Dish, Blockbuster, Netflix and cord cutting on the way to NAB

Jim O'Neil


Some odds and ends heading into NAB next week:

Dish Network (NASDAQ:DISH) could be setting itself up for a big push against Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) with its $320 million auction win(?) of bankrupt Blockbuster Video, the one-time leader of the pack in the DVD rental world. The company was knocked silly a few years ago as consumers swarmed to then-DVD-by-mail upstart Netflix.

At least one analyst said Blockbuster could get some revenge if Dish uses its acquisition to "stay relevant in an evolving video world."

Wells Fargo's Marci Ryvicker wrote "We think that Blockbuster could be the way that (Dish boss) Charlie Ergen gets content for a potential over-the-top product -- one that could end up competing with Netflix down the line."

And, she added, "The more data points we glean, the more it sounds like Charlie Ergen has a plan to stay relevant in an evolving video world. We had often thought that Charlie Ergen is interested in providing an over-the-top product, but the one piece we were missing was how to get content. Blockbuster may be the [first] answer."

Will Dish use the 1,700 remaining Blockbuster stores for more than just movie rentals? Can Blockbuster take revenge on Netflix? Will Netflix make more content deals like the one it just closed for Mad Men? Stay tuned.

The cord-cutting boogeyman has reared his head again, this time in a pair of reports that say, yes, it's still a problem-and maybe a growing one-for the pay TV industry.

A survey from Consumer Reports says 7 percent of pay-TV subscribers are considering cutting the cord. Bear in mind that, once again, the key word, "considering," plays a prominent role. The report, due out in the May issue of CR, says 16 percent of respondents stream movies from Netflix, and 90 percent are still connected to a pay-TV provider.

That same reports also rates triple-play bundles, where Verizon's FiOS TV and AT&T's U-verse services walked away with the best rankings receiving 78 and 76 points respectively out of 100.

The bottom of the heap? Time Warner Cable (68), Comcast (65) and Charter (62).

One of the big reasons pay-TV operators cite to downplay over-the-top delivery as a threat to their business is that "when a problem happens with picture quality or delivery, consumers want someone to call, and that's not going to be their ISP. When there's a problem with their cable, they just call and we fix it."

Uh-huh. Let me tell you a little story...

I recently has a little problem with my cable/telephone/Internet provider (hint: it's one of those bottom three listed above). At one point a couple of weeks ago, one of the folks I was interviewing for a story told me my voice had begun to resemble Darth Vader's. It was about the same time that my Internet began to move at 14.4 dial-up speeds and my VOD offerings went belly up.

So I called my help line, and ended up in Eastern European call center Hell for almost 10 days. Really. Almost a dozen phone calls, holds, promises of return calls and a half dozen, "Let's reset your modems..."

Finally, a call to the corporate office got a second technician to the house, I got my Internet, telephone and cable back up. But, just to be clear, it took 11 phone calls and HOURS of waiting and explaining. That's a customer service issue that makes cutting the cord a little more appealing.

By the way, I functioned for a week with my network tethered to my iPhone... and I watched the $20 bills flowing toward Verizon. Sigh.

Psyched about NAB? Any content providers out there who'd like to meet and talk about how OTT delivery is going to set you free? Want to talk about Cablevision's big iPad play? I have the time, we'll be in the right place. Lemme know!-Jim

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