By The Phantom
I, Phanty, started to say something last time, but ran out of space just as I was getting to the point. Now if I can just remember the point I was trying to make, I’ll continue this month and see if I can make said point.
Lessee, we were talking about learning from the past, and that got us reminiscing about the good ole days. We blew a couple of paragraphs talking about the cable industry way back when. Then we talked about the forces that drove some of the past metamorphoses, and were going to try to extrapolate that to the future. Oh yeah, that must have been it: the future and preparing for it!
We have lots of competition in video, and it isn’t really the profit center today, though you could argue that it pays lots of bills. But it looks like the experience with video on cable is much better than that with streaming video. Lotsa streaming sites compress the heck out of video, resulting in poor quality. For 1080 HD video, which some folks turn up their noses at because it’s so 2010, the accepted entertainment-grade bit rate was around 7-8 Mbps the last time I checked (using MPEG-4). We now have 4k and even 8k to compete with (ignoring our doubt that people can see that much resolution), and they feature deeper color depth and gamut (which we think IS useful), requiring more bandwidth. We see guys sending what they claim is entertainment-grade HD video at as low as about 1 Mbps, frequently at 2 Mbps. Realistically 720 lines and low bit rate on a phone looks pretty good. So it has a place, just not on that 75 inch TV. So what’s the point? The point is that video is still important, and we need to embrace all different compression standards and bit rates because we are programming for the big screen home theater, for the phone, and everything in between. We have to balance video’s demand for bandwidth with data’s demand for same.
What is the most common complaint about video? Cost, yep, old fashioned dollars. So we need to embrace what has recently been called the “skinny bundle,” allowing people to pick and choose what they buy, and work to force costs down. Yeah, I know this has serious implications for overhead, for programming contracts, and the programmers have serious issues with their contracts. But this is the future, and you either figure it out or you drop out of the business.
Gotta move along, still haven’t made my points. Data is the big kahuna now, and we’ve done a decent job competing so far. But the other guys have embraced fiber all the way to the subscriber. Granted the embrace is kinda tepid so far due to cost. And they have more motivation because their installed infrastructure (twisted pair) is not competitive. But in the end, fiber is going to trump coax and we need to embrace it. There are decent movements in that direction, and I get the initial cost issue, but we need to keep our eye on that next plateau.
We’re also encouraged by the industry’s participation in the cellular and Wi-Fi businesses, because clearly these are important. We suspect that 5th generation cellular is over-hyped, but it will slowly enter into common use, and we need to be in a position to compete/utilize it. Does that mean leasing, or installing? Well, figure that out for yourself.
And what have I forgotten or don’t have the brain-power to think of? Hey, if I knew I’d tell you, but figuring that out is your job. Each system has to figure out its way forward.
“The world is always in movement.” — V. S. Naipaul (Trinidadian-British Nobel Prize writer of works of fiction and nonfiction, per Wikipedia).
You never know when The Phantom is standing right beside you. Sometimes he is in a meeting with you or walking the floor at your favorite cable show. Sometimes he’s hanging with the suits and other times with the front liners. But be assured, The Phantom sees all, The Phantom knows all and, most importantly, The Phantom tells all.