Panasonic EVP Bob Perry: Consumers Desire Choice

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Panasonic EVP Bob Perry made it clear at this week’s TV of Tomorrow Show that there’s not much love lost in America for cable TV. He joked that even Wall Street bankers might be more popular than cable execs, and warned that cable companies won’t survive if they continue to force consumers into a business model that nobody wants. “There is over a hundred million households yearning to be free,” he says.

Perry also had another warning for the cable industry: Government has stepped in before to enforce competition and decouple infrastructure from services. The phone business went through this transition, and power companies have been facing similar regulations, he said. Could cable be next? Will Congress eventually force cable companies to open up their pipes for competitors to sell programming? “It certainly happened to many other businesses,” he mused.

Of course, cable isn’t the only gatekeeper in this newteevee world. Device makers increasingly hold the key to over the top platforms, deciding which services to include and which to leave out. So how will Panasonic deal with this responsibility? I decided to find out and ask Perry a few more questions.

Perry acknowledged the role cable TV has to play in the future of video distribution, but also said that consumers are increasingly treating it like a dumb pipe to run over-the-top video services, which could eventually solve the problem of decoupling without any regulation. So what does cable need to do to keep its customers from cutting the cord? Unbundle programming, he said, and offer choice without unnecessary barriers like cumbersome content protection. “The average consumer doesn’t want to steal content,” he told me. “The average consumer wants convenience and flexibility.”

Speaking of choice: Panasonic has started to incorporate various over-the-top services into its devices through its Viera Cast platform, which Perry described as a walled garden. He told the audience of the TV of Tomorrow Show that Panasonic might eventually move towards an open platform. At one point, he even predicted that it would be “no question that there’s eventually (going to be) browsers on TVs.” Perry was a little more careful when I wanted to know a few more details, but he did tell me that Panasonic will try to offer as much content and choice as possible. “We are not trying to funnel or control the consumer,” he added.

Related content on GigaOm Pro: With TV Apps, Over-the-Top Video Gets New Backers (subscription required)

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