Dublin, 6 March 2018
Tom Mockridge welcomes consolidation as sign of industry strength
Tom Mockridge, CEO of Virgin Media, was interviewed for the closing session of day one at Cable Congress 2018. He welcomed recent industry consolidation, accepting that the pace had increased but insisting that it is fundamental to a scale industry. Potential bids, Mockridge said, “show that fundamentally what we do – as a subscription based business – is an attractive proposition.”
Mockridge would not comment when interviewer Kate Bulkley asked whether Virgin Media was for sale, if there were any plans for further tie ups with Vodafone, or if Virgin Media had any interest in acquiring additional channels. But he did set out Virgin Media’s plans for the future, which centre around delivering on the quad-play promise through expanding core networks, constantly increasing broadband speeds and upgrading to digital voice. He also promised that Virgin Media would embrace digital ways of working to increase the speed at which products and services could be delivered. And Mockridge was adamant that both Virgin Media and the wider industry need to do more to bring women into senior leadership positions.
Capturing consumers’ attention
Industry leaders discussed the ongoing battle for the attention of ‘the digital consumer’, which is courted by a wide variety of brands and services, from TV channels to social media sites and video-on-demand, across many devices.
TV broadcasters need to harness data analytics to stay relevant, said Laurence Miall d’Aout, VP Data and Advanced Advertising at Liberty Global. Better data analytics, collected and processed by artificial intelligence, can improve the viewership experience by tailoring relevant content and ads to a user’s preferences. Consumers want better products and better viewing experiences, and are willing to share their data to obtain that, said Kim Smets, Director Market & Consumer Insights for Telenet. At the same time, consumer trust is crucial, and must be founded in an absolute respect of data privacy rules and principles.
Data the key to new services, IoT and smart cities
Harnessing data is also key to the development of smart services, which will benefit consumers and society more broadly. Jamie Cudden, Smart City Programme Manager for Dublin City Council, explained how connectivity and IoT devices are turning Dublin into a smart city and helping address key challenges such as traffic congestion, air pollution, littering and crowd management. A profound culture change is necessary in the way municipalities operate to achieve this though – becoming a smart city requires breaking silos and rethinking the utilization strategy of urban assets, from bins to street lighting and bicycles.
From the cable operators’ perspective as well, realizing the ‘smart’ opportunity requires a change in approach. Mark Kinlen, Vice President for Technical Strategy at Liberty Global, argued that cable companies can be natural partners for cities in their efforts to become smart. Indeed, beyond simple connectivity, smart cities need platforms and services, based on partnerships and complex collaborative agreements. Such system management is inherent to the business of cable companies, who can bring that expertise and experience to public partners. Speakers from the public and the private sectors agreed that smart city services were at a tipping point, thanks to the increasing affordability and availability of IoT technology. But to truly scale up, smart city projects will need to be demand-led and driven by citizens’ wishes, Luis Sanchez from the University of Cantabria reminded the audience: “a bottom-up approach is needed, with feedback loops from citizens, to ensure cities are focusing on the right priorities for their uses, the citizens”.
Quality content and sports remain crucial for viewers
Speakers at Cable Congress argued over what drives pay TV subscription, with Laima Zivatkauskaite, Vice President at Init explaining that live sports is the primary driver for cable subscriptions: 81% of sports fans in the US subscribe to TV, and 82% of them would cancel their subscriptions if they could no longer watch sports. Levente Malnay, SVP at AMC Networks International for Central and Northern Europe, disagreed, arguing that live events, such as The Voice, or quality serial fiction was just as important. The combined spending on quality serial content from Netflix, Amazon, ABC and Disney is four times as much as cable spending on sports.
Figures released on the first morning of Cable Congress confirm this view, with pay TV subscriptions and revenues continuing to grow in Europe, driven by high-quality digital TV services. The full figures are available here.
About Cable Congress and Cable Europe
Cable Congress 2018 is taking place in Dublin on 6th and 7th of March. Please visit www.cablecongress.com for the latest updates, talk to us on Twitter via @CableEurope, and follow the conversation live using #cablecongress.
Cable Europe is the trade association that connects leading broadband cable TV operators and their national trade associations throughout the European Union. The regulatory and public policy activities of Cable Europe aim to promote and defend the industry’s policies and business interests at European and international level. The European cable industry provides high speed broadband internet, TV services, and telephony to more than 65.1 million homes in the European Union. www.cable-europe.eu
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