Michael Soileau, Vice President of Strategy and Planning, Comcast Cable
- Status Update: As we look back at the last 4 months of the pandemic, it is increasingly clear that media and technology are evolving at a pace we haven’t witnessed in decades.
- Interestingly enough, the trends point to the need for more and more technology and overall connectivity. While we are beginning to see people return to their jobs, we have also seen large corporations like Facebook, Google, and Twitter announce that their employees will be able to continue to working from home. What that means is that sustained and reliable connectivity will be necessary for the growing number of people who are working from home AND the shift of peak usage times. To add to that, we have also seen some colleges and universities either move to full virtual learning this fall or a combination of virtual and in person experiences — so virtual learning is getting a foothold in the education ecosystem faster than the last decade has delivered.
- As we witnessed at the start of the pandemic, content providers began opening up their ecosystems, and we are seeing that continue. In fact, more and more content is being curated and delivered for at least “windows of free” time. That, coupled with first run movies coming straight to the home, like almost every major studio has done, will demand new business and technology models to drive similar, if not increased, revenue streams for distributors, content creators and major movie studios.
- Noteworthy Developments: When we consider the pandemic’s impact on companies, many have focused on the challenges. But in reality, there are new opportunities as well. This is a dynamic situation but we do see consistencies in needs and innovative approaches to solutions. As mentioned, the need for connectivity is without question or debate. The fact that people are working, learning and exercising in the home, for example, has brought about a range of new or tailored products as solutions for the home. Online learning company Chegg, which has for years provided learning support to students of different ages and needs, has announced that due to an unprecedented demand for their services, they will enhance their roadmap of products.
- Emerging Players and Themes: Zoom and Microsoft Teams have seen significant increases in demand and have continually improved the experience by adding backgrounds during video sessions and adding capacity to viewership. Other companies have refined Wifi Sensing and Smart Home technologies. The customer experience is at the forefront of many of these decisions, again underscoring that connectivity is the base for the whole home experience. Many companies have risen to the challenges in extraordinary new ways.
- We have seen a surge in corporations’ responses to the needs of their customers by extending or creating new platforms or programs to provide support in these unprecedented times. Comcast, for example, has extended their Internet Essentials program to enable students and their families to access affordable connectivity.
- On the Horizon: As expected, and looking to what history has taught us, seismic changes such as war or pandemics call for society to evolve and innovate. Emerging moments of innovation become almost the norm. Today, it is becoming more and more evident that certain technologies, while not exactly “emerging” are in fact at the forefront in providing solutions from touchless technology to quick and affordable ventilators. 3D printing has long been touted for cost effective and quick production of everything from medical supplies to housing, and soon to be food. Now this technology is at the forefront of producing COVID-relevant items from hands-free door openers to, as mentioned, ventilators. This is just the beginning. Crowd sourcing contests have been popping up to challenge entrants to provide innovative solutions via open source 3D printing.
- Personal Note: It’s fascinating to witness an emerging theme of companies understanding this moment in time. And not just understanding, but embracing it, as the best opportunity for innovation in the last 50 years. They are creating opportunities to improve current products, create adjacent ones and enable brand new technologies. Everything from constant temperature readings inside closed spaces and constant sanitizing products to improving on the concept of a cashless society to a touch free society. Innovation and entrepreneurship will create new industries and business verticals that will lead fulfilling the promise of the future of work — which frankly, is yet another example, and arguably the best, that the pandemic has expedited the future!