Cablevision CEO James Dolan may go down as the biggest cord cutter in cable TV’s history: The elusive chief executive of the nation’s fifth-largest cable operator told the Wall Street Journal this weekend that Cablevision may one day drop the television part of its business, and concentrate on just selling broadband instead.
Dolan also told the Journal that the pay TV industry is living in a bubble, and its customers aren’t interested in the big bundles offered to them anymore, with younger viewers increasingly turning to online video instead. Case in point: Dolan’s own kids prefer to watch things on Netflix instead of cable.
Does that mean that Cablevision is going to give up on TV any time soon? Probably not. The company is still investing a lot in video services, including its own cloud DVR, which it successfully defended in court.
Dolan’s comments should also be seen in the context of the ongoing conflict around retrans fees, which led to the current blackout of CBS on Time Warner Cable. Broadcasters and cable networks want more money from cable operators for their programming, which in turn are trying to get new concessions from programmers.
The whole conflict involves a lot of posturing, and led to Cablevision suing Viacom earlier this year in an attempt to break up the network’s bundles, or renegotiate a cheaper price. Saying that you don’t need TV all that much may be another attempt to strengthen your negotiating position.
That being said, Cablevision doesn’t seem to be in the same us-against-the-world mindset that grips some of the other cable operators. For instance, it was one of the first cable operators to accept Netflix’s offer and install local OpenConnect content caching boxes inside of its network to speed up video delivery, something that has resulted in Cablevision being second only to Google Fiber in Netflix’s monthly ISP speed index.
So if Cablevision did ever give up its TV business, it may actually have a broadband offering worth its customers’ money.