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Euro cable summit pushes for change

Confab warns: Make content widely available

VIENNA — Change, opportunity and challenges from “over the top” competition were the dominant themes of the Euro Summit 2012 cable marketing conference, hosted by CTAM Europe in the Austrian capital on Friday and Saturday.

A record 280 cable operators from across the continent and the U.S. attended the Cable and Telecommunications Assn. for Marketing confab, which stressed the need for fresh approaches with even more emphasis than in previous editions.

“We as marketers have to find ways to be innovative,” declared Eric Tveter, CEO of UPC Cablecom and the current chairman of CTAM Europe as he introduced keynote speaker Ben Hammersley, the U.K. tech expert who set the confab tone by warning that consumers will punish operators placing obstacles between them and the content.

Many summit attendees know this already. With increasing competition from “over the top” appliances (such as DVDs) and Internet entertainment (Netflix), some CTAM members came to Vienna with video-on-demand and handheld on-the-go services either in place or in planning.

“It’s about satisfying user needs,” said Phil Roter, COO of Sportskool, the U.S. sports lifestyle and entertainment network that will launch in Europe in early 2013. “It’s about content discovery. There is so much content today, the job of cable networks is to make it discoverable to customers over every medium.”

HBO Central Europe displayed its Euro-based HBO Go service, which, like HBO Go in the U.S., gives subscribers on-demand access to its movies and series over a variety of devices.

Purely business innovations were also on offer, such as cable auditing services whose demand in Europe is proof of the growing sophistication of its cable industry, said Bruce Lazarus, CEO of Cable Audit Associates.

Strangely, there was little talk of Europe’s economic crisis with former CTAM chairman Chris Winkelmolen quipping, “We discussed it thoroughly and decided not to participate.”

According to John Rossiter, general manager of Sony Pictures Television Networks Central Europe, cable TV in central Europe is highly competitive but potentially profitable.

Rossiter said, “We live in an eco-system where we are very well measured, and that is great for selling ads.”