Mike Proulx And Rob Marcus See More Tech In Television Future

The price of cable TV continues to grow. Better online video content and streaming devices have spawned cord-cutters. What do these movements mean for the future of TV? Disrupters and cable insiders talk to Jennifer Armstrong.

Mike Proulx And Rob Marcus See More Tech In Television Future
Photo by Jordan Hollender

Mike Proulx

Senior VP and Director of Digital Strategy, Hill Holliday
Proulx is coauthor of the book
Social TV.


The New Media Advocate

“Simply put, television can no longer be categorized as traditional media but instead must be approached as new media. The real threat to cable companies comes if the masses can easily access the same content at the same time in the same or better ways at a materially lower price point. People will flock to where the content is, period. After all, our loyalty lies with the content itself–individual TV shows–not necessarily TV networks or TV providers. That takes us back to the monthly tiered subscription model. I feel a bit of deja vu from the days when we were forced to buy entire music albums if we wanted merely a couple of songs. What if I want to watch Game of Thrones only on HBO? Consumer value must play an increasing role for television providers. Smart-TV technology and mass accessibility will only continue to improve, which heightens the need for television providers to innovate and deliver value.

More than any other innovation, we’re on a path toward television becoming more socially enabled. It’s just become a much more participatory experience. Look at the 2012 MLB All-Star Game: There was a giant hashtag behind home plate. It became the most social game ever. Programmers for live events, like awards shows, are reconfiguring the ways in which acts are ordered; they’re mixing in the big acts at the beginning because they want to capitalize on the early spike in Twitter activity. There’s still no app that’s more powerful than the hashtag.”

Rob Marcus

President and COO, Time Warner Cable
Marcus aims to ramp up the viewing experience for TWC’s 12.4 million video subscribers.

The Cable Honcho

“I think there’s a tendency to overestimate the moment you’re living in. But it does seem like the pace of change in everything is faster than it used to be, and TV is part of that. Until recently, we were working largely with proprietary technology. It was a relatively self-contained ecosystem. But increasingly we’re taking advantage of IP-based technologies. We’ll have a programming guide hosted in the cloud next year; that will allow us a lot more flexibility to change the look and functionality. It’ll be written in HTML5. We want to work with game consoles, Android. We’ll clearly be on smart TVs. We are open to trying anything.

In terms of a la carte pricing, there’s a misconception that a cabal of programmers and distributors is intent on maintaining this bundle. Ideally, we’d like to sell networks one by one. The reality, though, is that we have to negotiate carriage agreements with programmers. They have a very strong interest in having their programs in these bundles. We’ve also experimented with different packages that offer more flexibility, and we’ve found that people still tend to take the large packages. Individual TV viewing is something like 150 hours a month. If you divide a typical cable bill by the number of hours they’re watching, it’s still a pretty good value compared with other forms of entertainment.”

Photos by Jordan Hollender