Editor's Corner—The top 10 biggest stories of 2017 in cable

2017 was a year of slow, incremental transformation and convergence, during which the cable industry formed key alliances to move forward into networked future. (Image: Pixabay)
Daniel Frankel

In terms of revolutionary change and upheaval for the cable industry, 2017 probably won’t be remembered as a terribly transformative year. 

Save for some top-level executive changes at midsized outfits like Cable One and WideOpenWest, the C-level ranks at the leading operators remained largely the same.

And despite rumors of Charter buying Cox, Comcast buying Fox, and multiple suitors interested in Charter, there was no major Tier 1 M&A action to speak of. 

Call 2017 a year of slow, incremental transformation and convergence, during which the cable industry got more virtual and wireless, forming key alliances to move it forward into a future in which its focus is on networks and connectivity, not so much on program licensing. 

We chose 10 FierceCable stories from 2017 that we feel best exemplify an industry an industry undergoing slow, tectonic change, ranked from the 10th to the No. 1 most important story.

Once you've checked out this year's biggest stories below, don't forget to check out the biggest stories of 2017 from our sister publications:

10. Charter's labor troubles: Charter Communications engaged in an ugly labor battle with Brooklyn techs back in March, burnishing its image as being worse than even Time Warner Cable in the eyes of many New Yorkers. The IBEW strike is still going on.

9. DOCSIS 3.1 deployments Top cable operators including Comcast and Mediacom completed, or came near, completion of their DOCSIS 3.1 deployments in 2017. But with admittedly limited uptake, they’re still wondering what their customers are going to do with all that bandwidth.  

8. Cable adds Netflix: Cox, Verizon and other linear pay TV companies joined Comcast in the “aggregator of aggregators” movement, integrating Netflix into their video systems. 

7. Comcast and TiVo: A long-simmering legal battle between Comcast and TiVo/Rovi Corp. culminated in November, with the International Trade Federation ruling that Comcast is infringing on Rovi patents used in the X1 operating system. 

6. Sling TV doesn't get CBS: Sling TV, which was the last major virtual MVPD not to sign a retransmission deal for CBS stations, virtually abdicated the race for local stations when parent company Dish Network failed to include streaming rights in its recently completed three-year renewal deal with CBS Corp. 

5. Comcast and net neutrality: While most Tier 1 and 2 cable companies released statements pledged not to exploit the FCC’s rollback of Title II internet regulations, Comcast made subtle changes to its position on paid prioritization and fast lanes. 

4. Altice stumbles: Maybe we were imagining it, but you could almost feel the breathless anticipation among executives at midsized U.S. cable operators at any mention of possible acquisition of their company by Altice. But in November, Alice shareholders seemed to realize, suddenly and all at once, that the company is highly, highly leveraged. Altice stock sunk more than 40%, and nobody in Altice’s Franco headquarters is talking about buying anyone these days. 

3. Hulu launches vMVPD service: While companies like T-Mobile loudly touted disruption for the pay TV business in 2017, Hulu seems to have come through, combining a robust vMVPD service with its popular SVOD platform and selling the whole enterprise for less than $40 a month.

2. Comcast loses customers: Credit Comcast residential products chief Matthew Strauss with turning a simple end-of-summer investor conference into a major turning point for the pay TV industry. Strauss’ Sept. 7 revelation that Comcast would lose up to 150,000 pay TV customers in the third quarter seemed to awaken an understanding that cord cutting is now an endemic problem that’s here to stay.

1. Charter and Comcast team on wireless: In May, Comcast and Charter announced what was perhaps the biggest deal of the year in the cable industry, agreeing to share technology and information on best practices in terms of marketing, pricing, back-office infrastructure, etc. They’ll also have combined leverage in negotiations with wireless vendors, such as handset manufacturers. This partnership will loom larger as wireless becomes a bigger part of the cable business going forward. 

See you next year!—Daniel@FierceCable

P.S. FierceCable will be on a publishing break for the holidays. We will update the website with any breaking news during the week, and our newsletter will be back in your inbox on Jan. 2, 2018. Enjoy the holidays and have a Happy New Year!