Broadband Video on Operators’ Minds

Here’s a conundrum for cable operators that sell video services and broadband connections: Is Internet video viewing a friend or a foe?

“It’s our 'froe’,” quipped Charlie Herrin, senior vice president of product development and technology at Comcast, at a breakfast session at the CTAM Summit here on Tuesday. “It’s our friend because it’s a fantastic growth source for our company.”

Also weighing in on the topic at the panel discussion (co-sponsored by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable) were Jennifer Caserta, executive vice of marketing, communications, scheduling and alternative platforms at IFC; Himesh Bhise, vice president and general manager of high-speed Internet at Charter Communications; Ron Frankel, CEO of Synacor; and Steve Gorman, vice president of marketing high-speed Internet and Web strategy at Cox Communications.

Unfortunately for cable, operators have been unable to efficiently monetize large amounts of Web video, though such efforts are being efficiently done by companies such as YouTube and Joost.

But they want to do more. Bhise of Charter — which has been adding more video content to its portal for broadband customers — said the company focuses on two key areas regarding broadband strategy: making sure the core access connection was outstanding, and showcasing all the best that broadband could offer of TV and Web video.

Cox’s Gorman said opportunities are still there for cable to establish itself as a destination provider of Internet content. “Only 20% to 25% of people on Internet watch Internet video [once a week]. I think the opportunity for us as operators is to construct the ecosystem,” he said.

“What worries me the most is understanding what that video is … how to advertise against it, how to monetize it,” Gorman said, adding it was “really shame on us if we don’t have access to all this aggregate data.”

Gorman said the company’s focus has traditionally been advertising online as a tool to showcase broadband, but he said that revenue continues to grow every year. “We’re doing ads in our video player,” he said.

The extent to which user generated videos are going mainstream was exemplified by Monday night’s first-ever joint CNN-YouTube debate between Democratic candidates, which took place in Charleston, S.C., and generated roughly 3,000 questions for candidates submitted by YouTube users.

“It creates more inventory,” IFC’s Caserta said of Internet programming. The next step for content providers is to figure out how to customize that inventory to different platforms.

IFC recently produced its first-ever original Web series Getting Away With Murder. “Consumers are amateur programmers and there’s something very appealing in that,” Caserta added. “Now with more media choices people are making more time for it during their day.”