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Volume 24 No. 156
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Cord Cutting Is Accelerating, But Cable Execs Say That Allows Ways To Engage Consumers

The pace of cord cutting is accelerating, but the trend offers opportunities to engage with consumers and reach them in new ways, said a panel of programmers and distributors today at the '15 NeuLion Sports Media & Technology Conference. “It is happening,” said Verizon Exec Dir of Content Strategy & Acquisition Ben Grad. “Few people will be interested in a bundle that is three digits.” Time Warner Cable Exec VP, Chief Content Officer & COO Melinda Witmer said cord cutting “is accelerating, and it feels like the pace of acceleration is taking people by surprise, more than that it is happening.” She added, “The overall universe we referred to a few years ago of 104 million households is below 100 million now, so I think those numbers tell themselves.” Tennis Channel Chair & CEO Ken Solomon said cord cutting presents chances to reach a new audience, but one that may not sit on a couch and watch linear TV. As if to make the point, he held up his smartphone, which was streaming the WTA Finals from Singapore. The trend in future years is customization and curation, he said, meaning allowing consumers to pick and chose not only what they want to watch, but on which devices. Witmer likened the future of video to Amazon.com, which gives consumers nearly unlimited options. “Customers will increasingly choose their interface,” she said. However, this new universe could pose a threat to advertisers, she added, as customers choose to buy video and watch it on the go. Witmer also runs TWC's regional sports channel business, which includes SportsNet LA. That channel was launched in February '14 in alliance with the Dodgers and is not distributed in 70% of that market. She stood by the company’s pricing demands, calling them consistent with the industry.

SPORTS STILL CRUCIAL PART OF PACKAGES: The panel members all agreed that sports will remain a crucial element of most video packages. Tribune Media President of Distribution Dana Zimmer said her company has had increasing success accumulating local TV rights, including the Yankees and Mets. In the future, she expects new entrants from the Internet universe to emerge in programming and distribution. But echoing the theme of the morning, she added, “These new entrants are not necessarily disruptors, but opportunities.”