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Second INTX show embraces ‘disruption’

Cableco companies gathered in Boston last week for the second annual Inter-net and Television Show, the latest incarnation of The Cable Show. NCTA president Mike Powell’s address – and indeed the entire INTX theme – embraced the term disruption this year, a term that cable execs had in previous years shunned completely. The tagline for this year’s show: Turning today’s chaos into tomorrow’s growth.

Powell opened the conference by saying the walls of the cable industry are coming down, hinting the impending collision of content and broadband. “The companies that are gathered here are in a transformative period that presents significant challenges as well as enormous opportunities,” he said. “There are many currents of change shaping the contours of this dizzying period.”

The last year has seen a slow but steady trend of cord-cutting and cord-shaving across the pay TV industry, fueled by the proliferation of direct-to-consumer streaming video services.

“There are formidable new creatures roaming our traditional feeding grounds,” Powell said, referring to the cadres of internet TV services that have flooded the market. “These companies have enormous resources, and are exceptionally creative. They are fierce competitors that have cut their teeth on disrupting traditional businesses.”

He added: “Today it’s ironic that a company known more for selling books is taking home Emmy awards for television,” referring to Amazon. Amazon spent most of 2015 growing its internet TV video ecosystem through its Streaming Partners Program, and more recently, the launch of Amazon Video Direct. “Those who wish to compete will have to elevate their heels and adjust if they hope to return serve forcefully,” he said. “Every challenge is also an opportunity; if we are bold and nimble enough, we’ll not only survive, we’ll thrive.”

And, per usual at The Cable Show, Powell included a healthy number of digs at the FCC and its chairman, Tom Wheeler. “We find ourselves the target of a relentless regulatory assault,” he said, categorizing Wheeler’s “competition” mantra as a “regulation” incantation. “Internet companies are nurtured and al-lowed to roam free; while network providers are disparagingly labeled gate-keepers that should be shackled,” he said. “I believe this jaundice view will prove detrimental to America’s ambitions in the information age.”

The show floor was considerably smaller this year than in previous years, but it did include some new exhibitors: telcos AT&T and Verizon both were pre-sent at the show for the first time. Sony had a booth showcasing its internet TV service PlayStation Vue.

The floor included a “Disrupted Reality” area that showcased a number of VR demos from vTime, VRtify, Avegant, Samsung and Discovery Communications. Arris, Comcast, Ericsson and Deluxe also had VR demos. Interestingly, VR had a bigger presence at INTX this year than UHD or HDR – proving if nothing else that the hype around VR has reached unrealistic levels.

Key takeaways:

VR has grabbed the world’s attention. From content creators to broadband service providers, everyone has an eye on VR.

Cableco broadband service providers are gearing up for what many at the show referred to as “the Multi-Gigabit Era.” Mobile video, live streaming video, binge watching, VR and UHD content are the main drivers.

Content owners and networks all now have mobile video and social video strategies.

The future of pay TV will revolve around ubiquitous access to content.

We’ve transitioned to the “upload era”, as a deluge of user-generated live streaming content will drive demand for faster upload speeds.

This first ran in Rider Research’s Online Reporter.

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