Q&A Interview with Angelina Li
Dr. Angelina Li is a member of the CTAM Research Committee and the Founder and President of AHL Consulting, Inc. The company was founded in 2000 and works across a range of disciplines - from demand forecasting and market segmentation to customer satisfaction measurement and competitive benchmarking.
There are two videos included as part of the interview on the following subjects:
Subject Length (in minutes)
AHL Consulting and the Cable Show (5:32)
Charlene Weisler interviews Angelina Li, President of AHL Consulting. In this fascinating 5:32 minute video, Angelina talks about her company and her opinion of the 2011 cable SHow which took place in Chicago in June 2011:
CW: Angelina, what do you think is the most dramatic change in the industry in the past five years?
AL: There are a lot of changes and innovations in the industry in the past five years; but just looking at it in the broadest sense, I think the emergence of two-way digital networks in the cable industry, i.e., the transformation of traditional cable into a two way digital network from a one way analog network is the most profound change. The primary reason I say this is not because the industry spent billions of dollars of capital on it but because for the first time, it made cable TV a part of the so-called global village--- a tool for communication instead of simply the means for signal transmission. When you and I joined the industry some 25 years ago, I think it was basically a TV signal being broadcast to homes. There were no effective means of two way interactions. Now that it is a two way digital network, cable has become part of the world community and because of that (the development of broadband) we can communicate to any home in the world that is connected to the Internet. Again I would say that this is a very profound change and the fact that we have evolved into a digital network is a great thing. It is a significant change because it enables things like gaming and on demand entertainment, which used to sound like science fiction. These are changes that make entertainment more conveniently accessible, provide more options for consumers and give them more control. All this became possible because of two way digital networks.
CW: Where are the innovations coming from - cable, broadcast, gaming, broadband etc?
AL: I would say that the innovations are really coming from the cable industry, starting out with the one way networks evolving into a two way network – what I was talking about before. The digital network gave birth to the broadband business and to the new multi-faceted nature of the cable TV business which involves options such as DVRs, HDTV and on-demand TV, etc. When you look at other businesses today, scarcely any have come up with as many innovations as cable. We have managed to stay ahead of the telephone industry by risking billions of dollars on the innovations that had yet to be proven in the market. And if you look at all these advances you see that single industries have rarely produced so many innovations in so short a time. If you look at the last 10 – 15 years the world has completely changed in the cable business and the reasons for those changes are basically through the process of innovation. This industry has been very quick to follow up and launch these new services. I challenge you to think of another industry that has this type of changes. When you think about it, cable was an industry populated by what detractors used to call “pole climbers” - people who just strung the cable and had no technological or marketing sophistication. But by innovating continuously, and launching all these new and different services, cable operators were being speculative and taking a big gamble – and that gamble paid off really well. Basically the premise is “if you build it they will come” and they have come. When you look at it objectively, it is a pretty amazing story.
CW: What do you see as the next big opportunity for Cable Operators?
AL: I think the next big opportunity for innovation in the cable industry is for creating an integrated wireless network of all the devices used within a household inclusive of TV's, computers, storage appliances, laptops, tablets and smart phones. Such integration will make use of Internet Protocol (IP) and enable them to share content across disparate appliances as well as talk to each other. Right now things like DVR—for the most part—are confined to the TV that the cable box is connected to so that in effect the viewer is tethered to that particular TV set. With the advent of 4G technology and wireless broadband, and the increasing popularity of mobile devices like laptops, tablets, smart phones, etc., interconnectivity of media is becoming quite critical. Constraints on mobility are quickly becoming an intolerable hindrance
Now you have something like the ‘TV Everywhere’ initiative by companies like Comcast and Time Warner that acts as an evolution of DVR and VOD. It allows the consumer to use cable operators (or their competitors) as the single source of programming across different appliances (such as TV's and computers) and regardless of where they are geographically located as long as they can access the Internet. This will afford consumers a new level of convenience in their information consumption and communication.
This is also a defensive opportunity…a way to protect cable operators' position as the main provider of Internet connectivity at home and the primary distributor of content for TV as well as for its new incarnations such as smart-phones and tablet computers everywhere. Once you are outside of the home and you rely on the wireless network, say the 4G network, you will realize that it is not as fast as what you get inside your home with the cable broadband connectivity. Basically, I think the next opportunity for cable operators is not so much a moving away from television but more so a branching out...an acceptance of the fact that TV is going the way of the landline and becoming mobile, and where cable companies failed to capitalize on cellular technology early on, they have the opportunity to embrace and evolve with wireless technology within the home and to some extent, also outside the home. In short, cable operator must create an integrated network using Internet protocol which gives the consumers ubiquitous content availability and connectivity.
CW: And what do you see as the greatest challenge for operators in the next couple of years?
AL: Going along with the discussion on the next big opportunity for cable operators (i.e. the integration of mobile devices, the advent of the ‘TV Everywhere’ type service), I think the biggest opportunity also presents the greatest challenge, and that is how do cable operators build a business model for this type of network?
Because this move of transforming cable—which has been a television based medium since its inception—into the realm of Internet is unprecedented, there’s really no business model in place. How do you make a profit out of this instead of only using it as a way to appease customers and stay even with the increase of over-the-top video and the new prevalence of mobile devices?
I think it’s important for cable companies to focus on really increasing their technological capabilities and marketing these changes in a way that is understandable and appealing to the general populace. You can see how important it is in the way phone providers battle with each other and trump up the advance from 3G to 4G and the subsequent fervor displayed by consumers. It’s entirely possible for cable companies to provide households (which presently receive around 20 mbps in the US) with up to 100 mbps in Internet service, which some cable companies are doing, but it is something that will take a long time for wireless companies to match, if they can match it at all.
The thing is, the problems facing cable operators have completely transformed from being about content and viewership and ratings to almost a purely technological discussion. This is the new reality and the landscape is changing so very fast.
Charlene Weisler interviews Angelina Li who talks about her background in this 2:55 minute video:
CW: Can you give me three predictions for the next five years?
AL: For starters, I think that it is a safe projection that the cable business or at least the major cable operators will be squarely in the wireless business. Secondly, cable modems will probably be even more deeply penetrated than they are now and Internet connectivity will replace Cable TV as the operators' core business. Penetration will probably go up to about 85-90% in the next five years and become pretty much a necessity, more like a utility service. Lastly, the business of targeted advertising will finally become a reality.
CW: Angelina, thank you for a great interview. How can we get in touch with you?
AL: Thank you, Charlene. My website www.ahlci.com has all my contact information.