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NAB 2017: Altice USA Peeks Over-the-Top

Taking a page from former Cablevision CEO James Dolan, Altice USA chief Dexter Goei told an audience of broadcasters at the NAB Show in Las Vegas that he is talking to programmers about possibly adding access to non-linear OTT content to the cable company’s lineup.

The move is reminiscent of Dolan, who sold his Cablevision Systems to Altice in June for $17.7 billion, when he began offering easier access to SVOD services and online programming through its Optimum set-tops in an effort to lure cord-cutters and cord-nevers to pay TV.

While it appears that Goei and Altice would offer any non-linear shows in concert with its traditional line-up instead of as a replacement or in a separate package, it still shows that the Altice USA CEO is ready and willing to think outside the box.

In a keynote session moderated by Multichannel News and B&C editorial director Mark Robichaux, Goei said that integrating some OTT content is the logical next step.

Though short on specifics, he did make a clear distinction between OTT services that are direct competitors and those that provide content that are more like pay TV channels. The latter seem to be the best candidates for integration into the Altice USA programming package.

“Clearly there are certain providers that are unique to the non-linear world that makes sense to integrate into the user experience,” Goei said, adding that the company is working with several companies.

Watch a clip of Goei's keynote below:

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Altice USA, a unit of European telecom giant Altice N.V., burst on the U.S. cable scene in 2015 with the $9.1 billion purchase of Suddenlink Communications and in the next year bought Cablevision Systems for $17.7 billion. With about 4.3 million residential customers in the New York metropolitan area and the Midwest, Altice USA quickly established itself as the sixth largest cable operator in the country.

“This is a starting point for us in the U.S.,” Goei said, adding that in the market Altice saw an opportunity to bring its knowhow, innovation and technical savvy to a growing sector.

Goei was reluctant to say whether Altice USA plans to add to its cable portfolio, but said that part of the reason for its upcoming initial public offering is to ready itself for any opportunities that arise.

Goei kept any expansion plans close to the vest, citing the quiet period surrounding its IPO – Altice filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission on April 11,  but has yet to disclose when the offering will take place or how much it hopes to raise. And while he said newly issued stock could help the company should any acquisition opportunities arise, it also could lay fallow. “Maybe we never have to use it,’ he said.

In the meantime Altice USA will stick to growing its existing business, which includes an aggressive fiber buildout – it plans to go full-fiber in the U.S. over time – and the introduction of a communications hub in every customer home that will be a combination set-top box, DVR and 1 Gbps WiFi router. Altice N.V. has already introduced a similar product in France – called La Box, a name that will be changed for the U.S. rollout, Goei shared – to great success. 

The communications hub, Goei said, will bring cost efficiencies for both user and provider, adding that its increased reliability and functionality will enhance the customer experience.

It was remarked before and during Goei's session that he was the highest-profile cable-TV executive to keynote an NAB convention, a sign of the times after the demise of the cable industry's annual convention (lately called INTX). Goei said he enjoyed being at the convention and said Altice gets along well with program suppliers, including broadcasters.