Thinking outside the (linear video) box

November 10, 2010 - Openet

Ralph Brown, CTO of CableLabs, will be delivering this afternoon the final keynote address at Management World Americas, and the timing coincides with this morning’s announcement of a formal agreement
between TM Forum and CableLabs to collaborate on B/OSS standards for MSOs.

This falls in line with what I spoke about earlier this week  in terms of a “blurring of the lines” as service providers of all types attempt to morph into “agile providers.” The cable industry is definitely not known by customers for its customer service or its intuitive and proactive reactions to problems, so a move to streamline management and operational systems can only help to improve that sector, and TM Forum’s frameworks, interfaces and process flows may help to fill some gaps. And, obviously, cable’s experience managing broadband may mean TM Forum can leverage DOCSIS 3.0 for the betterment of its frameworks, interfaces and processes.

But even with all of this collaboration and sharing of standards, guidelines and best practices, what will it really mean in terms of beating out encroaching competition from on-demand broadband TV/video services like Hulu? Or what about Apple, Google, Amazon, Sony, Roku, Netflix and up-and-comers like FilmOn and others moving beyond “linear” viewing and beyond single-purpose devices? In speaking to one of the industry’s policy management strategists at Openet, he posed the question “What happens when Apple comes out with a 55-inch iPad you can mount on your living room wall?”

If that’s where we are headed, then I think both cable and telco executives have to do a lot more to think “out of the box”—the linear-programming box that is. And they have to do it fast. If you listen to Hulu CEO Jason Kila and what he plans for Hulu and Hulu Plus, you see plans to take the service beyond the browser and into connected devices. That means everything from TVs to PCs, to smart phones, to Blue-ray players, to gaming consoles.

Every device that can be connected, even automobiles, can mean an opportunity for the thought leaders. So though the theme at Management World has been “Beating the Revenue Crunch,” there was one element of the show that was obviously missing—in keynotes and in sessions—the presence of the OTT players.

Every great strategist knows it is best to be as close as possible to the competition and so I hope the next Management World succeeds in getting representatives from the OTT world.

Just last night, during a late-night call with Lee Woonduk, head of SK Telecom’s commerce business team (which will be covered in a story tomorrow on Connected Planet), he noted the company’s early success in mobile commerce came from learning how to truly view banks and financial services companies as partners rather than competitors. Perhaps the same really has to happen now in communications and media if telcos and MSOs are to survive and thrive.

Large trade shows bursting at the seams with executives attempting to do the same thing should really now expand to include those who are attempting to do different things—thus walking the walk of moving toward the paradigm of an “agile provider.”

That means the “industry” trade shows will have a lot of chasing and marketing to do, because it doesn’t seem like the OTT players are all that worried about proactively attending the top forums for telco and cable at this point in time.
So shows like Management World Orlando indeed do a good job of bringing together the industry pundits to further streamline operations and to think of the future. But hopefully thinking will soon turn into action so that there can be more collaboration perhaps between CSPs and those who currently pose a threat to them as “agile providers” to whom the masses will be loyal.


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