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Small Cable Operators Seek Out OTT Partnerships

WASHINGTON — With subscription video-on-demand services “driving a resurgence of customer expectations” of the video experience, the National Cable Television Cooperative is continuing to search for distribution deals that link over-the-top services with its member cable companies.

NCTC CEO Rich Fickle said during a March 29 opening panel at the American Cable Association’s 24th Summit in Washington, D.C., that the co-operative hopes “to make a proposal in the next 45 days.” The co-op, an organization that negotiates programming and technology deals on behalf of its membership of independent cable operators, has received responses from 20 members so far looking for “fresh ideas” for IP delivery of video content — possibly without use of a conventional set-top box.

Fickle later declined to identify potential OTT partners, but indicated they ranged from major movie and entertainment packagers — which would suggest Netflix, YouTube or Amazon — to more specialized services, either by ethnicity or language, political programming or possible comedy or travel content, including programming prepared for Sony’s PlayStation Vue virtual MVPD service.

Dwayne Benefield, vice president and head of Sony’s Play- Station Vue, said on a Summit panel that he sees “a symbiotic relationship” between MSOs and OTT providers.

Streaming Netflix, games, live TV, music and other services via PS Vue “helps drive acquisition for partners at a local level,” Benefield said. He said that Sony is “talking to many companies in this room.” PS Vue is not strictly tied to the PlayStation console for distribution, Benefield said, enabling opportunities for cable delivery of its content.

“We have more than 90% customer satisfaction levels,” he added.

Said Fickle: “OTT is vitally important. We’re going to see its impact on the commercial market side.” NCTC’s initial OTT collection — delivered as an app — would “open the door for new suppliers” and present “fresh ideas,” Fickle said.

His comments about delivery without a conventional settop — that is, using a Roku player, smart TV or other streaming device — come as Comcast pushes ahead with IP-video related advancements, an approach that could reduce headend costs, Fickle said.

Contributor Gary Arlen is known for his insights into the convergence of media, telecom, content and technology. Gary was founder/editor/publisher of Interactivity Report, TeleServices Report and other influential newsletters; he was the longtime “curmudgeon” columnist for Multichannel News as well as a regular contributor to AdMap, Washington Technology and Telecommunications Reports. He writes regularly about trends and media/marketing for the Consumer Technology Association's i3 magazine plus several blogs. Gary has taught media-focused courses on the adjunct faculties at George Mason University and American University and has guest-lectured at MIT, Harvard, UCLA, University of Southern California and Northwestern University and at countless media, marketing and technology industry events. As President of Arlen Communications LLC, he has provided analyses about the development of applications and services for entertainment, marketing and e-commerce.