Wheeler Lashes Out at Critics. Plus: What is Umio?

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: Wheeler Lashes Out at Critics. Plus: What is Umio?

Umio? Okay, that’s not exactly the most enchanting product name I’ve seen this … century? But, it is time to take it seriously (and that name is, so far, just in test markets).

Wired got the complete story first: “Layer3 TV’s Crazy Plan to Take on Comcast and Reinvent Cable.” You really need to read it. Right now!

So what’s Umio? For now, that’s the working name for the first serious attempt to compete with the incumbent cable operator (MVPD, or Multichannel Video Program Provider) by trying three competitive challenges: Better picture, IP streaming integration and – the Holy Grail! – good service.

Meanwhile, Federal Confusion Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is whining about critics of his set-top box “research” proposal to open competition … forgetting, of course, TiVo, which has been around for quite some time and has made great strides in marrying regular linear cable and over-the-top information in a usable, integrated guide.

Layer3 wants to beat them all and the incumbent players including, yep, Comcast (which Layer3 CTO David Fellows just happened to have helped build out). So far Layer3 honchos, including Fellows and CEO Jeff Binder, have:

  1. Built a different infrastructure using a 12k mile fiber backbone;
  2. Enhanced compression using high efficiency video coding (HEVC);
  3. Cut last mile deals with incumbent companies (presumably including a number of cable ops, telcos and others);
  4. Completed a significant number of programming contracts for incumbent networks;
  5. Completed a significant number of carriage deals with OTT players (no Apple, though);
  6. Figured out how to deliver broadcast signals;
  7. Created yet another set-top box – this one comes in colors;
  8. Upgraded customer service in a very big way with appointments on the hour instead of a couple hours window;
  9. Serviced tech with electric BMWs instead of vans; and,
  10. Because it isn’t the public Internet, suffered fewer service bufferings.

But, the subscriber will still have to separately subscribe to a broadband service (maybe 5G?). The price will somewhat resemble what most pay now.

Think it will succeed? I’d give it a very big “maybe.”  I’d be more bullish, if they had figured out how to add the broadband access. In the end, it’ll depend upon execution … and attitude.  That, they’ve got.

Random Notes:

Wheeler is still whining … and procrastinating.  That 180-day shot clock at the FCC is passing a couple hundred days and still no decision on Charter’s acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and Bright House.  Why?

At INCOMPAS last week, Wheeler intoned via a prepared statement: "(TV’s Golden Age) can be artificially blunted by incumbent pay-TV providers, who can play both ends against the consumer in the middle -- by supplying broadband connectivity to online video providers while at the same time competing with these emerging video providers for viewers.

"My concerns about video competition ties together a number of high-profile issues that have come before the Commission, notably the proposed mergers of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, which we rejected, and the AT&T/DirecTV deal, which we approved with conditions," he added.

But he didn’t mention Charter.

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