The Threat to Cable Operators' Cash Cow Increases

Carl Weinschenk

The fear brought on by the changes in technology-more specifically, the leveling of the playing field caused by the adoption of Internet protocol (IP)-is well founded. Technology advances transform industries. Everyone has felt this fear, in turn. Now, it seems to be the cable industry's turn.

<strong>The phone industry is in various phases of a forced march toward an uncertain future for a lot of reasons</strong>. One of the main drivers is the fact that the cable companies can use IP to invade their turf. Turnabout is fair play, and now cable operators have to worry that the phone companies and others are coming hard after their core customers.


Indeed, it's happening. This CE Pro story reports on a Consumer Electronics Association study that says that 14.5 million people-almost half of folks who may buy a television next year-are likely to opt for a model with Internet connectivity. That doesn't mean, of course, that half of the folks who buy sets will run home to rip out their cables because they can catch "Family Guy" and "Fringe" on Hulu. But it is a step in that direction, and once those sets are in homes, they will be there for a long time. During this long cohabitation, the broadband infrastructure will get better and the owners certainly will become increasingly comfortable with the idea of not sending operators a check every month.


The Trojan Horse is that the Internet can be used with the current cable-delivery system, at least in the short term. For instance, 48 percent of respondents told the CEA that they would use the Internet to find more information about a show or song, and 44 percent would find out more about the actors. The problem for the cable companies, however, is that such innocuous activities are only a first step toward the eventual use of the Internet to carry the actual programming. These results clearly show that "over the top" IPTV services are an increasing threat to the incumbents, and operators should be afraid.

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