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CTAM Summit 2009: VOD, Mobile Apps Dominate Cable's Future Plans

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A panel of cable programmers, operators and MSO technical gurus at
the CTAM Summit here Tuesday mapped out their consumer product
strategies for the future and the consensus appears to be that
offerings that enhance the video-on-demand experience and provide
customers with more mobility will rule the day.

Fox Cable Networks president Rich Battista kicked off the session,
noting that he believes that VOD technology is at an inflection point.

"We're at the point now where trends are happening and we have
technological opportunities to allow video on demand to go to the next
level," Battista said, adding that technologies like dynamic ad
insertion and interactive advertising pose great potential for the

But Battista, wary of his other constituents - mainly advertisers -
said that what will drive the success of any new product will be the
willingness of cable operators to disable the fast-forward function
that allows viewers to skip ads. Battista pointed to Cox
Communications' MyPrimeTime product, which allows customers to access
VOD streams of a number of popular broadcast and cable shows on their
TVs, but without the fast-forward option. He added that the notion that
consumers would reject disabling the fast forward isn't entirely

"Consumers don't mind disabling fast-forward as long as they have
convenience," Battista said, adding later that new technologies that
include the fast-forward functionality, like network DVR, "send shivers
down my spine."

Comcast executive vice president and chief technology officer Tony
Werner said VOD enhancements were top of mind -- he said about 2/3 of
an average customer's viewing hours are either DVRs or VOD. But Werner
was equally high on mobile and online on demand applications. About
10,000 Comcast homes are is currently involved in the TV Everywhere
trials, with average video viewing at about 21 minutes, nearly 10 times
the 2 minutes to 3 minutes most people average on the Internet.

"That is an incredibly long time," Werner said. "And it is largely based on what the content is."
Warner Cable chief technology officer Mike LaJoie said mobile
applications are a big priority, especially as the proliferation of
personal devices continues.

"In the 90s we talked about convergence," LaJoie said. "It didn't
happen. Instead there was this explosion of personal devices and an
explosion of through put. The first thing that a consumer reaches for
in the morning is going to be different five years from now and it's
going to be a device that is not plugged into a wall. The cable
industry, we own a great big plug."

LaJoie joked that the cable's concern over finding the killer application is like a "fish looking for water."
is the killer app," LaJoie continued. "What else will people sit and
stare at for four hours straight? The trick is to figure out these
nuances out."
LaJoie added that for those that prefer to view their
programming over the Internet, half of them are doing it over a cable
high-speed connection, so the industry wouldn't lose the revenue stream