October is Tradeshow Month

It has been too long since I put my keyboard into blogging mode. Definitely a busy few months – both professionally and personally – but there is too much happening in the space to stay quiet any longer – not to mention that CES is less than 12 weeks away!  Watch this space for some thoughts on both The Connected Home and The Traveling Home in the weeks ahead.

Speaking of travel, I hope to have a chance to connect in San Francisco (CEA Industry Forum), Las Vegas (TelcoTV), or Los Angeles (Streaming Media West) this month. I will be visiting those events and  sharing my perspective on how the Connected CE industry is quickly rolling out, both for retail consumer end-users and for multitudes of traditional and non-traditional service providers.

For some of us, the convergence that we have been talking about for over a decade finally seems to be on the verge of reality, as devices interconnect, speeds ramp up, services flow, and boundaries blur.

And not a moment too soon, if you ask me.

So…did CONNECTIONS and NCTA Connect this Year?

I wanted to (finally) take a few minutes to share some industry event thoughts:

The Cable Show (“NCTA”), Boston

In the twilight hours of the 3-day event, I finally had some unscheduled time (having spent most of my waking hours meeting cable execs in LG’s nearby demo suite), allowing me to have a 90-minute self-guided tour.  My observations:

  • NCTA was noticeably smaller than I remember from years ago in Vegas, seeming to publicly proclaim consolidation! – as providers (e.g. TWC/Insight) and suppliers (e.g. Cisco/NDS) shrink in number.
  • The Cable Guys have shown remarkable agility in the past 12-18 months, reinforcing their value to many tablet-owning subscribers as the first wave of the 2-screen tsunami subsides.
  • MSOs are really not too worried by competitive OTT services – as 5-year plans will prevail, retaining subscribers with TV-Everywhere authentication, new home gateways, and slow-moving CE deals.

Parks Associates’ CONNECTIONS / TIA, Dallas

CONNECTIONS and TIA offered a slightly different  perspective on the convergence of Connected CE, service providers, and cloud services:

  • AT&T and Verizon said service providers should embrace the “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) trend as the Connected CE market grows from 6B to 13B devices over the next 18 months.
  • M2M or “Internet of Things” talk seems to be gaining momentum as home monitoring and control services are deployed, and CE devices add more sensors tied to analytics engines in the cloud.
  • The “Connected CE as the STB” panel focused on having 1 STB/home within 10 years, and the need to “follow the money” of measured delivery and consumption of content and advertising, rather than “hobbies”.

Conclusion

No earth-shattering announcements and no revolutionary product launches. That said, I did sense early indicators that Pay TV operators are coming to terms with tempering their leased equipment business (much like Ma Bell did years ago). In-home network demarcation will be needed (iNID?) but MVPDs will hopefully prepare their subscribers soon for “BYOD” , enabling mainstream consumers to enjoy familiar, high-quality Pay TV on more innovative devices. If all goes according to plan, a rare win-win may be possible – in the coming years.

Back from Hollywood…

I had a very interesting day last week at Variety’s Venture Capital and New Media Summit, an event designed to increase awareness of the burgeoning entertainment-tech scene in Hollywood. Kicked off by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the 1-day event provided ample opportunity for attendees to debate how new cloud services and devices could either disrupt or augment longstanding media businesses.  The general sentiment expressed, both publicly on panels and in private conversations, was that new opportunities were definitely being created, but the inertia of highly-profitable legacy business models might promote the status quo for a few more years still.

And so, in addition to enjoying the great venue at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills, most of the entertainment, technology and VC execs I chatted with were focused on measuring social media, building teams with great talent, and searching for that “next big thing”.  Check out some of the executive perspectives (including mine) published in the Variety Magazine story, “Coin Still Flows to Tech Set” by Hillary Atkin.

Surface + Xbox = Transforming Content and UX for the Better?

In the week since Microsoft revealed their iPad-challengers, we have all read a variety of opinions and analyses stemming from the limited info that Ballmer shared at the Surface unveiling event.

More interesting than the device features was the speculation beforehand of an Xbox-Surface combo.

On one hand, the Xbox-Surface pair would simply be a “pure” (closed?) Microsoft version of the many emerging whole-home solutions coming from leading Pay TV operators (think Comcast’s Xfinity AnyPlay feature which uses a special Motorola set-top box to stream Live Pay TV to Apple or Android tablets around the home, or DISH’s “Hopper” which replicates the main TV viewing experience on “Joeys” all around the house).

On the other hand, Xbox-Surface could be a potential blockbuster combo that hints at Microsoft’s latest “Living Room Domination Plan”, where a sleek new Xbox and Kinect replace a stodgy old STB and a Windows 8 Surface replaces a cluttered 40-button remote, thus enabling intuitive, advanced user interaction for game play and TV navigation. Add a Live TV source or two to the Xbox, OTT services and TV-Everywhere authenticated catch-up TV “channels”, plus a few exclusive content provider deals (interesting to Hollywood thanks to the sizable Xbox footprint), and Microsoft suddenly becomes a virtual service provider, that could either be a friend or a foe to today’s Pay TV operator.

Either way, the Xbox-Surface story is more interesting than Surface alone. As Microsoft likes to say, they could definitely be “better together“.

CONNECTIONS Day #1 Quotes

Some interesting panels today with big name speakers yielded some quotes to consider:

  • TV-Everywhere implementation costs are a rounding error compared to annual programming costs.
  • Services you receive from your Service Provider should be available when you want, on all your CE devices.
  • Cord cutting is not about content, it’s about billing and account relationships.
  • Surveys show the highest subscriber awareness levels (25%) for TV-Everywhere service was at U-Verse.
  • TV-E services are consumed 75% on mobile/tablet and 25% on console/Smart TV.
  • Time-critical content (March Madness, Olympics) drives 1st-time TV-E exposure, which then increases recurring usage.
  • For service providers, Value-Added Services IS THE BUSINESS now.

2012 NCTA Cable Show gearing up for some interesting sessions and potential surprises

I am looking forward to seeing some of the anticipated announcements coming out of Boston as thousands of cable executives descend upon Beantown this week.  My own calendar is very full with private meetings, but I hope to see the panel on Wednesday with Time Warner Cable and Netflix (should be some sparks).

I am speaking Monday at Imagine Park in a session focused on helping MSOs innovate faster. Hope to see you there: http://2012.thecableshow.com/schedule/Session/1035.

K.