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Less than a week after Charter CEO Tom Rutledge publicly admitted that their current TV service offerings are rather crappy
, Charter has announced plans for a brand refresh for the company's broadband and TV services. Like AT&T U-Verse, Verizon FiOS, Comcast Xfinity, and Cablevision Optimum, Charter has announced they'll be re-branding the company's broadband and digital video services under the name "Spectrum" in the hopes of changing public perceptions.
"This isn't really just a new product set we're selling -- it’s a new brand," Charter's Chief Marketing Officer Jon Hargis insists to Bloomberg
, who for whatever reason appears to be the first and only news outlet keyed into Charter's new naming strategy. "It’s a big operational task to go all digital."
"Going all digital" is of course just an evolutionary necessity, and one that Charter is undergoing far later than their contemporaries. The company lost 27,000 cable subscribers last quarter in part, the company admits, because they didn't do enough to improve their cable TV services.
"...The bigger part of it is that Charter's video product was inferior, and we had brand issues around that," Charter CEO Tom Rutledge stated recently. "While you can see some of these trends occurring throughout the whole industry, it’s more exaggerated at Charter because of the way we let our video product deteriorate."
Charter tells Bloomberg the upgrades also involve increasing channel totals, and "faster broadband speeds of more than 45 megabits per second." That last bit doesn't entirely make sense, given that as of last year Charter began offering just 30 or 100 Mbps packages
in order to simplify user options.
Charter isn't the only company to hope that a brand refresh cures ongoing user defections.
Cablevision this week announced that the company now hosts more than 100,000 hotspots in the New York City tri-state region. That total has increased from 80,000 hotspots deployed as of last April, and up from from 35,000 that were deployed as of last June. Cablevision's decision to offer free Wi-Fi hotspots to paying customers as a competitive counterpunch to Verizon FiOS spurred the entire cable industry to follow suit; resulting the CableWiFi consortium (recently joined by Cox
) offering more than 170,000 hotspots. You can find a map of all of Cablevision's hotspots here
New Jersey Transit customers can look forward to a new project that will bring public Wi-Fi to New Jersey trains and train stations. According to the Newark Star Ledger
, NJ Transit has teamed with Cablevision to offer Wi-Fi at train stations -- mirroring the project that Cablevision has already embarked upon across New York City regional commuter zones. The networks should be up and running by the end of the year, and ultimately will be extended onto trains themselves -- an idea that Cablevision has been eyeing for several years. As with other Cablevision Wi-Fi, pricing will be "free" for paying Cablevision customers; pricing for non customers has yet to be disclosed.
Some Cablevision users in our forums
are complaining that the cable operator has started injecting ads on top of non-Cablevision website content. The ads, an image of which appear below, seem to be injected on top of any page a user visits.
John Malone has made a wager that Charter Communications will thrive in currently rough seas. According to Bloomberg
, Malone's Liberty Media will be taking a 27 percent stake in Charter for roughly $2.62 billion. As part of the deal, Liberty gets to assign four individuals to Charter's board of directors. After exiting bankruptcy in 2009, Charter has struggled with historically low customer satisfaction rankings, but is starting to see more positive cash flow under the watch of new CEO Tom Rutledge. Rutledge has been behind more than a few controversial moves of late, ranging from ceasing support of customer-owned modems
to shutting down their entire "UMatter2Charter" social and online support department
Numerous pay TV companies have thrown their support behind Cablevision, who earlier this week sued Viacom
, claiming the company violates antitrust law by forcing cable TV companies to buy channels in bundles. Mediacom, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV and others all issued statements supporting Cablevision
. "There's no question that the current all-or-nothing system dictated by programmers is completely broken," insisted DirecTV in a statement -- while Mediacom insisted forced bundling is "hurting consumers." Comcast, who now owns all of NBC after arguing such massive vertical integration isn't a problem for the end user, is remaining silent on the issue for obvious reasons.
Cablevision has filed suit against the Communications Workers of America, claiming the union has been making "patently false and defamatory claims" about the company's broadband services in New York City. According to a Cablevision statement
, the CWA has repeatedly made claims that Cablevision service is slower in Brooklyn than in other parts of the company's footprint.
I've been known to ding an ISP or two for stupid behavior, but everything I saw from a front row seat during hurricane Sandy suggested that every ISP in the impacted region handled Sandy aftermath with aplomb, kindness and efficiency. ISPs were one upping one another
seeing who could help out the most -- from mobile charging stations to automatic refunds and free voice and SMS service
Last week Cablevision announced that they would be issuing service credits to customers impacted by Hurricane Sandy
, even if their service was down due to a loss of power and not system damage. Not to be outdone, Verizon tells Broadband Reports
they'll be doing the same thing, something our readers may find useful as power returns to many areas impacted by the storm. "We routinely credit our customers when they’re out of service, whether for power outages or other reasons where service has been impacted," says Verizon. "We will of course do the same for those affected by Hurricane Sandy."
While Cablevision has yet to reveal how they plan to compete with Verizon's new "Quantum
" FiOS speeds up to 300 Mbps, Multichannel News
directs our attention to the fact that the cable operator is undergoing a branding refresh for their Optimum line of services. According to a press statement
the company is redesigning the logo (see above) and changing their brand for the first time in ten years. The new logo and branding will be immediately deployed "across all customer-facing platforms and executions" accompanied by a new suite of television ads." "Our new logo and branding campaign reflects our commitment to honesty, transparency, the quality of the services we provide and – importantly – how we interact with our customers." That's a pretty impressive resume for a little yellow dot.
During the company's earnings conference call this week (see transcript
), Cablevision CEO Jim Dolan said the company hopes to have their network DVR service available to all of the company's customers by the end of the year. After a long but successful legal battle against broadcasters, Cablevision quietly launched their network DVR service (aka the RS-DVR) back in January
in portions of The Bronx. The cable operator then expanded the service's footprint to portions of Brooklyn, Long Island and Connecticut. The service stores content at the network head end, eliminating the need for local storage on the DVR -- and Cablevision's currently offering test customers 160 GB of storage for $11 a month.
Last month Verizon raised the bar for residential broadband (and high prices) when they announced their new Quantum FiOS tiers
, which included a new top shelf 300 Mbps downstream, 65 Mbps upstream tier for $205 a month. Not to be outdone, sources tell Broadband Reports
that Comcast is planning to offer a 305 Mbps downstream tier sometime before the end of the year in FiOS markets.
With the resignation of two top Cablevision executives in two weeks
last December (including COO Tom Rutledge, who left to become Charter CEO), the rumor mill started to churn with rumblings that Cablevision could be looking to sell. Now another Cablevision executive has left the company. Jonathan Hargis, executive vice president of marketing, is resigning
and will leave the company later this month "to pursue other opportunities." Again, analyst speculation is that Cablevision is shaking up the ranks ahead of yet another Dolan attempt to take the company private, or they're preparing to sell their properties. Time Warner Cable has long been a rumored buyer, but the deal never seems to materialize.
Back in 2009 Canadian Cable company Cogeco imposed new low usage caps
with per gigabyte overages as high as $2.50. The problem? Cogeco didn't make sure their meters actually worked before hungrily jumping on the metered usage bandwagon, with inaccurate or conflicting usage amounts being reflected via online Cogeco usage meters and customer e-mail alerts.
Earlier this month Cablevision sued Verizon for FiOS ads
highlighting FCC data showing that Cablevision wasn't delivering the speeds users are paying for. As of August, Cablevision delivered just 50% of advertised speed during peak periods, a fact Verizon quickly made use of in FiOS marketing.
You might recall that Time Warner Cable saw a bit of a public relations disaster
when in 2009 they tried to impose caps as low as 1GB and overages up to $2 per gigabyte. As with most of these efforts, the ISP made things worse for itself by assuming its customers weren't very bright, and insisting that overpriced broadband wasn't about making money or controlling Internet video, but was more an act of altruism. Despite continued healthy profitability under the flat-rate model before and since, Time Warner Cable informed users that metered billing was financially necessary for their survival. Consumers very vocally, and collectively, told Time Warner Cable to go to hell and the ISP backed off.
While consumers might not be opposed to real
usage-based billing, that's not what Time Warner Cable introduced.
We've explored story continues..
how the Goorizon alliance is the regulatory equivalent of a bobble-head doll: cute and stuffed largely with air, but primarily designed to pre-empt tougher consumer protections. Worse perhaps, Google and Verizon's defense of their proposal has been one distortion after another, the companies insisting the weak-kneed framework is solely about empowering the consumer, and has nothing
to do with keeping wireless consumer protections away from their tablet/smartphone Android partnership.
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