Powell: Thundering tectonic shifts assailing a cable industry that needs to adapt

The Civil War it’s not, but the battle between the pay-TV industry and the FCC nevertheless has created its own (continuing) fireworks. Monday’s keynote at the conference in Boston from Michael Powell, CEO and president of the National Cable Telecommunications Association, is a case in point.

“The policy blows we are weathering (from the FCC) are not moderate corrections, they are thundering tectonic shifts,” Powell told an appreciative crowd at the conferences first general session. “We find ourselves to be the target of a relentless regulatory assault. The FCC’s governing mantra has been: Competition, competition, competition,” Powell said. “But from where we sit that incantation has come to mean one thing: Regulation, regulation, regulation.”

Powell lamented, “Even when we are the new competitive interest, we seem to be marked for rate regulation.”

And, he said, most troubling was the “emerging government view” that the telecommunications market is bifurcated and needed to be regulated differently, with the outcome that “Internet companies are nurtured and allowed to roam free, but network providers are labeled gatekeepers that should be shackled.”

“We will find a way to weather these changes,” he said.

Powell reiterated his comments from last year’s show in Chicago that over regulation of the industry would hinder its growth and hold the U.S. market from being a word leader.

Powell also said that the industry believes the “marketplace is big enough for all competitors,” noting that providers are looking for partners and not for adversaries.

“INTX this year is about the opportunities that arrive from disruption,” he said.

Powell kicked off his remarks talking about the “walls that are coming down in our industry,” and posited that the industry was smack in the middle of a transformative period marked by market restructuring, the intensifying demands of technology and an escalating need for innovation.

“Our industry is shifting into high gear with more products and services,” he said, noting that the industry was being challenged by “the rising heat of competition… from old sources as well as new.”

Powell gave a nod to Charter’s emergence from bankruptcy protection in 2009 to its acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, as well as to the acquisitions made by Altice, saying: “Charter is emerging as a reinvigorated company and becomes a new industry standard bearer and Altice has crossed the pond to bring its insights and its energy to the U.S. cable market.”

Powell warned that the industry would need to battle new media companies that “”have enormous resources and are exceptionally creative,” that “cut their teeth on disrupting traditional businesses.”

But, he said, “If we are bold and nimble enough, we will not only survive, we will thrive.”

Stay tuned.

Jim O’Neill is Editor of Videomind and Principal Analyst at Brightcove. You can follow him on Twitter @JimONeillMedia and on LinkedIn