Media & Services > TV & Broadband Blog

Will a European Pincer Movement Hinder Cable’s TV Opportunity?

by David Mercer | Mar 02, 2012

As we approach next week’s important Cable Congress event in Brussels, we went to our ConsumerMetrix survey of 2700 television households to see what European cable customers are saying about their television service in relation to cable’s major platform competitors, satellite and DTT. We are pleased to present the results of this analysis in a complimentary report to coincide with the Cable Congress, which is now available for download from the Strategy Analytics website.

Clearly broadband and other services are also on cable’s agenda, but in this report we’ve focused on television services. Unlike the US, where cable has long been established as the primary television access platform, its availability and customer base across Europe is much more of a patchwork quilt. For a number of historical and structural reasons, both satellite and terrestrial providers have established stronger relative positions in Europe than in the US.

Satellite’s advantages are clear to see from our survey. We asked customers whether their television provider gave them access to advanced services and features such as programme guide search, series recording, and live TV pause. In every case satellite customers were more likely to have access to these capabilities than cable customers. Often the margin is significant: 59% of satellite customers get HDTV channels, compared to 50% of cable; 53% have series recording on satellite services, and only 36% on cable.

 Remarkably perhaps, more satellite customers claim to get VOD from their satellite provider than cable customers: 44% v. 43%. Satellite clearly lacks the integrated pipe required for a true VOD service, although hybrid internet and push-VOD DVR services are available. Nevertheless, the fact that cable’s one big technical advantage has not been maximised demonstrates how much catching up the cable industry has ahead of it. Or is it just that cable customers don’t know what their cable provider offers?

 

While satellite leads in technology rollouts, digital terrestrial television has also had a major impact on Europe’s landscape. Not surprisingly, given that these are often free services, DTT lags behind both cable and satellite in feature availability and performance. But the flipside is that DTT is most highly rated on overall value for money, not surprisingly. In times of economic uncertainty the threat of customer defection to a lower cost option is very real.

 

This satellite/DTT pincer movement presents cable TV with a dilemma: should it concentrate on the innovation threat from satellite (and potentially other new entrants), or try to resist the allure of free digital terrestrial services now widely available across Europe? Can cable meet both challenges, and how can its broadband advantage be used to best effect?

 

I’m looking forward to getting further insight into these and other questions from the senior executives who will be speaking at Cable Congress. I’d also welcome any feedback on our survey findings and invitations to discuss industry issues and strategies during the event.

David Mercer

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