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Cable companies team up with Stanford to try to keep customers interested

Jerald Kent, chief executive of Cequel Communications and co-founder of Charter Communications, Inc. (CHTR), recently complained to Reuters that the cable industry is getting stale.  He comments, "[The industry needs to] get re-energized.  Part of the message is this is not your grandmother's cable business."

The cable industry has suffered hundreds of thousands of customer defections in recent months amid a lagging economy.  And while it pulled in $97.6B USD last year and fed streams to 57 million customers, its long-term future is unclear in the internet age.

To that end top cable companies are collaborating to form an "innovation funnel", located in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Managed by Louisville, Colo.-based CableLabs, an industry nonprofit research and development consortium, the new center will open in mid-2013 and house a number of engineers looking to experiment with ambitious GUIs and interactive options to reinvigorate the increasingly tired cable television space.


The new lab is located in the heart of gleaming Silicon Valley. [Image Source: Kidder Mathews]

CableLabs already had a small outpost in San Francisco, but the new Bay Area facility will greatly expand its local presence.  The industry entity is looking to partner up with Stanford University for academia-industry joint projects.

Aside from re-skins of traditional cable offerings, these "co-innovation labs" will reportedly explore ways of offering up faster, better cable services to mobile devices.

Comments Comcast Corp.'s (CMSCA) cable CEO Neil Smit -- also a CableLabs board member -- "Mobile is growing and we want to provide our services in mobile format.  Wi-Fi is a very important part of our business, both indoor and outdoor aspects of it."

Source: Reuters



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Cable innovation
By aurareturn on 11/6/2012 5:22:20 PM , Rating: 2
Always wondered why cable is so slow to innovate. If I'm watching a basketball game, I should be able to use my remote to check the stats any time I want.

If I'm watching a commercial, I should be able to pick up a remote and click on "details" to see more details on the ad I watched.




RE: Cable innovation
By Motoman on 11/6/2012 5:32:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Always wondered why cable is so slow to innovate


Because they have a (mostly) captive audience, and they have monopolies in their local markets.

Not everyone has the opportunity to switch to satellite - and satellite internet is horrible anyway, if you're using cable for internet too. And yes, lots of people are ditching paid-for TV all together...but statistically speaking that's still a pretty small percentage.

Cable companies just don't have any reason to get off their fat a$$es and do anything.


RE: Cable innovation
By CList on 11/6/2012 6:07:16 PM , Rating: 5
Who watches commercials??


RE: Cable innovation
By Solandri on 11/6/2012 6:55:18 PM , Rating: 2
Once upon a time, cable TV didn't have commercials. The idea was that on free over-the-air TV, the shows were paid for by ads. With cable TV, you paid for the cable service, which paid for the shows. So no ads were needed.

Gradually over the years, the cable companies snuck in ads and started double-dipping - receiving money both from the subscriber and from the advertiser. The only thing left resembling the old ad-free cable TV are the subscription channels like HBO.


RE: Cable innovation
By Motoman on 11/6/2012 9:35:53 PM , Rating: 2
Cable never had *no* commercials. But it was most definitely marketed as having fewer commercials at the start. Didn't last long.


RE: Cable innovation
By marvdmartian on 11/7/2012 7:37:39 AM , Rating: 2
Premium channels (HBO, Cinemax, and even, at the beginning, MTV) didn't have commercials, per se......just fillers between the end of one movie, and the beginning of the next one, where those channels self-advertised their other movies for the month.

I believe the people who are ditching cable, and even satellite, are the ones who are tired of dishing out $100+ a month for service, only to realize there's nothing on worth watching, AND who discover there are other methods of bringing in television service. With the innovation of streaming internet boxes (Roku, etc), you can pay for your high speed internet ($50-$75 a month), plus small monthly fees for whichever streaming service(s) you want, to tailor your service.

The same tailored (a' la carte) service that the cable company has said, for years, that they cannot manage to give us.


RE: Cable innovation
By kattanna on 11/7/2012 9:33:59 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Who watches commercials??


seriously.. we are either watching netflix dvd/streaming or something recorded on the DVR. we almost never watch "live" tv so we can fast forward


RE: Cable innovation
By Jeffk464 on 11/6/2012 8:36:33 PM , Rating: 2
The cable companies prime innovation is in coming up with roadblocks to keep you from cutting the cord. Whether is lobbying to do away with net neutrality or conspiring to kill services like netflix. In this they are very clever.


Wanna save cable?
By Ammohunt on 11/6/2012 5:42:14 PM , Rating: 2
Offer ala carte channels for $1-3 a month per channel. I don't want to pay for 800 channels of pure garbage only to watch 4 on a regular basis.




RE: Wanna save cable?
By Uncle on 11/6/2012 6:08:07 PM , Rating: 2
I'm with you on that one.When I brought it up 20 years ago, they used the excuse, probably valid, they had few digital and plenty of analogue channels, was holding them back. Now they tell me its government regulation. My fear is that if too many quit cable, which I did three yrs ago, they will start to raise my internet rates a lot higher to balance their $losses$. Then what am I to do. These companies seem to forget their is only so much discretionary money that people have.


RE: Wanna save cable?
By DiscoWade on 11/6/2012 7:13:52 PM , Rating: 2
Talk to Viacom and ABC and the other cable channel operators. They are the ones that make the cable and satellite companies sell in packages. They are the ones that are constantly raising prices knowing people will get angry at the cable/satellite company and not them. The cable channel companies know that if a la carte is allowed, they will lose big because people will no longer pay for crap channels.

If I had my way, I would make a la carte mandatory, ban promos for other TV shows during a TV show, force the station to air the credits unaltered, and limit the commercials to 15 minutes per hour on new shows and movies. I would also ban DRM on all broadcasts. And what I would like to see is for satellite operators to be forced to support a device like a CableCard so that people can buy their own DVR's and HTPC's and still get satellite service.


RE: Wanna save cable?
By Ammohunt on 11/6/2012 8:57:48 PM , Rating: 2
Commercials on pay for TV was one of my bet peeves i get to pay a premium to see commercials.


Innovation?
By jardows on 11/6/2012 5:43:41 PM , Rating: 3
How about "innovating" good customer service?




RE: Innovation?
By Motoman on 11/6/2012 9:37:44 PM , Rating: 2
That would cut into their profit margin.


RE: Innovation?
By Mathos on 11/7/2012 12:56:23 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know, when I had charter I never had problems getting customer service when I needed it. Other than they tend to drag their feet on getting a tech to your place if there's a problem with your line.

The issues I do have with most cable services though. When someone orders your service, and they live in your service area,Don't take 2 to 3 weeks to get their service hooked up. In that case I literally lived half a mile from the local cable center, where they kept their trucks. They offer crap for regular packages, and want you to bundle to get what you want. Instead like others have said, offer channels ale`cart, so I don't have to skim through the channels I never watch. Or offer everything on demand, with a simple menu of whats available to be watched. That way I don't need a DVR and can watch my shows when I have the chance to.

Offer it at reasonable prices.


fixed! pay me instead.
By ummduh on 11/6/2012 6:17:02 PM , Rating: 3
How about lower costs? I thought technology got cheaper with age, and use.

Instead cable just gets more expensive.

Perhaps people wouldn't be so quick to jump ship if it cost them $50/m instead of $150 plus this plus that plus plus plus...




RE: fixed! pay me instead.
By Jeffk464 on 11/6/2012 8:41:16 PM , Rating: 2
Cable companies keep making bigger and bigger deals with sport franchises. I heard this is the main thing driving up your cable bill. They figure sports is one thing people will be dependent on them for.


RE: fixed! pay me instead.
By Reclaimer77 on 11/6/2012 8:50:46 PM , Rating: 1
Dependent in the Internet age? Nope.

My cable company took ESPN out of the "basic plus" package recently, leaving me unable to watch the football game last night and root for my team.

So I called them up and upgraded my package for only....

HA! Just kidding. I watched the game on some pirate website running live streams of all the games. So good one cable company, your strategy really worked!


That's Oracle's headquarters...
By Mizerable on 11/6/2012 5:22:09 PM , Rating: 1
unless this cable company is massively wealthy and bought Oracle.... this is sloppy "journalism"




By Ammohunt on 11/6/2012 5:43:37 PM , Rating: 2
I noticed that as well Oracle represents Silicon Valley i guess.


By Mizerable on 11/6/2012 6:34:12 PM , Rating: 2
now i look like an ass... Mick changed the picture. it used to be the stock picture of Oracle's three-building glass headquarters with the pond.


Here's a thought:
By inperfectdarkness on 11/7/2012 3:57:52 AM , Rating: 3
If you want to retain some degree of profitibility, take a good long look at what landline phone providers have done.

In my own (admittedly short) lifetime, landlines have done away with everything from party-lines to fees for long-distance calls. A landline is now a cheap alternative to a cell-phone and makes great sense for people who are not always "on the go" or for people who need a cheap business phone. Monthly rates have dropped through the floor from >$60/month (for someone who frequently makes long-distance calls) to <$20 for unlimited long-distance.

If cable wants to remain relevant, it must do the same. Provided UNLIMITED content access at rock-bottom prices. No data caps. No bandwidth throttling. No witch-hunts for file-sharers.

There are only a few ways you can compete. Offer more value; offer lower prices; offer far superior service; or a combination of the three. Cable has NONE of these currently--and is dying off. This is business 101.




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