By Eric Rutter, President North American Cable at Technicolor
It is clear that we have entered a new phase in how operators – and over-the-top (OTT) providers – engage with consumers. We have moved beyond the bilateral world of offering consumers video and broadband connectivity services. We now operate in a much more dynamic environment that offers consumers access to an almost infinite array of value-added services.
So, while headlines about big cable operators losing half-a-million video subscribers seems daunting, we must also note that over the past 12 to 18 months those same providers report that they have each added well over a million net-new broadband subscribers. And, importantly, these subscribers are looking for more than just connectivity and video.
As consumers blur the lines between their “physical” and “digital” lives, they are turning to trusted providers to help manage and integrate a growing array of services offered by a variety of different product and service providers. This has led to the rapid rise of machine-to-machine communications within consumers’ homes, as the exciting promise of “the Internet of Things” begins to get fulfilled. It has also, however, created complexity, vulnerabilities and potential points of frustration for end-users.
Looking at the needs and desires that appear to be forming for connected-home subscribers, few organizations in North America are better positioned to address the end-to-end connectivity issues than cable operators.
Changing Video Landscape
That being said, there are exciting opportunities for cable operators associated with the delivery of video.
It has been interesting to observe the high-profile appearance of new players in the OTT video services market, such as Disney+, Peacock, Apple TV Plus, and DC Universe. It has forced legacy OTT players – including Netflix, Amazon and Hulu – to invest in differentiating innovations, even as downward pressure is put on their pricing structures.
For consumers, all these new options are great, but they do introduce a tyranny of choice. Not only must viewers mix and match their video services, but once they do, they must figure out how to find and access what they want to see in a highly fragmented environment. It is a problem that is exacerbated by the fact that the number of devices simultaneously streaming videos within households is skyrocketing.
This has put immense pressure on in-home wireless networks to offer high-quality connectivity in every corner of the home – not just because poor performance interrupts video streaming but because it also disrupts any other service that requires wireless connectivity and broadband access to the internet.
North American Cable Operators Deploy Smart and Brawny Network Offerings
In response to these developments, executives in the industry are doubling down on their fundamental value proposition – providing intelligent access and intuitive connectivity. They are also making dramatic adjustments to their customer premises equipment (CPE) strategies.
Around the world, we have seen operators adopt the latest cable access technology – DOCSIS 3.1 – in record time (with Technicolor alone shipping – at our last count – some 8 million devices worldwide and marching towards 10 million devices by year end).
In North America, the investment in improved cable access to the home is being supported by strong commitments to manage and optimize intelligent connectivity within the home through the deployment of Wi-Fi 6 technology. To wit, Charter and Comcast – the cable industry leaders in North America – have both made major announcements about their intention to support this important next step in the 802.11 evolution.
These robust and intelligent end-to-end network offerings will not only address the complexity of device connectivity, but also lay the foundation for creating a central point from which to manage a growing number of services – including the fragmented video environment.
As these trends unfold, Technicolor is launching a Wi-Fi 6 product later this year to support the cable sector’s effort to bring more intelligence into consumers’ in-home wireless networks. More importantly, however, we have invested in the development of a new generation of processes, products and services that accelerate the time it takes for cable operators in North America to bring new innovations to market.
Technicolor is evolving into a solution/platform-oriented culture that brings us closer to our customers and allows us to adapt to the changing needs of Network Services Providers and their subscribers. We have integrated our operations to rapidly support the new software and services that must be incorporated into CPE in an operationally effective and cost-efficient manner.
Technicolor’s current market leadership within the DOCSIS 3.1 space is one outcome demonstrating that this strategy is paying off. But that is just the beginning.
We are getting strong returns – and growing interest – from our HERO Program of strategic partnerships. It is enabling Technicolor to create a CPE platform upon which innovations from best-in-class providers from around the world can be pre-integrated and launched.
The program opens the door for cable operators in North America to optimize video delivery to multiple devices (Broadpeak), manage the security and privacy of subscribers (CUJO AI), elevate wireless network performance in the connected home (Airties), and generate brand new streams of revenues through CPE-based targeted advertising (hoppr).
From a subscriber’s perspective, there has never been more access to choices and innovation through their cable providers. It is an equally exciting time for cable providers in the region. At Technicolor, we are single-mindedly focused on making available the resources operators need – wherever and whenever they need them – to meet the constantly evolving needs of North American connected-home customers.