Boston MA — Michael Powell, President and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), delivered the following remarks at the opening General Session of INTX 2016. Produced by NCTA, INTX runs May 16 – 18, 2016 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
May 16, 2016
Michael Powell Keynote Speech
Good morning and welcome to INTX 2016 in the great city of Boston!
The companies gathered here are in a transformative period that presents significant challenges as well as enormous opportunities. There are many currents of change shaping the contours of this dizzying period.
Perhaps the most dramatic one is the market restructuring that has reached its crescendo in recent weeks. One central driver of these changes is the intensifying demands of technology and the escalating need for rapid innovation. Our industry is shifting into high gear as a high tech industry; with more sophisticated products and services. These actions are also a response to the rising heat of competition sparking from old sources as well as new. We fully expect this re-modeling to bring new energy and vibrancy to the Internet and television marketplace.
Mergers, however, are always bittersweet. The curtain is coming down on some of the most storied companies in our history. And as a consequence, we will bid farewell to exceptional leaders who pioneered this industry and led it to the high pinnacle on which it sits today. Leaders like Rob Marcus, Jerry Kent, and the beloved Miron and Dolan families. But let’s not forget that it takes a strong crew to sail any ship, and so we must also give a salute to the thousands of men and women who have served these companies faithfully over the years.
We also welcome new players into our community. Charter emerges as a reinvigorated company and becomes a new industry standard-bearer. And Altice has crossed the pond to bring its insights and energy to the U.S. cable market. We look excitedly forward to the fresh ideas and innovations that all these changes will bring.
It seems the whole world has discovered what we have known for decades – and that is that delivering exciting, high quality video content to American consumers is a fantastic business to be in. There are formidable new creatures roaming our traditional feeding grounds.
These companies have enormous resources and are exceptionally creative. They are fierce competitors that have cut their teeth on disrupting traditional businesses. Those who wish to compete will have to elevate their heels and adjust if they hope to return serve forcefully. I firmly believe in duality—that every challenge is also an opportunity. If we are bold and nimble enough, we will not only survive, we will thrive.
Revolutionary change also has engulfed the content business. Fantastic new shows are exploding continuously into our living rooms. Last year, over 409 scripted series were produced. There are more and more players searching out great stories and producing original content. Today, it is ironic that a company known more for selling books is taking home Emmy Awards for television.
Viewing patterns are also driving change. Consumers now see every screen as a television. Binge watching has become widely addictive. And, more and more, we see video content being encapsulated into software apps that turn every device imaginable into a TV screen that works without a set-top box. These are changes we fully embrace.
As I said earlier, this industry is a driving force in technology. Cable’s Internet providers are on the cusp of rolling out Gigabit speeds across the United States. As we do, we remain dedicated to reaching all, not just some, of our citizens and getting every American online.
In addition, we are also seeing smarter devices for viewing content, like the X1 platform. And, our companies are increasing the value of a broadband subscription by deploying WiFi hotspots for consumers to access the Internet when they’re on the go. And, working with the content community, your favorite programs are landing onto any Internet connected device through the TV Everywhere initiative.
REGULATION, REGULATION, REGULATION
This period is remarkable for one other reason that is not so laudable. We find ourselves the target of a relentless regulatory assault. The FCC’s governing mantra has been “competition, competition, competition.” From where we sit, that incantation has come to mean one thing, “regulation, regulation, regulation.” The policy blows we are weathering are not modest regulatory corrections. They have been thundering, tectonic shifts that have crumbled decades of settled law and policy.
What has been so distressing is that much of this regulatory ordinance has been launched without provocation. We increasingly are saddled with heavy rules without any compelling evidence of harm to consumers or competitors.
Other times we find our property being confiscated and passed off to new competitors to give them a leg up, despite healthy and robust markets. This is the case with the current proposal to unbundle valuable content and hand it to companies who do not have to pay for it, respect the intellectual property rights of it or abide by the same regulatory requirements to protect consumers. Instead of unlocking the box, this proposal has unlocked fierce opposition from all quarters, from distributors, content providers, civil rights groups, labor unions and over 150 members of Congress.
And, as we learned recently with the latest proposal to completely throw out decades of policies on business services, even when we are the new competitive entrants, we are marked for rate regulation.
What I believe is most troublesome is an emerging government view that the communications market is bifurcated and should be regulated differently. Internet companies are nurtured and allowed to roam free, but network providers are disparagingly labeled “gatekeepers” that should be shackled.
The implications of this worldview go far beyond how it affects one industry—we are resilient and will find a way to weather these changes. Rather, I believe this jaundiced view will prove detrimental to America’s ambitions in the Information Age. Networks must continue to innovate, experiment and thrive in order to fuel the Internet growth we all want to see. It is a mistake to view network providers as an impediment to that growth, rather than a valued ingredient of it.
WE SEE A BETTER AND MORE INSPIRED APPROACH
We think there is a better way.
That approach is on display here at INTX. We see a marketplace big enough for all competitors. We see there is more to be gained by coming together than pulling apart. We are looking for partners and not adversaries. And we see the benefit of a global network combining the power of content and technology to deliver exceptional experiences, to solve the greatest problems of our planet, to provide meaningful work for our people, and to bring greater peace and prosperity to a dangerous world.
INTX this year is about the opportunities that rise from disruption. There is much to see and much to talk about in the world of Internet and Television, and this show is the central square for that exploration to take place.
On behalf of the women and men of NCTA, we wish you an exciting and informative show.