How Cable Companies Can Adapt . . . Maybe

So I killed my cable.  Dead.  Gone.  No more.  Hulu, Netflix, and gizmos for me, thanks very much, that’s how I’ll get my video.

So now, based on my experience that cable is unnecessary (and financially unsound) for most households, what can cable companies do to become something more modern and useful?  What does it mean for us?

(This, by the way, assumes said companies will embrace change.  Cable companies have ,at times, followed in the steps of others, but I can’t say they’ve actually been enthused or active dealing with change.  But one can hope.)

Here’s my take on what can be done:

Cable Companies As ISPs: Frankly, cable companies should embrace their nature as an ISP and run with it.  It’s not sexy, fascinating, and full of big-dollar deals, but it is stable and reliable, and they’ve got the infrastructure in place.  Cable companies would have to relabel themselves over times, so they might as well start early – ISP first, content second.

ISP Plus: That being said, the companies should also view themselves as “ISP Plus.”  They’d deliver content of course, but should embrace the future as an information delivery system.  That means making all sorts of bundling deals, content deals, new delivery methods, etc.  For example, imagine getting an cable ISP hookup that comes with discounts on Hulu and Netflix.

Form Alliances: Cable companies will need alliances with other companies – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, etc.  They’ve got a delivery system, they need to make sure they work with others to maximize it’s use.  We’ve already seen this happening last week.

Get Beyond The Basics: Cable companies that embrace ISP Plus should go beyond traditional content.  Have Kindle apps, e-readers, work with OnLive, anything.  Go NUTS making yourself so useful people have to use you.

Embrace Other Systems: Much as TiVO leveraged Linux, Cable should embrace other technologies, and my money is on Android.  A smart company (I’m looking at you, Comcast), could whip up a rival to Apple TV or Boxee quite easily, and use existing coders to add more apps.

Be Willing To Buy: Some cable companies may just want to purchase their way into technology and relevance.  It’d be easier.

Be Willing To Be Sold: Also, cable companies may have to face the fact that they could be better off being bought by someone.  I’m actually wondering if Apple could just shell out the cash to buy some (though at that point I see monopoly issues coming in).  I somehow guess this isn’t going to be popular.

Career-wise, if you work in cable, video, or technology:

  • f you’re in cable, there’s opportunities – but also I think cable companies are a bit floundering/confused as to what to do.
  • If you work in technology that supports cable and other companies, this is a change to innovate.
  • If you work in video, games, or content delivery what cable companies do or don’t do may affect your careers, so pay attention.  Bandwidth caps for no reasons or content alliances could radically shift your job.
  • If you’re at a cable rival . . . well the field is wide open.

So I think cable can change and indeed evolve.  I think those of us in many fields need to be aware of this.  Do I see it happening . . .  that I’m not so sure on.

Steven Savage