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.
Don't expect the announcement of Cablevision's Freewheel Wi-Fi-only phone service to spin Randall Stephenson into reenacting the bunker scene from Downfall when AT&T delivers its fourth-quarter earnings report Tuesday afternoon. Freewheel is not a threat of any kind to the incumbent wireless industry.
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.
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AT&T reported the addition of 73,000 U-verse TV subscribers in the fourth quarter, a significant decline from the 194,000 added in the same period of 2013. In its full year and Q4 earnings call with investors Tuesday, the conglomerate attributed the decline to a "strategic move to improve profitability" by concentrating on subscribers with lower churn rates.
Cox Communications has become the latest major pay-TV operator to raise consumer prices, upping monthly subscriber fees by $1 to $6, depending on the service package.
Charter Communications has promoted Rich DiGeronimo to executive vice president, product and strategy. DiGeronimo, who had served at the senior VP level since 2011, will continue to report to Charter COO John Bickham.
Imagine Communications is adding a dynamic ad insertion component to its online video infrastructure portfolio, acquiring RGB Networks for an undisclosed amount. Terms of the purchase, which was announced at Imagine's Global Sales Summit on Monday, were not announced. FierceOnlineVideo has a full overview of this story here.
Google struck a multimillion-dollar licensing deal to put National Football League game clips, interviews, TV series including pay-TV staple A Football Life, and fantasy-themed shows on a new NFL YouTube channel.
Letters from politicians to the FCC supporting Comcast's purchase of Time Warner Cable have been ghostwritten by Comcast PR executives, according to The Verge.
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AT&T reported that U-verse was the star performer in the wireline portfolio, rising 21.9 percent year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2014, driving up residential wireline revenues slightly 0.1 percent to $5.6 billion.
Apple posted a blowout holiday quarter with sales of 74.5 million iPhones and $18 billion in net profit. The results were way above forecasts from most Wall Street analysts. "We'd like to thank our customers for an incredible quarter, which saw demand for Apple products soar to an all-time high," said Tim Cook, Apple's CEO. "Our revenue grew 30 percent over last year to $74.6 billion, and the execution by our teams to achieve these results was simply phenomenal."