Clover’s Week: A week in Cable

The Cable Congress finally made it to London (March 5-7th) where growing revenues made for a positive case, writes Julian Clover.

The beauty of Cable Congress is that there are always a couple of threads that run through the entire programme. It’s as if all of the speakers have got together in The Green Room to plan out all two and a half days.

If such a meeting was held then the sponsor-placed speakers probably weren’t invited; fortunately these were at a minimum.

To the front came customer service and an acknowledgement that although vast improvements have been to customer service there is still work to be done.

Having embraced digital television – that cable has sailed past the analogue switch off with only a little over half of its homes switched over was gently left out – the benefits are being realized with the amount of revenue being drawn from the converted households contributing to a 4.3% rise in ARPU.

The number of digital cable subscribers in the EU27 countries stood at 30.5 million in 2012.

The digital conversion hasn’t been all rosy, but although cable subs are falling overall, or every customer the cable industry has lost they have added 13 new service contracts. There is little to complain about.

Broadband speeds offered by European cable – an average of 32 Mbps – are ahead of the UK average and the measly 2 Mbps minimum proposed by minister Ed Vaizey in his opening speech. Vaizey also had praise for Liberty’s takeover of Virgin Media, but given the number of Liberty employees present, so did everyone else.

New interfaces, such as those introduced by UPC and Virgin Media, are cementing cable’s place in the digital world. But even though the new world is all about multiscreen, Virgin for one is picking up figures of 90% for in home usage on tablet devices.

This didn’t stop another emerging theme, the ability to take content across borders, the premise being that if you’ve bought your content why shouldn’t you be allowed to take it with you wherever you may be.

Talk was of trying to agree such a move with the content providers. It was even linked with the desires of the European Commission. But how would such a scenario go down with the Premier League and its famous case against pub landlady Karen Murphy for her screening of Greek satellite TV.