At ACA Summit, NCTC chief predicts wider OTT embrace

The ACA Summit is happening this week in Washington, D.C. (Pixabay)

The American Cable Association Summit in Washington, D.C., this week has featured a lot of discussion that goes well beyond traditional definitions of cable.

Expanding the notion of what is meant by the phrase “cable television,” operators, programmers and other stakeholders in the traditional bundle have been grappling with how they can adjust to rapidly changing viewing habits. “OTT is driving a resurgence of customer expectations” for video delivery, said Rich Fickle, the president of the National Cable Television Cooperative, during a summit panel Wednesday. The NCTC represents more than 800 independent entities across the U.S.

Fickle said the group hopes to make a proposal in the next 45 days for a package of OTT services to be offered by operators, according to a report on the panel in Multichannel News. NCTC has heard from dozens of members looking for fresh ideas for IP delivery of video content, which may mean ditching set-top boxes.

According to a separate report on the same panel in Light Reading, Fickle said Comcast could deliver all-IP service to every one of its new customers by the end of 2017. The comment appeared to be a reference to the planned rollout of its IP-based “Stream” platform. After tests in the Boston and Chicago markets, the company leaked word this week that it will roll out the service as Xfinity Instant Video across the company’s entire footprint in the third quarter. 

Earlier this week, the company also announced it had hired ex-Amazon executive Euan McLeon as VP of IP video engineering, bolstering its investment in its Denver-based VIPER unit, short for Video IP Engineering and Research.

At the ACA Summit panel, Fickle called OTT “vitally important” for operators regardless of size. According to NCTC research, about 40% of broadband customers do not get any video from traditional cable programmers. So the idea of the NCTC proposal is to keep traditional video subscribers in the fold by expanding offerings to include OTT services.

Cable One, which decided five years ago to de-emphasize video customers, is in talks with several OTT players about featuring them in its video packages. “We’ve talked with most of them,” said executive chairman Tom Might. “We still haven’t found the right formula yet, but they are a great complement to our high-speed-data-centric strategy.”