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Cable Technology Feature Article

May 10, 2014

Cable Technology Week in Review

By Tara Seals, TMCnet Contributor

Mother’s Day is upon us, and, fittingly, TiVo (News - Alert) decided to find out more about what moms do when it comes to television viewing. 

The set-top company found out that, interestingly, mothers are the ones who control the remote, despite the stereotype that television is dad’s kingdom. When the family watches television together it’s usually mom making the program choices—by a 41 percent to 24 percent margin over dads. And while computers are playing a bigger role in the family dynamic, the survey found that families still fight over control of the remote more than they fight over control of the family laptop -- 53.1 percent to 24.9 percent. It also uncovered that cooking shows are the top pick for content.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, thirst for fresh content and exclusive sport broadcasts is propelling the market in the Middle East. Last year was the third in a row and the eighth since 2004 where pay-TV penetration rates grew there—challenging, for the first time, the region’s dedication to free-to-air TV. For IPTV (News - Alert), it’s growing faster than any other emerging market, thanks to exponentially increasing content. Across the region, providers have been beefing up their programming bouquets, which have contributed significantly to subscriber growth and which has driven more investment in fiber, video infrastructure equipment and software.

In Europe, the U.K.’s cable MSO, Virgin Media, is planning a quad play that bundles TV, broadband, landline phone and mobile services in one package. While Virgin Media has long offered mobile services, the new packages mark the first time the company has bundled mobile with its other services. And it’s a rarity to see such packages in the U.K., even though the quad play is familiar to subscribers throughout Europe and North America.

In a similar vein, TMC columnist Gary Kim (News - Alert) noted that the integration of mobile and fixed network infrastructure, in particular cable TV broadband networks, are emerging as a key strategic direction for Western European service providers. Spain’s Telefonica is offering 725 million euros ($1 billion) for a controlling stake in Spain's pay-per-view TV operator, Digital Plus, and Vodafone (News - Alert) recently purchased Grupo Corporativo Ono, the largest cable TV provider in Portugal. Separately, Telefonica had earlier purchased E-Plus, the German mobile services company, and now is attempting to win regulatory approval of the deal. These are indicative of an overall trend: In addition to gaining scope, traditional scale (more customers of the type a service provider already serves) also matters.

Investments in the quad play continue in North America, where TELUS (News - Alert) has announced that it is investing $2.8 billion in the Canadian province of British Columbia. The company will deploy more 700 MHz spectrum across the province for both rural and urban areas, as well as deploying Internet and cable TV services in addition to wireless access. The company will also expand its electronic medical records services as well as completing its TELUS Garden Office in downtown Vancouver.

Comcast meanwhile is making some strategic moves of its own. The No. 1 cable MSO is close to an agreement with EA to stream casual and family games via its cloud-connected X1 set-top box. The idea is to make buying games “as easy as ordering a pay-per-view movie,” sources said, which brings the experience into line with the Xbox Live and PS4 online experiences. But it’s a competitive block-and-tackle move that sets Comcast up to outshine both traditional rivals as well as new competitors in the over-the-top (OTT) space.

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