Call 2014 a table-setting year for the cable business. From mergers to big online programming launches, a lot of groundwork was laid this past year, the fruits of which won't be known until we get well into 2015.
In Tim Burton's wildly inventive 1985 comedy Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, the title character spends most of the film trying to reclaim his stolen bike, a frilly, pimped out, elaborately customized 1941 Schwinn Pullman, somewhat grandiosely monikered the "X1."
Much as we see our family members' foibles, we see the biggest strategic blunders in pay-TV this year in the same way--not as a chance to pick on operators' decisions, good or bad, but to analyze their mistakes and determine how to avoid similar problems. Here are the five biggest pay-TV turkeys of 2014, in all their glorious plumage.
Former Hewlett-Packard CTO Phil McKinney was hired as president and CEO of the research consortium CableLabs 28 months ago to pick up the pace of innovation in the cable industry. A self-described "innovation guy," McKinney came in with a mandate from cable CEOs to accelerate product cycles across DOCSIS, Wi-Fi, set-tops, 4K and other industry initiatives. FierceCable caught up with McKinney in Las Vegas and discussed the broad topic of cable industry innovation.
TiVo product chief Jim Denney has a lot of bogeys on his internal screen. He's got to watch the latest development in video user interfaces and program guides to keep TiVo's set-tops on the leading edge. And of course, there are the ever-present multiscreen issues to keep up with. FierceCable Editor Daniel Frankel caught up to Denney during CES and got him to discuss these issues--and a few more.
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Cablevision announced it will launch a mobile phone service using its Wi-Fi network, making it the first cable MSO to do so. The no-contract service will cost just $9.95 for current Cablevision broadband customers and $29.95 for non-customers.
Comcast CEO Brian Roberts called a top Obama aide late last year in an unsuccessful attempt to dissuade the President from endorsing strident Title II-based Internet regulation.
The National Cable Telecommunications Association has written the FCC, calling a proposed redefinition of broadband to 25 Mbps downstream and 3 Mbps upstream excessive.
Verizon is offering customers who use its FiOS Quantum Gateway a suite of guest Wi-Fi and enhanced parental controls.
Dish Network made its new over-the-top streaming service, Sling TV, available for select tech bloggers and media journalists last week, who seemed to arrive at rather unified conclusions: The technology works great, but the programming is not going to appeal to millennial-aged consumers.
Take that, cool, well-adjusted, normal-armed, DirecTV subscriber Rob Lowe: Media analyst Craig Moffett predicts that starting this year, cable will reverse a decade-long trend of losing video market share to satellite.
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Imagine Communications is adding a dynamic ad insertion component to its online video infrastructure portfolio, acquiring RGB Networks for an undisclosed amount.
Verizon is going to pay $5 million to settle an FCC inquiry into whether the service provider's rural customers could receive long distance or wireless calls to their traditional POTS phones.