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Long-term success depends on cable as the entertainment curator

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The cable industry is still riding high on the back of its broadband advantage (when speed, capacity and cost efficiency for delivering these two characteristics are compared to telcos). But at Cable Congress today there was a discussion about what will sustain their growth when telcos do finally narrow the broadband gap thanks to fibre deployments.

Dana Strong, CEO at UPC Ireland, part of Liberty Global, confirmed that broadband has been the ‘hero product’ for cable over the last five years and pondered what comes next. For Liberty Global that is clear: a strategy that confirms you as a curator for a growing breadth of content and who presents it to people in a simple way.

“At Liberty Global we have invested a lot in the Horizon platform so that we can integrate content from different places into one gateway and have numerous devices hanging off of it. No matter where people are getting their content from it should come through the UPC gateway,” she told the London audience.

Miranda Curtis, Member of the Board at Liberty Global, the pan-European cable giant, elaborated on this theme. “The Horizon platform establishes the STB as the gateway into the home for all forms of content, which could be YouTube or Netflix type services and also services we cannot yet anticipate, alongside traditional television. These will be delivered through a single point of contact to all devices using a readily accessible user interface.

“The more complex the world becomes, the more we have to focus on simplicity for the consumer, making these services dead easy to use,” she added. “That means investing in the best possible technology, the best user interface and good customer service.” Curtis said these would provide competitive advantage regardless of whether you have a speed advantage over broadband rivals.

This thinking aligns with the strategy at Virgin Media, which was one of the first cable operators in Europe to articulate the future of cable as the curator of all entertainment needs, whether delivered via TV or broadband, and where the focus has been on improving customer care. Liberty Global is in the process of acquiring Virgin Media and Curtis argued that the investments in infrastructure needed to make this multi-service curation role a reality require scale as well as investments.

Rosalia Portela, CEO at the Spanish cable operator ONO also highlighted the high levels of investment needed to satisfy customer expectations that their entertainment services should be available everywhere. “People are getting used to having this access in high quality and they will get impatient if they cannot get it,” she commented.

Asked how ONO has coped in the tough economic climate in the country, where prices are falling rather than rising and consumers have become highly price sensitive, she said you have to deliver better services and products than anyone else. “If you have unique products as we do, as the only operator with high speed broadband and the only one with a highly advanced TV platform like our TiVo offer, you will get new customers.”

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