Cable’s Still in the Game

Did you catch that World Series? Apparently, according to the audience rankings, lots of people did. Of course while you were all watching baseball games, I was thinking about the telecommunications industry and how the Yankees and the Phillies are great examples of the opposing sides in that space.

Start with the Yankees; the best team money can buy. These guys are so stocked with star players they look like an All Star team. They play in a billion dollar-plus playpen in the biggest city in the country that also happens to be the media center of the world. And they grind their opponents down with what’s known as an American League lineup that doesn’t quit and pitching that holds a lead so the closer can secure it more tightly than a lid on a mayonnaise jar.

Then there are the Phillies, a mostly homegrown crew with the occasional cast-off from another team to add spice. They play beneath the radar in a city known for its cynicism. To put it nicely, the Phillies pitching is mediocre and their closer couldn’t shut the door on a minivan with an electric switch. But the Phillies win their games by overpowering their opponents with big hits. And, even when they get little hits, they are remarkably fast getting around the base paths and scoring.

And doesn’t that just remind you of telecom? The Yankees are telcos: big, rich, able to buy their way into fiber-to-the-home networks that no one else can afford. They’re not the fastest movers they’re inexorable; they grind you to death. It’s not as if they’ve built themselves into a dynasty through hard work; they’ve bought their way in. But they have a closer—mobile wireless—that makes their whole package a winner.

On the other side of the field is cable. These guys are homegrown from the Gulf Shore of Mississippi where Comcast was spawned to the mountains of Denver where the industry was headquartered for so many years. They’re thrifty and they thrive on the big hit. It was cable minds that developed HFC and revolutionized how much networks could do to deliver more services, including, importantly, two-way transport. And never forget cable modems. While the phone companies were diddling in the batter’s box with DSL and its derivatives, cable stepped to the plate and changed the way the public sees the Internet.  Cable’s lineup is built for the big hit, the power shot that goes out of the ballpark, like a cable modem. But, when they get going with even a small hit they’re fast and deadly.

To be fair, neither side is what one would call a fan favorite. It’s often forgotten that Lily Tomlin made her comedic mark by savaging the telephone industry. And it’s not often forgotten by anyone—particularly Verizon which is taking its fair share of shots at cable’s service record—that cable has had its problems with the public.

Still, they’re deservedly the best out there right now and they’re doing their damndest to win over the end user.

Maybe I need a life, but those were all the things I thought as I watched the World Series. In a close game where telcos are starting to push broadband over their wireless devices, cable has yet another big hit sitting on deck. Enhanced TV, the ability to use that clean-up strength in video and the television experience to hit another one out of the park.

Cable doesn’t need to go out and buy a big player. It doesn’t need even to trade. It’s got the answer sitting on its bench screaming, “Put me in coach; I’m ready to play.” Enhanced TV; the big bopper is there for the taking.

Of course, that's just my vision.  Maybe you just saw some great baseball games between two teams.


          -- Edgar Villalpando, SVP Marketing, ActiveVideo Networks