Small Operators: ‘Adaptive, Nimble’

Rich Fickle is president of the National Cable Television Cooperative, a nonprofit organization that allows small multichannel-video distributors to band together to buy programming and equipment in bulk. It has more than 900 members representing more than 26 million subscribers. Fickle spoke last week with Multichannel News executive editor Kent Gibbons ahead of the upcoming Independent Show in San Diego, Calif., organized by NCTC and the policy-focused American Cable Association, and shared some views on topics facing the co-operative’s members.

Top Challenges: “Rising [cost] margins, more demands for bandwidth and, at the same time, consumers having additional choices for video consumption through over the top. Our members have to figure which way they’re going to go with this. And the opportunities associated with technology — especially Internet-protocol video and increased opportunities around high-speed data services — really are most potent if they’re done in scale. One of the challenges for our guys is to determine if they want to work together or foster consolidation of some type.”

Rising Innovation: “The good news is these companies have been through so many changes; there are so many companies that are third-, fourth-generation family-run. They’ve been very adaptive, nimble, with an entrepreneurial spirit that’s driven them to be successful. For example, over the last 18 to 24 months we’ve had 20 members deploying home gateways similar to what Comcast has been doing with X1 [personalized programming guide]. Maybe [it’s] not quite as sophisticated in some ways, but they are out ahead of the large MSOs. We’ve got probably 150 companies that are pure IPTV companies.”

Programming Costs: “We’ve done several large renewals recently. If you look at the top five or six media companies that have multiple channels, we’ve done three or four of those renewals in the last six months. What we’ve also been successful in doing is working with a lot of the programmers to create differences for smaller systems that have lower bandwidth that won’t require as much of the carriage obligations that are placed on large metro markets. That being said, the cost increases for some of these renewals is pretty steep.”


Venue: Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel, July 28-31.

Coming: More than 1,000 attendees, representing 150-plus cable operators, 130 exhibitors, vendors and other interested companies.

Speaking: Atlantic Broadband CEO Edward Holleran; Penthera CEO Michael Willner; NBCUniversal EVP of Content Distribution Matt Bond; Fox Networks distribution president Mike Hopkins; Pac-12 Enterprises president Lydia Murphy-Stephans; analysts Craig Moffett of Moffett Research, Laura Martin of Needham & Co. and Doug Mitchelson of Deutsche Bank.

Entertaining:HGTV Design Star winner David Bromstad; Glenn Beck of TheBlaze; A&E’s Duck Dynasty stars; Blackbelt TV host Raquel Pomplun (Playboy 2013 Playmate of the Year).


Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.