The Cable TV Industry Needs a Steve Jobs
(May 22, 2012)
-- Does the cable TV industry get you excited?
Apple gets you excited. CE companies get you excited. Even
DIRECTV and Dish Network can get you excited with certain new
products and services.
But the cable TV industry? Uh, no.
I am reminded of this unfortunate fact this week as an off-site
observer of the 2012 Cable Show, which began yesterday in
Boston. The Cable Show, which brings together the industry's top
executives and vendors, is supposed to be a showcase for new
product innovations. But as I scan the newswires looking for an
interesting new product or service that would appeal to our
readers -- TV viewers -- I find myself coming up blank.
Sure, Comcast yesterday unveiled its new X1 TV guide, which
integrates social media apps such as Facebook, and searches for
related programming across a variety of platforms. But these
features are already available
generation models of TiVo's Premiere HD DVR, Smart TVs, Google
TV and Net-enabled Blu-ray players.
The X1 also comes with a remote control
app that enables customers to use motion and gesture control
through the touch-screen of their handheld iPhone and iPod
touch. But TV makers such as Samsung already have similar
features in new sets on the market.
The Comcast X1 guide is not revolutionary; it simply copies what
other companies are already doing. _____________________________________________________________________________
introduced something called Project Dayview which purports to
gather data such as e-mails, texts and voicemails from your TV,
Comcast phone and Internet service and post it on one screen on
your TV. That's nice, but does it get you excited? Seems to me
it's just another way of looking at something you've already
created on your smart phone or tablet.
Then there's the wireless initiative that was announced
yesterday. Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Bright House
Networks and Cox are teaming to allow subscribers to use another
cable service's Wi-Fi hot spot. For instance, if you're a
Comcast customer and you are traveling in a Cox market, you can
use a Cox Wi-Fi hot spot at no extra charge, assuming, of
course, you can find a Cox Wi-Fi hot spot.
The wireless coop is a nice idea, but does it get a TV viewer
excited? No. Does it even get a frequent traveler excited?
Probably not. Most road warriors have long figured out where to
find free Wi-Fi, usually your favorite coffee shop.
So what else do we have from the 2012 Cable Show?
* TiVo and Pace are teaming to
produce a six-tuner HD DVR that will be offered for license to
cable operators. No word on whether any cable ops will use it,
* Comcast and Verizon have joined to create a web portal that
will allow mobile users to search and access videos. Not sure
how this is new, though.
You see what I mean?
Interestingly, part of the first day of the Cable Show was
devoted to a panel on which Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt
slammed Dish Network's new Auto Hop feature which eliminates
network commercials. Whether you think Dish should be able to
eliminate a network's commercials or not, you can't argue that
the feature isn't innovative. (Perhaps too innovative for Time
Warner Cable, though.)
And it isn't the first innovation from the satellite guys. How
about Dish's introduction a few years back of the
content-shifting device, the Slingbox, which enables you to
watch your home TV's programming while on the road. Or how about
DIRECTV's multi-screen News and Sports Mix feature, which allows
you to watch six to eight channels at one time. Or DIRECTV's
Sunday Ticket to Go service, which allows mobile users to watch
every NFL game.
You just don't see these innovations from the cable TV industry.
You only get copies of what others have done.
So what's the problem? Why isn't cable more innovative?
I believe the cable industry is dominated by talented
businessmen. Businessmen, not innovators. They know how to turn
a buck and spin a quarterly report. But they don't have the
instincts or passion to create. Create something special.
Something that would get viewers...EXCITED!
I keep thinking that the cable industry needs a Steve Jobs. (Of
course, others do, too, perhaps even Apple now.) Someone who
wouldn't go to sleep at night unless he came up with an idea
that would rock your world.
Until the cable industry starts thinking that way, it will
continue to be a follower, a copier, rather than an innovator.