The opening keynote speeches Monday at TelecomNEXT yielded little new in terms of news or opinion. But they gave NTT America Inc. President and CEO Norio Wada and Verizon Communications Inc. Chairman and CEO Ivan Seidenberg a chance to reiterate the status of their broadband activities; Time Warner Cable Chairman and CEO Glenn Britt an opportunity to rail on the telcos efforts to expedite the franchise approval process; and Disney President and CEO Bob Iger time to advertise his content and comment on the evils of digital piracy.
The high point of the program was a Q&A-style format discussion with Dick Wolf, CEO of Wolf Films, which is the outfit responsible for the popular TV drama Law & Order and a new series called Conviction. The main message from the affable Wolf: Theres lots of investment from the telcos in infrastructure, but not everybody can win, and its unclear who will win and how the creation, packaging and delivery of content will evolve.
The ability to watch TV programming on a mobile device like an iPod is either going to save us or destroy us, said Wolf. Either way, the current revenue breakdown between, in this case, Apple and the programmers, is not going to work in the future if the core viewers start watching TV primarily on their iPods, he said. Still, I do believe it will be synergistic [rather than] cannibalistic, he said.
However, another major issue that needs to be addressed as programming is viewed more in mobile, digital environments is the fact that advertisers are less likely to support TV if users can download programs ad-free the day after they become available on regular TV.
Meanwhile, theres a battle brewing between Hollywood studios, and actors and writers, who want to get their fair share of royalties related to content that is digitally distributed. Wolf expects a strike because he said the studios cant give actors and writers what theyre asking for. He advised that everybody wait five years to figure out how things play out with digital content before negotiating revenue issues.
During the speech by NTTs Wada, he discussed the companys next-generation network plan to bring fiber closer to its subscribers. But the most interesting aspect of his comments were probably his mentions that 44 percent of NTT DoCoMo Inc. subscribers use 3G and 21 percent of its mobile handsets can be used as mobile wallets.
Verizons Seidenberg talked about the great broadband progress that has been made in South Korea over the past decade, which he said, shows what happens when business and government come together. And he noted the strong take-rate (30 percent) Verizon has seen on its FiOS services in Keller, Texas, which he says is the best penetration the company has seen for any service, ever. He added that, as an industry, we have consistently underestimated the consumers willingness to embrace new services.
Time Warner Cables Britt equated the telcos regulatory efforts as industrial engineering that will tilt the communications playing field in favor of the telcos. But whatever happens, Britt said Time Warner Cable will continually develop and deliver new products and services that differentiate it and enable it to be more than just a broadband pipe. Noting that Time Warner Cable was the first MSO to fully deploy VoD and digital phone service, Britt said that the market will see more innovation out of Time Warner Cable this year than in its entire 40-year history. Among the features the company is working on are caller ID on the TV, a feature called start over that enables viewers to watch the beginning of a show they had just missed and things like the ability to program or view from a cell phone DVR-recorded programming.
Iger, meanwhile, urged the audience to work with the programming giant to battle piracy, said he is against government mandating a la carte rules and voiced his disagreement about government intervention on net neutrality.