Industry CEOs Embrace Competition, Collaboration and Customer Focus

Industry CEOs Embrace Competition, Collaboration and Customer Focus
11/03/2015 Muriel Hirschfeld

(Brussels, 11 March 2015) Leading cable, internet and content companies are united in focusing on enriching the consumer experience, opening the door to more consolidation and new partnerships between traditional players and emerging competitors, according to executives speaking at Cable Europe’s Cable Congress in Brussels today.

A willingness to collaborate across the ecosystem comes despite intense competition across many channels, which is fragmenting viewing audiences and changing consumption habits but increasing overall demand for content. According to Manuel Cubero, CEO of Kabel Deutschland Holding and MD, Vodafone Germany: “We still are in a position where innovators are helping us to grow because of broadband.” Cable Europe, the industry’s trade association, announced earlier that broadband revenues grew 9% year over year in 2014.

Matt Brittin, President of EMEA Business & Operations at Google Europe commented: “We are partners not predators to the cable industry. We’re all trying to keep up with the consumer to make it easier for them to connect to the web and make the most of it. Ours is a world of ‘and’ not ‘or’.”

Lutz Schüler, CEO of German cable operator Unitymedia KabelBW agreed: “Netflix is not cannibalising our business. We can’t start avoiding innovation, we need to give the customer what they want and that means putting all types of content on all platforms.” The explosion of demand creates a great opportunity for all players, but “we need a broader content portfolio and more partnerships, and we need to successfully transform cable to a customer-first mentality,” Schüler said.

Many speakers at the first day of Cable Congress noted the proliferation of new partnerships as the line increasingly blurs between content and distribution. Manuel Kohnstamm, President of Cable Europe and Chief Policy Officer at Liberty Global, said that “partnering with over-the-top players is the way forward. We like Netflix so much that we want to have many more of them. It’s a new world and the industry has a lot to gain from this competition.” Guillaume de Posch, Co-CEO of RTL, added three major shifts in the cable industry in response to digitalisation: from broad to niche entertainment channels, from linear to non-linear viewing and from ad-funded to more sophisticated pay models.

Executives also agreed that a regulatory response from European policymakers is needed to encourage innovation, improve Europe’s competitiveness and deal with fragmentation of the market. A key problem is how to ensure consumers can access content whenever, wherever and on whatever device they choose, whether in or outside the home or traveling across borders.

The most pressing policy areas identified include reforming of Europe’s copyright regime, establishing a more favourable environment for consolidation, taking a balanced approach to open internet rules, encouraging private-led investment in broadband infrastructure, and creating common EU rules in areas impacting the digital economy, such as data protection.

The need to future-proof networks and services was also highlighted at a CTO panel, with Balan Nair, CTO of Liberty Global, remarking that “the Internet of things and machine-to-machine communications will hugely increase demand for broadband, and setting uniform standards is a challenge for network operators.”

A detailed policy track, alongside additional keynote presentations, new data and marketing and technology panels gets underway again tomorrow at The Square in Brussels. To learn more please visit: www.cablecongress.com, talk to us on Twitter at @cableeurope, and follow the conversations live via #cablecongress.