Deputy Managing Director
Director of TV & Digital Content Business Unit
Three recent deals are reshaping the video distribution landscape in the United States. The first is Verizon’s takeover of Intel’s media division, after the latter decided not to launch its own OTT service. The carrier will use Intel technologies to better integrate OTT solutions into its own internet plans, but perhaps and above all to roll out its own internet TV service, which would be available even outside the carrier’s service area.
The second is US cable market leader Comcast’s acquisition of Time-Warner cable, which still needs to be approved by anti-trust authorities. The deal would increase the new entity’s market clout in both OTT services and with American studios. The third major deal is the agreement between Netflix and Comcast, whereby the cableco would be paid to guarantee high quality network access for Netflix customers.
These three deals are milestones in that:
• They take net neutrality debates to a commercial negotiation between services and network operators. If Netflix and Comcast managed to reach an agreement, there is no longer a need for specific regulation, provided network access is still supplied under non-discriminatory conditions.
• They attest to the pressure that triple play operators are under to protect their place in the video distribution chain. Cable TV customers in the United States are a shrinking population, whereas broadband cable customers constitute the majority. As a result, securing good terms from the TV networks has become vital to video distributors’ economic well-being.
• They reveal that size does matter when going head to head with increasingly globalised internet companies. A portion of competition in video distribution today is playing out in the realm of technological innovation. Comcast has been spending heavily on R&D on new video services for the past several years – investments that need to be amortised over a larger number of customers than what it has now.
• Ubiquitous online distribution heralds the disconnection, first between video access services and, second, the supply of premium services, and could augur a future split in the companies that currently supply them both.