Coronavirus Makes It Clear: Broadband Rules! So, Does Cable Get a White Hat?

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Coronavirus Makes It Clear:  Broadband Rules! So, Does Cable Get a White Hat?

Does cable TV get a white hat for riding in to save us during COVID-19? Probably not … but it should.

Y'all haven't heard from me for a while as I've sheltered in place in a new place … at the top of the Peninsula in Puget Sound. The epicenter of Seattle is, thankfully, a couple of ferry rides away.

So I'm online with service from Wave (now in the grasp of venture capital guys whose view of the customer is, well, let's just say problematical). Anyway, like just about everyone else in the US, I've been known to curse cable. That's true even though I grew up in the business from late 1969 until a couple years ago when I sold out and sort of retired. Now the cable companies (most of them) are run by pretty smart guys and they did notice when the word "cable" became a pejorative. So what did they do? Rebranded! With fancy new names like Xfinity, Spectrum, Sparklight and more. But they all still have "cables" of one sort or another and in case you didn't notice it's these "cables" that have made locked downs and sheltering in place semi-tolerable.

Like everyone else - and especially media and advertising folk - I've been busy with Zoom, FaceTime, WhereBy and whatever Google calls its' online service today … even Cisco's Webex. Without those services, sheltering, quarantining, masking, social distancing/location spacing, same food take-outing and more would be impossible. And that's a pretty big deal for folks used to interacting with friends, co-workers, competitors each and every day. With so many folks locked up at home, some of the new services have run into growth problems. (Paging Zoom here, although the company is doing everything it can to fix those problems.) Anyway, the point is that Zoom plus services like Netflix, Hulu, Acorn, Philo, and more plus even regular old linear TV - via cable or broadcast - are filling the hours not spent grousing, avoiding work, sleeping, eating, or arguing. Which is no small thing when you're locked in place with your nearest and dearest.

But what we need to remember is that all these things (not counting those nearest and dearest), are riding over the infrastructure pioneered and built by that company that used to make you so mad: your cable provider. Really — the same company that used to add some channels you didn't like every time they raised your cable bill! Which, in case you've lost sight of my point, is exactly what we depend upon today. They rallied around CableLabs (thanks: former Senator Tim Worth, TCI's John Malone and John Sie, Comcast's late Ralph Roberts, the Cox family, the NCTA, Dick Green, Jim Chiddix and John Goddard and more) setting standards that apply today. The cable modem over broadband made all this possible.

So, raise a toast to them the next time you do cocktails with distant friends, co-workers or enemies … really. In the meantime, those guys and Brian Lamb also created C-SPAN … and still underwrite it.

Random Notes: Here's what Federal Confusion Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel Tweeted (@JRosenworcel) earlier this week: You know what you need for school today? Broadband. In this crisis you need it to head to class online. But millions of students in the U.S. have no internet access. In the UK they're solving this #homeworkgap by helping get every student online. We need to do this here, too.

Earnings This Week: Netflix posted Tuesday; AT&T on Wednesday and Verizon on Friday. Looking beyond the fact all of them live online and even in this downsized shutdown are doing better than most (well, discounting DirecTV and devolution from satellite) with so-called OTT (means "over-the-top" or riding on cable but keeping it a secret) really shining as Hulu, Philo and more will report. Comcast via NBCU just added Vudu to Fandango while launching Peacock … can anybody keep track of them all?

Linear T V Ain't Dead (Yet): Some 20.7 million folks watched "One World: Together At Home" in America last Sunday night … (credit to Nielsen and Deadline.

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