Image via CrunchBaseFirst, a disclosure: I work for a cable company. I write this from the perspective of someone inside the industry, concerned about its future.
As a consumer, I look at the bills I have to pay and I naturally start asking myself what I really need and what I can live without. Some things are essential services - Electricity, Water, Natural Gas... those things are candidates for increased efficiency / reduced consumption.
Other things I can live without. And lately more and more consumers are making the same discovery.
Home phone? Cable Television? Meh and Meh.
A lot of cable companies, mine included, have invested in wireless phones as a way to add a 4th leg to their three-legged stools of Data, Telephony and Video. MSOs collectively have poured 100s of millions into building these services.
What are we losing? Well, the entrenched phone operators haven't ignored us. They've gone about building video services in an attempt to steal customers away from the MSOs as we steal phone customers from them. So far, we've been winning that battle.
Now, take a look at this post by Fred Wilson. Once again, he's hit the nail on the head. It's not about what a few small focus groups have told a few executives what should be on TV. You are the new focus group.
It's ironic, actually, that DOCSIS signals are based on MPEG-2 timing signals. It's video over data... over video. In a way.
What we're on the verge of seeing is that the only thing people need MSOs or RBOCs to provide is a data pipe and then we'll take care of the rest ourselves.
I don't need a set of copper wires run to my house just to carry analog voice. It's just going to get packetized at the CO anyway. I'll packetize it myself, thanks. I don't need a box on my TV that allows me to tune into programs someone else has selected the availability / timing of (DVR notwithstanding).
I would much rather have a flexible, configurable voice system like Grand Central or some kind of SIP trunk to my Asterisk system than a featureless, expensive, inflexible service like I have now. Why can't I get all my voicemail in one place? Have it emailed to me? Switched between wireless phones? Carried via cellular / WiFi at my choosing? I CAN! Just not with the current offerings from the RBOCs and MSOs.
My wife is very insightful and when we talk about technology, entrepreneurship, global finance she asks me fantastic questions. It's really quite amazing. The first thing she asked me when I was talking to her about the work I'm going at my startup and what's going on in the world with hulu.com and boxee was, "So how are people going to find shows to watch?" or something to that effect.
If everyone with a DV camera just started making their own shows and uploaded them all to their own personal websites it would be impossible to find good content. No ONE person would know much about any content except what they had created. My answer to her was "You'll find out about content you're likely to enjoy from your social network."
You're much more likely to enjoy content reccomended by friends and colleagues. You understand them intuitively. You know their biases. You know their experiences. You know what you have in common with them and what you don't.
This is the EXACT opposite of the way you get content via Cable / Satellite / RBOC. I only hope the MSOs are preparing to operate in that environment. I don't work in Marketing or New Product Development so I don't know what we're doing. If anyone who does work in those departments wants to talk about it, I'm all ears!