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Is Cable Unbeatable?


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26 replies to this topic

#1 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 05:16 AM

"Satellite can't be beat for video quality,
but how long will DIRECTV and DISH
be able to press their advantage?"


SkyReport:

SkyBOX: by Evie Haskell evie@Mediabiz.com

Is the cable industry now so big ... and so far ahead of the technology curve ... that it can't be beat?

The cable guys certainly think so. At the NCTA's Cable Show last week the air was full of talk about cable's impregnable position in video-voice-data markets. Richard Parsons of Time Warner noted that cable today is a huge business with "both incumbency and the first mover advantage" in its services. King Brian of Comcast pointed proudly to cable's recent wireless spectrum purchases, noting that the industry now has "99 percent of the country" covered. And Comcast's Steve Burke waxed lyrical on the "integrity" of cable's service packages where "it becomes very hard for the consumer to drop" any one product without losing important pieces of the overall service.

In short: They're huge, they've bought up the landscape, and they've got consumers by the throat.

Time to lay down your weapons and surrender?

Ummm ... that may be a tad premature. To be sure, the cable folks are in an enviable position. Their broadband pipes are an awesome weapon ... and they're wielding that weapon with considerable skill. But the satellite industry, the telcos and the non-cable wireless crowd all have significant strengths of their own. Satellite, for instance, cannot be beat for the quality of its broadcast video ... and the scramble for new technologies designed to squeeze more into cable's existing pipe suggests that DIRECTV and DISH will be able to press this advantage for some time to come. As for the telcos ... they're even bigger than the cable guys and their deep, deep pockets are coming into play with a host of new triple/quadruple play options. (Said a friend of ours when confronted with cable's dismissal of a telco threat: "What ARE they smoking?") The independent wireless companies have advantages in both speed of deployment and cost of service. And, of course, we should not forget the traditional broadcasters. Between their political clout and new digital spectrum, they certainly plan to emerge as significant multiplatform players.

So despite the chest thumping in Las Vegas, we think the battle has just begun. But then, hey, what's a trade show for anyway?

www.SkyReport.com - used with permission

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#2 OFFLINE   agreer

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 01:46 PM

DBS has one HUGE advantage: BANDWIDTH

I have asked the highest ranking people at our local cable office why the hell we dont have NHL Center ICE and they tell me that "We thought about adding center Ice, MLB, ESPN PPV (which they have since added), Etc but with cable modem and phone services, and with the 10-12 HD channels, we are tapped for bandwidth -- that is why we don't carry Comcast Chicago and FSN Midwest in HD"

D* is also tapped for bandwidth...so they are just launching new birds...problem solved...it is much cheaper to put up a new or replacement sat than it is to cram more data through a coax cable at this point. and the thought of re-cabling the city for cable with fiber is a no go because they just finished the RG6 grid and it hasn't paid for its self.

#3 OFFLINE   Richard King

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 02:57 PM

When I lived in downtown Minneapolis the city was wired with dual cable to each house (cable A and Cable B). I have no idea if they are making use of all that bandwidth or not, but that (or fibre) could be the solution for the problem there. I don't know how the city ended up with a dual wire situation, but it has been that way since day one. Good forward thinking at the time.
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#4 OFFLINE   RAD

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 03:07 PM

DBS has one HUGE advantage: BANDWIDTH

It's not a lack of bandwidth, just how they've got it allocated and using it. Many cable systems are pushing to move SD analog channels to digital since they can fit 10-12 channels onto one digital channel. Comcast in the Chicago area is doing that now, which frees up channels to more HD channels. Some MSO's are also working on moving to switched video vs. broadband to free up space. If cable follows through with their plans they will be well positioned to match D* or E* with HD channels.

See post My Setup for configuration info.


#5 OFFLINE   AllieVi

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Posted 28 May 2007 - 04:47 PM

Said a friend of ours when confronted with cable's dismissal of a telco threat: "What ARE they smoking?"

What are they smoking, indeed!

The only current reason to dismiss the telco fiber threat is because those systems aren't widely available. The bandwidth on a single fiber of Verizon's FiOS system, for example, is so huge that it's hard to imagine how it could ever be put to use - it's the nature of the beast. Current terminal equipment limits the ability to take advantage of all that capacity, but it's there.

Cable should adopt the same distribution scheme (at least where the telcos are installing fiber) if it wants to remain competitive.
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#6 OFFLINE   convem24

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 12:07 AM

Not that I am an a apologist for either industry but for the amount of channels I get plus better overall monthly costs DBS systems are getting better. I know people complain about lease upgrade fees from both D* and E* but with equipment leasing programs in effect customers get a similar deal to Cable where the equipment is taken care of by the DBS provider. This makes sure that costs in the long term are more manageable by customers in the long term. Overall most customers will save money on TV service through a DBS provider than with cable (cable is historically a higher monthly bill when comparing a similar package to a DBS package). Also the DBS groups are providing Interactive TV faster than the cable companies. I love the stat tracker that D* has implemented. Plus the VOD piece that both providers are supplying to their customers (D* has not launched VOD yet but soon). I think there should be more choice. With more consumer choice pricing becomes more competitive.

#7 OFFLINE   S.C. Am

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 06:12 AM

Cable/telco has 1 big advantage - bundling

A recent study in Canada showed that 61% of respondents indicated that their major reason for selecting the integrated home phone/cell/tv/internet players (Bell, Rogers, Telus) was the combined billing + preceived discounts that bundling offered.

#8 OFFLINE   jpl

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 06:25 AM

What are they smoking, indeed!

The only current reason to dismiss the telco fiber threat is because those systems aren't widely available. The bandwidth on a single fiber of Verizon's FiOS system, for example, is so huge that it's hard to imagine how it could ever be put to use - it's the nature of the beast. Current terminal equipment limits the ability to take advantage of all that capacity, but it's there.

Cable should adopt the same distribution scheme (at least where the telcos are installing fiber) if it wants to remain competitive.


Absolutely right. Granted right now fiber is very limited. And Verizon, I believe, is the only major company doing it the right way - running fiber right up to your house. It's still expensive to lay fiber compared to coax, but the price continues to drop. If some of the regular cable companies would just take a stroll through this area and gawk at all the Verizon trucks laying that lovely orange conduit, they wouldn't be so dismissive. Granted, Verizon has a long way to go before they even approach some of the smaller cable outfits (estimates I've read have them at a tiny 300,000 - 500,000 subscribers currently), but those number continue to grow. Many areas are very receptive to the notion of competition for TV service. With cable rates where they are, and with the low levels of satisfaction that cable in general gets from the general public, an elected official would either have to be totally stupid, insane, or in someone's pocket to reject a bid for Verizon (who is considered a cable company) or AT&T to roll in and provide some much-needed competition against the likes of Comcast. Heck, even NJ - a state not unfamiliar with corrupt government (it's where I grew up, so I do have some experience with this) expedited the process. Instead of operating township-by-township (like PA did) in granting franchise agreements with Verizon, they decided to do one state-wide. As a result, NJ is very quickly converting over to fiber.

#9 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 06:31 AM

Bundling is often cheaper and convenient, but there's a definite downside --
having all one's 'eggs' in one basket.

Recently, all my TVs went dark and my cable modem stopped blinking at me.
Cable was down. If I had had my phone sevice bundled, I would have been
marooned like Tom Hanks in Castaway. Instead, I picked up my cell phone
and called 1-800-FIX-MY-DAMN-TV.

My cable service was restored within the hour. :P

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#10 OFFLINE   jpl

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 07:38 AM

Bundling is often cheaper and convenient, but there's a definite downside --
having all one's 'eggs' in one basket.

Recently, all my TVs went dark and my cable modem stopped blinking at me.
Cable was down. If I had had my phone sevice bundled, I would have been
marooned like Tom Hanks in Castaway. Instead, I picked up my cell phone
and called 1-800-FIX-MY-DAMN-TV.

My cable service was restored within the hour. :P


I agree with that. I never thought I'd be a big fan of bundling... until I saw how much it could save me. I went with Verizon's triple play (and am considering going with their quad play - called OneBill - by adding my cell phone service). Yeah there is a risk there - I lose one, I lose all... but I'm willing to take that risk for 2 reasons:

1) As I mentioned - the cost savings are pretty substantial.

2) Before signing up for their TV service, I had FiOS internet for about 15 months already. In all that time I had exactly one internet outage (well, 2, if you include, uh, user error - but that wasn't Verizon's fault), for a very short period of time. The system has been robust and consistent as anything. If I had regular outages during that time then I wouldn't have been all that keen on signing up with one provider for everything.

I do have to ask, though - if your phone wasn't bundled... why did you use your cell phone? :)

One MAJOR downside to this, though -- Verizon appears to have gone to the "make your bill as confusing as possible" school. I sign up for their triple play... I expect to see something like "triple play discount" listed as an item on my bill. Do I? Of course not. I see credits all over the place in the phone section of the bill... but nothing to indicate that they're due to triple-play. They did a good job on the FiOS TV and internet end of things - look at those sections of the bill, e.g., and they're very easy to follow... but the phone part... holy cow. And since the fiber service fees, for the most part, are captured in that section of the bill, it makes the bill undecipherable.

#11 OFFLINE   Nick

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 08:15 AM

...I do have to ask, though - if your phone wasn't bundled... why did you use your cell phone...?

My cellphone is my phone. I haven't had a landline in over seven years --
don't need one and don't need the extra expense. Thanks for asking. :)

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#12 OFFLINE   Cholly

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 09:18 AM

DBS isn't always cheaper than cable. I'm in a cable household with 7 TV's. 3 of the TV's are HD. We have four DVR's -- one cable HD DVR, one HD TiVo, a series 1 TiVo and a Series 2 TiVo. Signing a lease agreement with E* or D* to provide equivalent service would involve a huge upfront equipment lease fee. I had looked into switching from cable to DBS prior to buying my HD TiVo, and decided against it because of cost. (Even with the monthly TiVo subscription fee. Two of the TiVo's have lifetime service, the third doesn't)

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Bedroom: Vizio 42" 3D TV, Pioneer VSX-521-K AVR, Panasonic 3D DVD player, Energy Take Classic 5.1 speakers, Roku 2 XD, TiVo Premiere, Insignia HD radio tuner, Toshiba HD DVD player


#13 OFFLINE   jpl

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 09:50 AM

Going back to the topic of the thread - no cable is not unbeatable. DBS, if they play their cards right, can easily cater to a segment of the market. I think DirecTV is taking the smart approach - they're focusing a good deal on content. You want NFL ST? You better come to us!

Also, DBS has one big advantage that cable doesn't - mobility. Right now mobile systems are unwieldy and expensive... but so were the initial DBS home systems. Technology will improve, and price will come down. Allowing you to take your tv with you on your vacation, or to that tail-gate, or to have the service in your car to entertain the kids on that roadtrip that never ends... now THAT'S a nice advantage. Also DBS can service folks that will never be able to get cable. A few years ago we went to visit my wife's family out in western PA - a remote, mountainous region. There's no cable anywhere, and the mountains prevent all by the hardiest of tv signals to get through. But what you do see, on just about every house - a dish. There are large hunks of the country that will never see traditional cable, much less fiber. I'm saying all this as a happy fios customer - but I realize full well the fact that DBS is far from dead, and I've always believed that it has a very bright future. Will there be 2 major DBS providers in the more distant future? No, I don't think so. I think, at some point, as other competitive forces come into play, you're going to see a shrinking of the their market share to the point where the tv market won't support 2 DBS providers.

#14 OFFLINE   AllieVi

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 10:09 AM

...Also, DBS has one big advantage that cable doesn't - mobility. ...

I haven't switched to FiOS for two reasons. The most important one is the ability to take the system in the RV.

If that option ever goes away (I don't expect that to happen), I'll still stick with DISH because FiOS receivers don't offer UHF remote controls. I need them due to my video distribution setup.

For me, these considerations currently outweigh picture quality and price. I understand that FiOS is better and probably cheaper.
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#15 OFFLINE   jpl

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 11:14 AM

I haven't switched to FiOS for two reasons. The most important one is the ability to take the system in the RV.

If that option ever goes away (I don't expect that to happen), I'll still stick with DISH because FiOS receivers don't offer UHF remote controls. I need them due to my video distribution setup.

For me, these considerations currently outweigh picture quality and price. I understand that FiOS is better and probably cheaper.


I keep saying - it all depends on what's important to you, and what you're looking for. Personally, I think DBS could cash in on a related market. My in-laws get slammed with this. They have a beach house, which gets all of 2 OTA SD channels on a good night. They have cable (comcast) at both their regular residence and at the beach. Unfortunately they can't just suspend their beach account - they have to disconnect/reconnect every summer, which gets expensive. They should offer a package to folks in that kind of situation - you have a vacation home somewhere... but you don't want to get the mobile set-up. You just want tv access at both homes. Why not offer a package that ties your vacation home into your regular home?

Granted, cable companies can do that too - provided they have a presence in both areas - e.g. my in-laws could get fios at their regular home, but not at their beach house. But I think DBS is perfectly suited for this. Offer a package where they get a dish installed in both locations, and either have them get an additional receiver for the vacation home (charge them the additional receiver fee) or allow them to take one of their home receivers with them when they go on vacation. Tie it all together with the same account. They do that anyway with their mobile set-up (once you get the mobile "dish" mounted on your car, you just pay the $4.99 monthly extra receiver fee on that car). There have got to be a lot of people in that situation, and I think that a service like DirecTV could take alot of business from cable companies in this regard.

There are some risks - you would need to have a mechanism that ensures that the customer is really the one who resides at both locations. But I think there's a pretty decent market there.

#16 OFFLINE   Earl Bonovich

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 11:19 AM

I think one of the other things is consistancy:

With the two DBS carriers, with the exceptions of the "locals"...
Everyone gets the same thing.... same channel lineup (and order), same packages, same programming....

With Cable-Co's, for the most part they are still area independent...
Comcast in my town is NOT the same as Comcast in my mothers....

TimeWarner has added channels, but stated only available in some markets... because of the infrustructure....

Which is also why it is difficult to "compare" the two technologies.
Cable-Co might be amazingly better in one area (cost, performance, option) when compared to DBS.

But the same Cable-Co in another city, may be horribly worse...
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#17 OFFLINE   jpl

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 11:42 AM

I think one of the other things is consistancy:

With the two DBS carriers, with the exceptions of the "locals"...
Everyone gets the same thing.... same channel lineup (and order), same packages, same programming....

With Cable-Co's, for the most part they are still area independent...
Comcast in my town is NOT the same as Comcast in my mothers....

TimeWarner has added channels, but stated only available in some markets... because of the infrustructure....

Which is also why it is difficult to "compare" the two technologies.
Cable-Co might be amazingly better in one area (cost, performance, option) when compared to DBS.

But the same Cable-Co in another city, may be horribly worse...


Yeah, that's true - and I really loved that consistency about DirecTV. That's certainly true (different channel line-ups) of Comcast - they must have 7 or 8 different channel line-ups in the Philadelphia area alone. I thought for sure they were going to change that, though. In the beginning of 2006 they went through a major channel reorg - really ticked off alot of Comcast customers around here. I kept telling them "there's gotta be a reason for this - they're probably coming up with a consistent channel line-up, if not nation-wide, then at least in this area." Imagine my surprise when, after that reorg, they STILL had 7 or 8 separate channel lineups in this area! If I go to Comcast's website, e.g., to see what my channel line-up would be should I subscribe, not only do I supply my zip code, but I actually have to supply my address, or they don't have enough info to give me my line-up.

And you're right that traditional cable is much more segmented. These large companies got to where they are by acquiring existing cable systems. Some are more advanced than others - and as a result, they're very inconsistent as to how many, and therefore which, channels they offer in each area - so they'll add a handful of channels... but only in one or two markets.

I do have to say, though, that Verizon, since they're building their system from the ground up, are following the DBS route. The only differences between one area and another are the local channels - their national channels are all the same across the country. But they do have some regional limitations with regard to the ability to carry certain channels - e.g. due to an agreement between MSNBC and Cablevision, the only cable systems in Northern NJ, and parts of NY that can carry MSNBC are Cablevision and Comcast. Verizon is currently unable to provide that one channel to customers in those areas, although they are hammering away at that.

#18 OFFLINE   Geronimo

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Posted 30 May 2007 - 12:04 PM

When I lived in downtown Minneapolis the city was wired with dual cable to each house (cable A and Cable B). I have no idea if they are making use of all that bandwidth or not, but that (or fibre) could be the solution for the problem there. I don't know how the city ended up with a dual wire situation, but it has been that way since day one. Good forward thinking at the time.



My jurisdiction had that for many years but abandoned it about 4-5 years ago. Not sure if anyone still uses that. In our case the lowest tier was on on cable and unscrambled. al the rest was on the second cable that required a converter box.
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#19 OFFLINE   MarkA

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Posted 19 June 2007 - 01:14 PM

"DBS has one HUGE advantage: BANDWIDTH"

WRONG. DBS has far less bandwidth than cable. Far far less. Until you start adding lots of satellites that is (hence the 3 satellite and more dishes).

Cable companies tend to use their bandwidth poorly. Half their bandwidth or more ends up going to analog TV.

If cable companies would dump the analogs, they'd suddenly find themselves with double the bandwidth they have now. ALL the analog channels could be put into less than 10 digital multiplexes, freeing another 50 or so analog channels for other use.

#20 OFFLINE   L33

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 11:46 AM

Having had both and no longer having the cable option due to relocation, in my opinion & use cable beats DBS. I was a basic cable user, and watched OTA HD.

Where DBS fails for me:
1) DBS costs more and delivers less
My last home was pre-wired and had cable at all outlets for the same rate, which included broadband Internet. For this same price (without the still waiting for $20/month for 10 months rebate trick) I get the 250 channel + HD pack from Dish and no Internet. I have to have a receiver where I want to watch TV OR I can use the "dual output" to send the signal to one other TV. Of the 250 channels, many of them are audio channels or garbage or promo channels that are never watched. I had to go with the 250 package to get the same basic channels we had with cable. There is also a monthly fee for additional receivers and a monthly DVR fee. Captain Jack would be proud.

2) DBS is not user friendly
a. I'm technically oriented, the rest of my family is not. When Mrs. L33 wanted to watch TV on the main TV while something was recording, she found out she could not do so. This was not an issue with cable, we have a DVR and did this on a regular basis. To get around this, I have split the TV2 output from the main receiver and run it through a distribution amp to all the regular TV outlets in the home. She could now watch DBS on a UHF channel on another input on the main TV, but the steps involved with doing so are not all that easy, and if I forget to change the TV input back after doing so...
b. It was easy for her to recall Hallmark was channel 73, USA was 52, etc. Now with the three and four digit channels, it is hard to remember what channel something is on, which makes the program guide mandatory. Of course, you have to filter out the 95% of the channels you will never watch into a list...

3) DBS cannot be easily distributed
Each TV needs a DBS receiver (or TV2 output). Cable has no such restriction past a distribution amp.

4) External devices take extra devices and effort to work properly
Our new home has a triple input modulator (cable or OTA) brought from our old home for a couple of external video cameras as well as a whole house DVD changer channel. What I had to do here was utilize a DBS distribution amp's OTA input for the modulator output and then distribute this with the Dish UHF TV2 output. With cable, I had the modulator set to some unused channels and it worked fine combined with cable. You could watch a camera or the whole house video from any TV. The same cannot be done with DBS unless you have a TV with multiple inputs and distribute the TV2 output as noted above.

Summary for me:
DBS= PITA to configure and use, more expensive, and unfortunately also the only option at this point.




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