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Should you go to war with your customers?

Based on the email response and media coverage, my keynote at the SCTE in Tampa yesterday caused a bit of a buzz. There’s an article from MultiChannel News (see below) that takes a look at my remarks.

A key message seems to be sticking: cable companies should not go to war with their customers.

Recently, exectives in some cable companies have suggested that they should be able to put a speed cap on emerging Internet services such as VoIP. Dumb: those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. Look at what this strategy did for music companies.

No industry, including any company in telecom, entertainment, broadcast or tech, should choose to do battle with their customers. It’s a losing strategy. Plain and simple.

Read the MultiChannel report :

Futurist: Cable Needs ‘Agility’
MultiChannel News
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By Matt Stump 1/11/2006 5:27:00 PM, Tampa, Fla. —

Author and futurist Jim Carroll urged engineers at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Emerging Technologies conference here to watch consumer behavior in order to determine the future direction of cable-technology implementation.

Whether telcos or cable will win market share in the future, he said, is the wrong question. Rather: How well will cable adapt and deliver platforms and services consumer want?

“You need to develop agility,” Carroll — author of What I Learned from Frogs in Texas: Saving Your Skin with Forward-Thinking Innovation (Oblio Press, 2004) — told an audience. “Innovation and invention has moved from the labs to the collective,” he added, citing consumer usage of portable music, video players and digital cameras.

He urged cable companies not to make the mistake the music industry did and go to war with their own consumers over how they obtain content.

“Customers will be pushing you for more choice,” he said, adding that future generations will want access to their video and audio content on many different devices. “TV is not a single-source medium,” he said. “There are multiple ubiquitous devices.”

Cable can provide those connections and help consumers to move content from one device to another, he added. At the same time, “the complexity of what you’re dealing with is increasing. No one cable engineer can know everything,” he said.

Carroll urged cable companies to develop partners for new and different technologies, as several top operators have with their recent joint venture with Sprint Nextel Corp. for wireless services.

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