×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Verizon CEO: Try a la Carte to Protect Cable

Lowell McAdam criticizes government regulation of retransmission fees

LAS VEGAS – Verizon chairman-CEO Lowell McAdam said Tuesday that in answer to cord-cutting and consumer pressure the TV industry should be open to the idea of a-la-carte cable subscriptions.

Speaking at the National Assn. of Broadcasters’ confab, McAdam said a move to a-la-carte would answer market pressures and customer feedback. Through its FiOS TV service, he said, Verizon can monitor how many of its 5 million TV subscribers are watching any channel at a given moment. “It might be in the hundreds,” he said. “I think there’s a pressure now from customers about why do I have to have 300 channels?”

He called a-la-carte “a novel way that could help protect subscriptions in the long run. … This isn’t a cause celebre for us but I think it’s an early warning that we should pay attention to.”

He compared cable bundles to bundled services on cell phone plans. “As more and more smartphones were out there, (customers) said why are you making me buy a text bundle, why are you making me buy a voice bundle? We said, you know, you’re right, so we did away with that.

See Also: Fox to Cable? News Corp. Fuming Over Aereo Case

“It’s simpler for them, it’s frankly simpler for us. It’s a win-win.”

McAdam was  interviewed by NAB president Gordon Smith in front of a sparse crowd in the Las Vegas Hotel’s cavernous Paradise Room. During their discussion of retransmission fees, Smith, a former U.S. senator, said that Washington pols have learned that nothing makes their phones light up like a channel outtage during retransmission fee talks. McAdam said that the power in those talks had shifted over the last 20 years and is now tilted toward broadcasters and content owners.

“I sit there and I say, okay, I get 1992, cable companies were monopolies and broadcasters needed to be protected. Now there’s Dish and DirecTV and the phone companies and over-the-top and all that stuff. So why do you guys (broadcasters) need protecting now? They all get a little smile on their face. Okay, I got it, it’s a good gig if you can get it. People say AT&T and Verizon dominate wireless, but I’d love to have the status of some of the broadcasters.”

He added that if he could re-do the 1996 Communications Act, retransmission regulation wouldn’t be in it.

“It was hands off of wireless (in that bill) and I think that’s part of why wireless has been such a success in the United States. We were smart enough to let free markets run … A forced retrans fee feels like a bit of salt in the wound.”

Smith also brought up the impending spectrum auction and McAdam noted that the military controls quite a bit of spectrum, especially in the coveted low-frequency bands that easily penetrate walls and buildings. Smith recalled that when he was in the Senate, when the topic of reclaiming military spectrum was broached, “the quiet answer was ‘We have guns, come try and get it.'” The recent “sequester” budget cuts add to the military’s resistance, because if they shifted their spectrum use they’d need new hardware, which they can’t easily acquire with current cuts.

On the subject of mobile video, McAdam said that video is already 50% of traffic on Verizon’s wireless network and that figure is expected to reach 66%  by 2017. He said that to meet the demand for streaming video on live events the company worked with its technology providers so it’s no longer necessary to set up individual streaming channels for every customer who wants to watch; a single video channel can handle it.

McAdam said that when the NFL announced it would stream the Super Bowl via Verizon wireless, “some of my broadcaster friends said you just became the most hated man in America. That was not our intent.”

But he made it clear Verizon is far from done rolling out mobile video. “Last night I was out at meetings and would have loved to tune in the (Men’s college basketball) national championship. Couldn’t do it. Going forward you’ll be able to do that.”

McAdam also showed off a Verizon wireless dongle attached to an HD video camera that allows TV news to send broadcast-quality video via the Verizon cellular network without having to rely on a microwave transmitter or video truck. He said that it can send up to 720p.

Popular on Variety

More Digital

  • Elite Season 2

    San Sebastian: Spain’s SVOD Players Debate Competition, Brand, Talent

    SAN SEBASTIAN  — Executives from HBO, Netflix, Amazon and Movistar+ and “Elite” co-creator Darío Madrona took to the stage to field questions on the Global Impact of Spanish Series. Here, briefly, are five takeaways: 1.Spain First “La Casa de Papel” was watched by 34,355,956 Netflix accounts over its first seven days,  after a July 19 [...]

  • Tinder - Swipe Night

    Tinder's Apocalyptic 'Swipe Night' Interactive Dating Show Sets Release Date

    Tinder next month will bow its first original entertainment content — “Swipe Night,” an interactive adventure series in which viewers are forced to make dating choices on humanity’s last night on Earth. Variety previously reported details of the location-based social network/dating app service’s foray into original content, which recently wrapped production in Mexico City and [...]

  • Editorial Use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    YouTube Rolls Back Verification Changes, Says Verified Creators Can Keep Their Badge

    A day after announcing significant changes to its verification program, YouTube announced Friday afternoon that it won’t be de-verifying existing creators after all. “We heard loud and clear how much the badge means to you,” said YouTube product manager Jonathan McPhie in a blog post. “Channels that already have the verification badge will now keep it [...]

  • BLive: BitTorrent Live Streaming App to

    BitTorrent to Launch Public Beta of New Live Streaming App

    BitTorrent is getting ready to open the floodgates for its new live streaming app, dubbed BitTorrent Live: The company plans to launch a BitTorrent Live Android app on various app stores as part of a public beta test late Friday, according to a spokesperson. BitTorrent Live, which is also known as BLive, is being described [...]

  • Netflix - Apple TV

    Netflix Stock Drops After CEO Acknowledges 'Tough Competition' Coming From Disney, Apple

    Netflix shares fell as much as 7% Friday to a nine-month low, coming after CEO Reed Hastings commented that the November launches of Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus will introduce a “whole new world” of competition. Hastings, speaking at the Royal Television Society conference Friday in Cambridge, England, said, “While we’ve been competing with [...]

  • Facebook

    Facebook Suspends Tens of Thousands of Apps During Privacy Investigation

    Facebook has suspended tens of thousands of apps ever since it began investigating potential privacy abuses, the company said Friday. The apps in question had been built by around 400 developers, and a suspension doesn’t necessarily indicate actual privacy violations. Facebook began combing through millions of apps that made use of its platform after the [...]

  • tivo logo

    Tivo Plans to Launch Android TV Dongle, Tivo+ Curation App

    DVR maker Tivo is getting ready to release a new device that may not record television at all: The company plans to launch a $50 Roku-like TV dongle early next year, its new CEO Dave Shull revealed in a conversation with CNN this week. The new device will be powered by Google’s Android TV platform, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content