Major strides forward in technology are making good business for Europe’s cable companies, writes Julian Clover.
Before each nation gives its vote in the annual Eurovision Song Contest, the local presenter usually congratulates the host nation on how well the evening has gone. It’s a little like that at Cable Congress (Lucerne, February 15-17), as each CEO declares how well they are doing in DOCSIS 3.0 and triple play as a whole. The operators have cause to celebrate, broadband and telephony are both up by 11% and the trajectory for broadband is such that over half (51.5%) of homes will have internet access of 30 Mbps by 2013, and Screen Digest is predicting that by 2020 one in four will opt for 100 Mbps or more.
Amid the enthusiasm for the big pipe it is sometimes forgotten that television still provides more than half the revenues. For a moment at the start of the conference I thought that content might be back on the agenda, but as the notion faded it became clear that the operators have settled for a role that is far greater than that of a traditional utility company.
Over-the-top is half threat, half opportunity. Rather than just sit back and let others take potential revenues, content delivered over IP, cable’s IP, is part of the plan for the next generation TiVo and Horizon boxes that will shortly be deployed.
The man from YouTube underplayed so much of what the Google-owned company is doing with over-the-top delivery that it almost made you wonder what they were doing in the TV business in the first place. Having attended programming conferences where the producers have thrown virtual tomatoes at Google representatives over their lack of investment in content, YouTube was given an easy ride.
Zon’s CEO said he would be prepared to include Google TV as part of a future offer – though with NDS Snowflake now being rolled out on his network why would he want to change? YouTube is a part of TiVo on Virgin and Yahoo widgets will be found on the UPC Horizon box.
Yet as cable gets ever more adventurous with the technology, all the time keeping in mind that the consumer is actually buying to watch the latest episode of Goede tijden, slechte tijde, some familiar stories continue to play themselves out.
Consolidation of the smaller operators, ownership in Germany, and what the private equity companies will do with their investments will be just as much a part of Brussels in 2012 as they were in Lucerne in 2011.