The SCTE CableTec EXPO 2022 Philadelphia show was a wonderful reunion drawing the cable industry back together in person again for the first time since the pandemic. The energy was high, people hugged again, speaking sessions were packed, and the expo show floor was a hive of activity.
The pertinent trends discussed at the show were, as anticipated, heavily focused on 10G, 5G/mobile, network buildouts/fiber, and analytics. I could spend pages and pages rehashing the insights, but others have done so already. Instead, I want to reflect on one talk that was particularly interesting to me, led by Comcast Cable’s President of Technology, Product, and Experience, Charlie Herrin, who gave a thought-provoking presentation on how network connectivity brings us together and connects us to the moments that matter. The takeaways from his session are ones that highly resonate with MediaKind’s drive to elevate customer experiences within media services of all types.
‘Meeting the Moment for Customers with the Power of Platforms’
Customer experience is a topic that many working in the broader media landscape have listened to, studied, and found interest in for the best part of the last decade. Yet, what made Charlie’s speech stand out is that it was probably the first time this particular network-focused SCTE audience heard the message. Charlie and his team’s work in this space has had a monumental impact on the reputation of cable customer service. Finding ways to meet customers where they are in the ‘moments that matter’ with the right tools to address the customer’s concerns has had a big impact on Comcast and the companies that have learned from Comcast’s efforts.
Charlie showed a video where his team interviewed regular people around Philadelphia, asking questions such as ‘tell us what you like about the internet? Tell us what you need from the internet? What is Remote PHY? What is DOCSIS?’ As expected, regular people off the street couldn’t define Remote PHY or DOCISIS but they did know what they wanted from their network provider – a way to get on the internet, in a fast and reliable way and get the experience they want. This led Charlie to deliver his point to the audience in the room: “The BAD news, customers don’t care about your products. The GOOD news, customers REALLY care about your products!”
Prioritizing the customer experience
While many may think of video delivery networks as just pipes, there is a direct relationship between what happens in the network that directly relates to the customer’s on-screen experience. Technology providers must keep this in mind as they develop their products. As it relates to the network, Charlie spoke about what he focuses on at Comcast:
– Creating smarter networks gives customers what they need, when they need it. Charlie cited Comcast’s tool Octave and its ability to give customers the bandwidth they need and increase upstream capacity by 36%.
– Reliability – making sure the network knows when it’s broken – the network has been built with constant telemetry on the fiber looking for a break and if broken it can dispatch a truck automatically, with geographic precision. It can also quell the 100s of alarms that will spring up as a result.
– Global Technology Platform – Creating a network that will serve its properties globally with a focus on the future of the network.
Media opportunities in a world of change
Much of what Charlie spoke on resonated with efforts MediaKind is making to ensure our customers – be it TV operators, content owners, or broadcasters – deliver a seamless user experience to their customers. The shift towards streaming media is driving a particular transformation within the operator and multichannel distributor (MVPD) landscape, with these players now migrating their media offerings towards streaming TV and embracing a service and platform aggregator role. Content owners are also leveraging streaming to take their content straight to the end end-user through direct-to-consumer (D2C) streaming platforms.
This stark shift in technology operation raises its own challenges in terms of delivering a successful, revenue-generating service and a consistent user experience. And although end-users may not know what the products are powering their services, they certainly care about the results. Delivering reliability, low latency, video quality, scalability, monetization, to multiple viewing devices, and shifting to the cloud is no small task. But focusing on the customer experience should be a primary focus for enabling access to media content of all types, on any device, at broadcast quality.
What was clear from the session was that customer experience is so much more than just the user interface (UI). Customer experience must be built into products across the entire media delivery chain right from the beginning. It’s up to each of the players across the media ecosystem to consider their part and build experiences with the same common goal – delighting end-users everywhere with fantastic media experiences!