Siebert: OTT Not A Problem

Cablevision Systems vice chairman and chief financial officer Gregg Siebert said that over-the-top offerings from Dish Network and others don’t pose much of short term threat, but added the cable operator’s strategy to position itself as a connectivity company could help it compete in the future.

While the media has been abuzz over the potential threats from OTT offerings from Dish, Verizon and Sony, Siebert said that the rights amassed by those companies are similar to those held by most cable operators.

“I don’t believe that Dish has any rights that are materially different that those that most of the other major cable operators have,” Siebert said at the Bank of America Merrill Lynch 2014 Global Telecom & Media Conference in London Tuesday. “I don’t see anybody offering a national over-the-top service anytime soon. It’s really not an area of concern for us. But longer term, we feel it’s important for us to position ourselves as a connectivity company. High speed data is a critical product for us. Couple that with WiFi and that positions us best for whatever the future brings.”

Cablevision CEO James Dolan had stressed that connectivity was key to Cablevision’s future in the company’s Q4 earnings conference call with analysts in February. On that call, Dolan said connectivity was the most important product the company provides to its customers and the source of most of its future growth. In its Q1 earnings call, Dolan expanded on that concept, hinting that its WiFi network would help it launch products that will disrupt the wireless data market.

Siebert wouldn’t elaborate on that message at the Merrill Lynch conference, but said the company’s goal is to expand its WiFi access points from its current 400,000 to about 1 million by the end of the year.

“We’re looking at a number of different ways of further utilizing the WiFi network,” Siebert said. But he added a WiFi-to-cellular phone offering, which some have noted as a possibility, is “not in the cards for us right now.”

Siebert said that Cablevision continues to look for additional ways to monetize its WiFi network – he said the service already is a revenue generator in that it serves as a major factor in reducing churn of its other products. While Siebert said some future possibilities include using the network to deliver additional data and apps, nothing is in the works for the short term.

Siebert commented briefly on the recent consolidation wave in the industry, but added that it shouldn’t have a material impact on Cablevision’s operations. He stressed that Cablevision was not planning on joining the fray as an acquirer.

“We’ve not been looking for cable acquisitions outside of our footprint,” Siebert said.