troubleshooting and predicting cable plant issues, which has improved efficiency for their customer service and given a better experience to their customers. What they are doing in this regard would definitely benefit other cable operators and would be an obvious efficiency they could bring to a Time-Warner merger.

Along those lines, Comcast showed the near-future with enhanced software apps for its X1 Operating System. One such app will allow customers to do things such as easily limit Internet viewing by parameters, such as time, family member and device within and outside the home (via Xfinity hotspots, for instance). Although similar to services already included in retail routers, Comcast has the advantage of being able present these options via an easy-to-use interface on the TV screen.

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Open Up DNS, Comcast

One current sticky point that should be resolved (pun intended) is that Open DNS (a freemium service that allows a customer to filter sites going to their broadband router and home network) doesn’t currently work with the latest X1 Cable Modems from Comcast. This is a real disappointment, as this author found Comcast’s integrated wireless modem to provide better coverage than his existing wireless router.

Figuring out the issue and the solution wasn’t trivial and required significant time on the Internet and then a call to Comcast Customer Support to disable their wireless router. A software selection, allowing the customer to choose which DNS the broadband router points to, would be probably the best for customer and Comcast (reduced customer support).

Based on conversations with various Comcast staff, this issue is an oversight and doesn’t appear to be an intentional effort to thwart a potentially competitive feature from another service. To get in front of this issue, it would be wise for Comcast to provide an easy way for customers to choose their DNS service (web filtering experience). They should also figure out how to create such a setting without disrupting their plan to create a network of home WiFi hot spots.[/dropshadowbox]

Is it a Revolution or More of the Same

Sean Combs at the 2014 Cable Show
Sean Combs at the 2014 Cable Show

The comments from the richest hip-hop personality, at least for now, were sincere and it was clear that he knows he has to work to earn the distribution eyeballs of cable operators with his relatively new TV network, Revolt TV. Sean Combs sees an opportunity to remake the music video experience for a new generation. He said the reason he launched Revolt TV is that, “Music was homeless”. His intent is to build a worldwide brand. It is clear that Combs is a master of cross-channel promotions (brilliant move appearing in the Fiat commercial with his Revolt brand in the background – kind of ironic as well, since his former girlfriend also was a Fiat spokesperson).

Although it is more than a linear TV network, it seems like it will be a challenge to build a brand that reaches today’s teenagers who are growing up on YouTube and selfies (e.g. Instragram, Vince, Snapchat, etc.). In my informal poll of four teenage boys, only one had heard of Revolt TV (and he hadn’t seen it). In today’s day and age with media everywhere, it is a huge challenge to replicate the disruptive path of MTV and its, “I want my MTV campaign,” which was as much as driving new cable subscribers to the distributors as it was brand awareness for the channel. Still, Combs is a smart guy who is savvy enough to adjust to or create the market.

Freedom to be Creative

Matthew Wiener, the successful Executive Producer of AMC’s hit show, Mad Men, provided insight as to why we are in TV’s Golden Age, with respect to creativity. He echoed what we have heard about local content; that is, people are willing to work for less, if they can realize their creative vision. Cable networks allow this freedom and, as pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article, are changing the way broadcast TV develops and airs their content.

Tap a WiFi Hopspot

A multi-tap that also doubles as a WiFi Hot Spot.
A multitap that also doubles as a WiFi Hot Spot.

What a great and somewhat obvious idea; a multitap that features an integrated WiFi hot spot. An integrated DOCSIS modem creates a broadband back-haul link and DC power is supplied from the distribution cable. A representative from the South Korea-based Net Wave, Co. Ltd, suggested this patented device could be had for approximately $500 (although a web search suggests prices closer to $800).

Although the price of this is expensive compared to a traditional passive, multitap, it is a relatively inexpensive way to fill-in WiFi dead zones (e.g. for those areas where customers opt-out of the cable-supplied home WiFi hot spot, as noted above with the Open DNS issue). It could also provide opportunities for new business models. For example, it isn’t too hard to imagine this sort of thing being adopted by cable operators to offer a radically different service offering, such as a low-cost, drop-free, WiFi broadband-only service to low-income households.

4K, 4K, 4K

An example of an Ultra HD TV and associated STB on display at LG's booth at the 2014 Cable Show.
LG’s Ultra HD & STB Display

4K displays were in multiple booths. Surprisingly, I ran into at least one industry executive whose first 4K viewing experience of these lifelike displays was at this Cable Show. 4K is coming on fast as there were multiple booths displaying cable set-tops that will soon (year-end?) support 4K.

Evidence of the growth of UHD TV is found in a new report from research firm IHS Technology which estimates that worldwide, “UHD TV panel shipments amounted to 1.1 million units in March, nearly a threefold increase from 384,300 units a month earlier in February.”

Stay Tuned

Stay tuned for exclusive ViodiTV interviews from the show, including:

  • Interview with Viamedia on their approach to programmatic advertising buying
  • Home monitoring and security in a box
  • Demonstration of a WiFi transfer of data of nearly 2 Gb/s
  • An interesting app that points to the evolution of cable operators from broadband providers to a broadband ecosystem.

To see the ViodiTV summary video of the 2014 Cable Show, click here.

0 thoughts on “Cable Show 2014 Musings

  1. How were the crowds this year? I sensed the cable shows were shrinking from mergers and the slowing of new channel launch. Has tech taken the lead over content?

    1. Hey my thespian Friend who used to be on the distribution side of the camera and is now in front of the camera,

      Hard to say how it compared to last year and I think the official number was something on the order of 10k. Still, it wasn’t what it once was when there were something like 40k vendors. It is telling when one of the biggest, if not the biggest booth, belonged to Comcast. It points to the industry consolidation, as well as the ability to get information from the Internet. Still, there were some interesting shows within a show, such as CableNet and the Innovation area. Both of these areas displayed quite a bit of technology and a number of companies (that didn’t have traditional booths).

    2. Rich – the crowds were about the same as recent Cable shows and while there were fewer celebrities on the floor (I didn’t run into Kim Kardashian this year unlike a couple of years ago!) the content folks were still very strongly represented. The techies were certainly out there too but it depended on the booth you were at. The Cable show is one place where I can ask a techie question of a content person one minute and a then ask a content question of a techie person the next – it makes for a better show methinks.

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