Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Hey Cable Guys! Cord Cutting is Real, and It's a Problem, Says Verizon CEO

The party line from cable executives is that the “cord-cutting” phenomenon–consumers ditching cable TV for Internet video–is a myth. Or, at best, greatly exaggerated. Not so, says Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg.

He told the crowd at Goldman’s media conference this morning that the cable bundle is going to go the way of the wireline telephone business. That is, the next generation of consumers won’t have any interest in paying for it.

“Young people are pretty smart. They’re not going to pay for something they don’t need to,” he said. “Over the top is going to be a pretty big issue for cable.”

But that’s an issue for Verizon (VZ), too, right? Seidenberg’s company sells its own version of the cable bundle, via its Fios service, and it has 3.5 million customers. And Seidenberg noted that the TV bundle isn’t going away immediately. But it will, he said.

“We take the over the top issue with video very seriously,” he said. “I think cable has some life left in its model…but that it is going to get disintermediated over the next several years.”

Seidenberg’s argument is that over the top is a much bigger deal for cable guys like Comcast (CMCSA), who have an entire business built around the bundle, than it will be for his company, which is a relative newcomer to video. Theoretically, he’ll be be able to replace some video subscribers with subs who pay for robust broadband connections. But like it or not, it’s going to happen, he says.

“I’ve seen the movie. If you remain static too long, the technology is going to nibble at you on the edges, and you have to be prepared for it.”

Meanwhile, on the eternal iPhone question: Seidenberg repeated his standard line, which is that he’d very much like to offer Apple’s (AAPL) handset, and hopes to do so one day.

Existing versions of the iPhone won’t work on Verizon’s CDMA network, but he’s hopeful that the launch of its new 4G LTE network this fall will lead Apple to produce a compatible handset. Which it may very well be doing, anyway.

Meantime, he has a business to run, and he’s been activating a lot of Google’s (GOOG) Droids. Warning! Sports metaphor ahead: “This is like the Knicks getting Carmelo Anthony. Like it would be very good if the Knicks got Carmelo Anthony. But they have to play the game whether they get Carmelo Anthony, right?”

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There was a worry before I started this that I was going to burn every bridge I had. But I realize now that there are some bridges that are worth burning.

— Valleywag editor Sam Biddle