The first general session at The Cable Show was a Who’s Who of the industry. Moderated by William Kennard of the Carlyle Group, the panel consisted of Cox president Pat Esser, Suddenlink CEO Jerald Kent, Clearwire chairman Craig McCaw, and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts. Everyone was generally in agreement about cable’s issues and opportunities, except when the moderator brought up the topic of wireless services. While Comcast and Cox are bullish on wireless, Suddenlink’s Kent is not convinced his company needs it, and he referred to the failed Pivot venture. I’d argue that we’re in a very different environment than the one that existed when Pivot was tried. Consumers are on board with mobile broadband now, and wireless is a good way for cable to extend its broadband reach beyond the home.
Aside from wireless, one of the big issues addressed was the “threat” of online video. Roberts was remarkably upbeat on the topic, calling online video “friend not foe” for the cable industry. At the same time, the panel discussed the fact that the industry doesn’t know what the successful business model will be for them yet. They referenced the failures of the music and newspaper industries, and suggested it won’t work either to lock everything up, or to give it all away for free. Cable needs a hybrid approach.