Every few years there’s a disruptive force in an industry that’s brought about by new technologies or innovative business models. As part of this, companies that were once unrelated to your business can become your biggest competition. CableLabs Winter Conference, which ran from March 8-10 in Orlando, was an opportunity for those in the cable industry to examine their landscape, technology, services, and competitive priorities in a shifting video delivery and broadband environment.
Examining market trends and ways to improve service delivery were two topics that featured prominently at the Winter Conference. Cable is a facility-based business that runs via a physical network, so providers were inevitably interested in ways to improve their network, such as increasing speed and reliability. Nonetheless, there are other factors beyond the network that can differentiate cable operators from their traditional and emerging competitors.
Who are cable’s competitors nowadays, anyway? First, there are the network operators – the telcos and satellite service providers. These are cable’s traditional rivals, but of course, the list doesn’t stop there. For video programming delivery, there are now a slew of competitors, with more popping up all the time. Over-the-top (OTT) content providers such as NetFlix and Hulu are gaining grounds, while content producers themselves are seeking ways to deliver direct to consumers. Meanwhile, consumer electronics manufactures such as Apple and Samsung are developing smartTV to deliver programming that bypasses set top boxes altogether. On top of that, at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January, chip manufacturer Intel announced plans to deliver video programming direct to customers.
Cable’s search for a competitive advantage in this changing landscape is leading providers to examine all of the factors that contribute to quality of experience. Quality of experience is no longer just used as a measure of customer care –– it is now a critical competitive weapon. At CableLabs Winter Conference, presenters and participants discussed how the industry is investing in next-generation user interfaces and navigation tools to provide the customer with ease of use and an elegant search-navigate-enjoy user experience. The aim is to create a seamless experience as the subscriber moves from room to room inside the home, and from device to device via WiFi inside and outside the home.
Cable has several advantages in its quest to improve customer care. To start with, providers have the ability to pull relevant subscriber usage data together so that customer-facing employees have this information at their fingertips to quickly solve customer issues and enhance their experience.
Recommendation engines based on user preferences also create an advantage over other content providers, many of which can only stream content to subscribers, whereas cable operators can recommend content based on what a subscriber is viewing at any given moment.
The industry’s focus on looking beyond the speed of broadband delivery to investigate ways of improving consumers’ quality of experience, combined with efforts to reduce costs and increase efficiency, are all helping the cable industry gain that necessary competitive advantage.
By identifying the competition, differentiating through improved quality of experience, focusing on execution, and increasing the speed of innovation, cable is on the fast track to become the communication and entertainment hub in consumer households.