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Broadband Will Drive New Demand for Applications, Say Cable Execs

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WASHINGTON, April 2, 2009 – Fourth-generation media was the buzzword at the National Cable and Telecommunications Association’s show here, as although several panelists disagreed on what to make of current trends.

“Five years ago [digital video recorders] were barely born, dial-up was still thriving and nobody had heard of YouTube,” said William Kennard, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission and now managing director of the Carlyle Group.

“Now, a constellation of broadband networks, personal media services and game changing content has catapulted the media sector into a brand new era where customers rule like never before,” he said.

With this, the cable industry’s exhibition hall opened for the audience to find out how, according to Carlyle, “the most powerful players in the media, delivery and technology sectors are building on the technology tools of today – and planning out the revolution for tomorrow.”

Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, said seamless transitions would be vital, and that his company was working on what he described as “project infinity.”

The new project, he said, would meet the needs of Comcast's customers on a what, where and whatever device basis.

“The result is that we are going to witness different products being integrated for consumers,” he said, adding that the debate was “no longer about introducing new products.”

The project, he said, would be vital in meeting such crucial needs as energy, home and health care.

“Bandwidth-intensive applications are coming,” he said.

Patrick Esser, president of Cox Communications, echoed Roberts' sentiments on fourth generation technology. He said his company is involved in foundational efforts to get there.

“There is talk about spectrum issues when it comes to this regard. We are prepared to take that risk on our own,” he said, adding that “the last mile to the home is the most valuable asset.”

Esser said fourth-generation technology integration would be possible if everything else is gotten right from the very word go.

Jerald Kent, CEO of Suddenlink Communications, said his company is set for new media technology, including online video.

But he said he was worried that offering media content online should be done carefully. Newspapers, he warned, were dying because they had availed content for free online, drastically lowering their circulation revenue – which has taken a hit in the current financial crisis.

Craig McCaw, Chairman of Clearwire, called for consistency in appropriate innovations and business practices.

“Our mandate is to do what we do well,” he said.

And he added: “No opportunity like this has existed before. Customers should be given a capacity to figure out what they want. Video on demand, built for this generation's 15-30 years olds, is a good example.”

Kennard said trends in video presented new models for business and contractual arrangements.

One of the greatest ironies in the present, he said, is that some programs fetch premium prices while also freely available online.

The panel was divided on what the financial crisis should mean for new media. Some said that they would continue to protect their balance sheets against major expenses. Others said that things were not really that bad.

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