Cable Guy Says Portals Are Toast

from the haven't-we-heard-that-before? dept

Leo Hindery is a cable guy. He’s always been a cable guy. He was the head of TCI which eventually got bought by AT&T and became AT&T Broadband. Later he was head of GlobalCenter and was there as that telco bubble-era play popped. Paul Kedrosky is now pointing to coverage of a speech he gave today, suggesting that “portals” were going to die off. His claim is that there are 3 major industries in the new media landscape: portals (Google, Yahoo, etc.), content providers (Time Warner, Disney, etc.) and distributors (telcos, cable cos, etc.). Like a true traditional cable guy, he thinks the portals are simply taking money that belongs to the other two — and they’ll simply take that back. This isn’t surprising, based on where he’s come from, but it shows a distorted picture of the world. It is, though, the same argument that was made back during the first dot com bubble era, when the cable companies all thought they could compete with the Yahoos and Netscapes of the world with their own portal called @Home. That went really far.

The fact is, right now, most people look to their broadband provider as nothing more than a pipe. They want the pipe separated from the rest of the content and services that are offered. Fewer people are using the email and web space their broadband providers give them — knowing they can just get a Gmail or Yahoo mail email address and webspace and take it with them when they eventually switch broadband providers. People generally don’t like their cable company or their phone company. It’s rare to hear anyone talk favorably about them. The less beholden they are, the happier they are. Of course, at the same time, Hindery seems to (again, like a traditional cable guy) completely discount the fact that people go online for communications just as much, if not more, than content. People aren’t going online to get Disney or Time Warner content — but to email with people, to instant message with people, to read and post to blogs. It’s about communications (what some like to call “user generated content” these days) and what Big Content does is a lot less interesting. Every time that a big content company or a big broadband company has tried to get into the space of providing these services themselves, they’ve failed. Because they always look at how they can control it and how they can charge more for it. Hindery dismisses the portals for not having proprietary content — but apparently he hasn’t paid attention to what happened with AOL (which is owned by a big content firm) as it tried to keep its walled garden up while others pulled it down. At the same time, it’s not surprising to hear him totally dismiss things such as VoIP and user-created videos, by saying they’re not disruptive because they’re “free.” That’s almost a laughable assertion. It’s the fact that they’re free that makes them so disruptive — because it totally flips over the business model that he’s used to. He doesn’t seem to recognize that just because something is free it doesn’t mean there’s no business model.


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Comments on “Cable Guy Says Portals Are Toast”

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45 Comments
B Meikle says:

Content and Media Model

The sheer volume of the Google in terms of users enables it to give away for free valuable tools and applications. While these do have a cost to create and maintain the cost of this is spread across far more users than the US Cable MSO, have to check the #s but its a multiple of 100x+. New Media business models have big barriers to enrtry based on their number of users as of today. Emerging content now in many respects lacks the poish of Mainstream TV, but that can and likely will, change quickly.

Ronin Tetsuro (user link) says:

Thrashing and Gnashing

This is not an unexpected stage of denial for the ‘gatekeepers’ of the communications industry. They have become so accustomed to their role of content provider that anything new and exciting is simply irrelevant. Even as it’s clubbing them over the head and carrying off their client base into the inky darkness outside their ivory towers.

Take a look at what they (since the cable companies and telcos are these days united under one parent company) are trying to do to Net Nutrality. Divide, control, charge. This is all they know, and if it doesn’t involve any of that, they’re either completely baffled or snobbishly uninterested. This will be their downfall, and honestly we will be better for their passing.

PopeRatzo says:

This is what the “net neutrality” debate is really about. The telcos want to take back all that money Google is “taking” from them.

I wonder what all the net neutrality haters around here will think when their gmail account is slower than their sbcglobal.net account, and their email gets filtered out more often while at&t email goes right through.

ScaredofTheMan says:

Drugs are bad....Mmmmmkay!

This guy is on Crack, but not regular sell your mother crack, he is on the worse kind of Greedy MoFo Crack. This imbalance he is talking about is simply other company’s doing something better than his beloved “distributors”.

He neglects the 300 lbs gorilla in the room, that is Telcos and cable are usually bloated buearcacies that still haven’t figured out what the internet is about. If they could build a better google or yahoo, they would have

MEoip says:

Antithesis

I would argue the opposite of this guy. The net will become a portal.

Eventually there won’t be much reason to leave your homepage. For example, I cannot think of the last time I went to an actual blog, I mean went to acctualblog.blogspot.com or the like. When Google made the Google homepage widget that works with Google reader I stopped needing to leave Google homepage to read much of anything. The blog articles I want to read open in a bubble in my window. It’s only a matter of time before the same thing happens with the rest of my RSS feeds I keep on my homepage, eventually techdirt will open in a bubble and I’ll comment from a widget too.

In a sense this will be a step back to text only days of the net; a functional widely read blog won’t need to be more than text on a white page because it will be read through the portal. This will force the providers to develop useful portals not like the garbage they usually have, or they will outsource to third parties, of course the smart ones will partner with the portals (Google / EarthLink), the dumb ones will partner with the content (Time Warner / Time Warner). The content will run off an AP model were it’s all feeds all the time.

M Kim says:

Re: English as a second language

English as a second language by RobG on Jun 27th, 2006 @ 5:19am

Wow — I think that is the biggest split infinitive I’ve ever seen:

“Hindery seems to (again, like a traditional cable guy) completely discount the fact that people go online for communications just as much, if not more, than content.”

It’s not that bad of a split infinitive–it’s just “to discount”.

Roger McCook says:

Allegiance

Interesting thoughts, thoughts I haven’t actually had before, breaking the world into three parts like that, assigning praise and blame like slicing a lemon pie. Pretty cool.

1) Broadband provider is a pipe. Yep that’s how I look at it. I never used their email and I certainly don’t ever go their site. Comcast. Just keep my connection up and I’m happy. Screw that up and you’re idiots and I scorn you, scorn you I say.

2) Content is mainly what I go for but almost all of it is free. These sites that try to make you pay for dribbling out some useless information are blood-sucking parasites that must be destroyed, man! I like the news (depressing and biased as it is) but I like Wikipedia, looking up how to install a shelf or plant a tomato.

3) Communication / Email — How much would traffic on the net decrease if all email, instant messaging, VOIP and stuff like that were outlawed? Isn’t this the MAIN THING?

My opinion is, long-term, the proviider sector will become a freebie, a universal right of all human beings, run by some little group of sniveling, cowardly Bush-hating cowards at the UN.

Hank says:

Nothing to see here, move along

Now, did it occure to anyone that Leo Hindery is saying these things because he has to?

Think about it for a moment- Leo is talking about how to make the maximum profit, and not to do so puts his company, and his job at risk.

If you look at enough of these press statements you see all sorts of truely odd and wacked worded speaches, which is aimed right at Wall Street.

d.l. says:

The coverage of his speech says that he said that most of the money going to portals today will eventually go directly to content providers. This is certainly a possibility. But the content providers will have to find a way to either cut the portals out or force the portals to act as middlemen (more like cable companies).

I don’t see any realistic scenario where much of the revenue currently going to portals will go to transport providers. The portals are capitalizing on the value of content, not the value of transmission.

Anonymous Coward says:

He has quite a track record . . .

Leo Hindery was also CEO “du jour” at Global Crossing pre-bankruptcy/emergence.

Why do companies continue to put former CEOs of failed or mostly-failed companies in executive positions? It’s not like is resume isn’t public record. Global Crossing still has the press releases on their web site. You’d think it would be bad to be the man in charge in 2000 of a company that filed for the fourth largest bankruptcy in US history (and second in telecom).

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Paraphrase

I can paraphrase this guys entire little rant…

“LALALALALA–I’M NOT LISTENING–LALALALALA”

There are three things I going to enjoy– I mean almost-orgasmically enjoy– watching fall:

1)Microsoft

2)RIAA/MPAA

3)Telco/Cableco Monopolies.

Damn it’s going to be a great show. The only thing to figure out is where the best city-wide celebration partys are going to be.

Dummy says:

Re: Paraphrase

Anyone who lists Microsoft with RIAA is just plain dumb. RIAA has done nothing to make anything better, they are just an inbetween layer that takes money.

Microsoft has driven the software market to new highs and has forced other to keep up. The ability to unify a platform and scare other companies has done more than any MS hater will ever understand.

Just run any Linux distro to realize how far back in the stone age we would be without MS.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Paraphrase

“Anyone who lists Microsoft with RIAA is just plain dumb.”

-Dummy

Why not list them together? They are both greedy, power-hungry, controlling monopolists.

“Microsoft has driven the software market to new highs and has forced other to keep up. The ability to unify a platform and scare other companies has done more than any MS hater will ever understand.

Just run any Linux distro to realize how far back in the stone age we would be without MS.”

-Dummy

So the ends justify the means? Regardless of how shady and underhanded MS has been in it’s software-bundling practices… no matter how much they’ve hammered down the competition through superior money… no matter how much they’ve said through action “no… you will do it as we say because you have no choice”… all of that is ok, because the result was OK?

I guess since the Jewish community has such a strong sense of unity through shared hardships, and since the world has a sterner view against atrocities like genocide, then Hitler’s actions were “ok”. Hell, the ends seem pretty good in this case. Look at all the respect and understanding Jewish people have today. Yay Hitler.

Your statement about how far back in the Stone Age we’d be is BS. Are you telling me that if MS was never around, we’d never have innovated? You can’t seriously believe that. Unless my memory is failing me, Apple came out before (or at the same time as) MS and Windows. And if the MS/Apple war didn’t happen, someone else would have been there to fill that void.

You can’t look back and say “if this didn’t happen, we’d be here”. Chaos Theory alone says you can’t.

Sorry to take everyone off topic that far, but I feel the need to defend myself when someone attacks me instead of my points, and in such a shallow way.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Paraphrase

Sorry to take everyone off topic that far, but I feel the need to defend myself when someone attacks me instead of my points, and in such a shallow way.

Wow! Is this the first time someone dared to have a contradictory opinion to yours? The nerve of some people!

I love the classy way you equate the Holocaust with a software vendor bundling their own software with their own OS. Genocide and the lack of Netscape on Windows are really on the same level. People like you are doing wonders for the open source community. Yay you.

Are you telling me that if MS was never around, we’d never have innovated?

What have you personally innovated? Others would have innovated/emulated. You would simply wait to see who everyone else hated and jumped on the bandwagon. This makes you cool.

no matter how much they’ve hammered down the competition through superior money.

I guess you aren’t old enough to know that Microsoft wasn’t always amazingly wealthy, or maybe you are and simply too concerned with being trendy to think for yourself.

Gabriel Tane (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Paraphrase

And this is the kind of personal attacking I’m talking about. You haven’t written anything at all about the validity of my comments… you’ve just attacked me. It’s a logical fallacy called ad hominem. It shows that rather than demonstrate an inability to find flaws in an argument, you attack that person instead. “You?re an idiot” instead of “You?re wrong beacuse…”

See the difference?

I love the classy way you equate the Holocaust with a software vendor bundling their own software with their own OS.

The holocaust reference was used as an extreme example of how the ends do not justify the means. I wasn’t drawing an analogy to MS’s business practices. That’s why it was a separate paragraph. Sorry you misunderstood.

What have you personally innovated? Others would have innovated/emulated.

I never said “I” would have innovated. I said “we”, as in society. Again with the personal attacks. Of course I wouldn’t have innovated. I’m not a software programmer or developer.

This makes you cool

… seriously man. This is sad. I know I already addressed your innovation comment, but you twisted an already out-of-context interpretation into a personal attack. ::sigh::

I guess you aren’t old enough to know that Microsoft wasn’t always amazingly wealthy, or maybe you are and simply too concerned with being trendy to think for yourself.

I apologize if I didn’t simplify my statements enough. I understand that I may have left a little too much of it up to interpretation, trusting that others may understand what I’m talking about.

I know MS wasn’t always rich. I know that they started just like most other of their at-the-time peers. My meaning was that once they had that distinct advantage over the competition they stifled it out. I’m all about using what you got. I’m all about taking advantage of your positive attributes. But what MS did was just buy off everything that could pose a threat. That is counterproductive to healthy competition.

So, Mr. Anonymous, sorry if you have this coffee-house, Mac using, elitist image of me. And I’m sorry that you were unable to challenge my views in any way other than personal attack.

Good luck to you with that narrow view.

Agog (user link) says:

Re: Re: Paraphrase

Wow! I can’t believe what I’m reading. To equate Linux with the Stone Age is unbelievable. There is a very good reason that 80% of the internet is powered by Unix servers and IIS. The design of the *nix platform is optimal for networking and security – 2 concepts that seem to perpetually elude Microsoft.

I will agree that Microsoft, in the early days of the personal computer era made a very shrewd business decision to open their OS to developers, thus allowing for the development of a plethora of software, but from a computer science point of view Microsoft are hardly at the top of the food chain. There is a vast casm between good and good enough.

Franssu says:

Re: Paraphrase

To me, Sony is going to fall long before Microsoft. Sure Microsoft is shooting its own foot with Vista, but Sony is enthusiastically blasting its two feet with Blu-Ray, Cell, PS3, UMD, rootkits, all these because of their schizophrenia of being members of two industries whose interest are completely opposite (Big Content and Consumer Electronics) and their own habit of always making formats nobody wants (Beta, MiniDisc, SACD, UMD, Blu-Ray…).

Yes, I know, there’s no connection with the subject of the original post.

Christian Einfeldt (user link) says:

Re: But what about the splintering of the Internet?

I do worry about the splintering of the Internet. The power of the Internet is greatest when it is not splintered. I am concerned that the great monster, ATT, is going to continue to buy up the competition, and then insist on multiple layers of tiering. It seems as if only mesh networks will prevent that from happening, at least in the US. If anyone has more hopeful news, please feel free to email it to me at einfeldt at gmail dot com. Thanks.

Mr. K. (user link) says:

I don't have cable TV.

I use DSL and don’t have cable TV and see no reason why a company that I don’t directly do business with should influence a service I recieve from another company. The dirty truth? I think cable companies are realizing that eventually, with VOIP, PVRs and TV over broadband, more people will choose to do without cable TV and its annoying pricing schemes. I’m talking about how you pay a certain fixed price for a package of channels you don’t need. Why not simply let the customer choose what channels they want and charge them based on that? This attempt to control broadband is just a power grab by an industry that is scared of the future and wants to lock in power and profits before anybody realizes it. It has nothing to do with providing the customer with better service or a better product.

RMX says:

He may be right, but for different reasons

The one thing the phone & cable companies did better than Google is buy Congress.

I could see laws passed that for “homeland security” you can only use your ISPs content and VOIP and messaging services. They already started by insisting on features for voice chat service providers (emergency phone features for skype).

A pretty likely next step will be that if your content provider doesn’t have the same wiretap-room that AT&T has, it’ll be illegal too.

The cable companies can’t compete technologically; but as monopolies, they sure play well politically. And monopolies will always be better at bribing politiciansn than fair competitors because their monopoly (once insured by the politician) insures they’ll have the margins to share.

Ron Martinez (user link) says:

Clueless. Let him sleep.

This character doesn’t know what he doesn’t know about user-generated content, meta-filtering, social networking, community, alternative rights models, remix culture, cross-device communication, “identity” production, blogging, podcasting, application mashups, tagging, and on and on.

Not just buzzwords. An actual shorthand for important functionality that defines the modern web.

Yahoo! has nothing to worry about from this pipe salesman.

JD says:

Watching Public WiFi

I, for one, am keeping a close eye on the public WiFi rollouts in Anaheim, Philly, San Fran, (and many other cities, those are just the first.) 1Mbps for $20/month will allow millions to finally ditch dial-up for good. I worked for one of the early DSL pioneers and am still amazed how the telco monopolies completely crushed competitive DSL players through their backdoor government connections (govmt regulations). Google now has more money to spend on lobbying than telcos and/or cable cos and we all know congressmen are greedy. I truly believe, that even in this wacky system, our legislators realize that our country needs more Googles and not less of them. With jobs flowing overseas, even inept Congressmen like that guy in Alaska, know America’s competitive edge can’t be squandered away to protect old-line industries like cable and telco.

DV Henkel-Wallace says:

Err, what's a portal?

I think his model is pretty broken even if you don’t drag “net neutrality” into it. Google isn’t a “portal” in the sense Yahoo! is trying to be (at least they are competing on models). Their site design shows that they get that, at least. It’s not a destination in and of itself, just a pathway (like the carriers are, come to think of it). But Google found a way to monetise the sliver of time people spend there, but unlike the carriers did so in an environment of actual competition.

The carriers actually remind me of the TV networks. Does anyone say “Hey, let’s see what’s on NBC tonight!” Naah, nobody really identifies a program with a network; now that the TV infrastructure is ubiquitous they have no real value. The carriers are stuck there too.

But I wonder: outside the valley, do people feel differently about carriers, networks, or “portals?”

Hexanite says:

Good luck fighting Google.

I’d like to see AT&T come up with something that displaces Google. Google sells information. Information is the currency of the Internet.

What happens when Google stops selling ads to AT&T? (which is well within their rights)

What happens when you cannot find your local Cingular/AT&T store on Google maps?

What happens when email from AT&T is “caught” in gmail’s spam filter?

What happens when a search for “phone company” does not return AT&T as a result?

Google (and MSN) have not even started to play hardball.

This whole issue will only end up badly for the telcos.

Gabriel Tane says:

Paraphrase

“Re:”‘s deleted due to annoyance…

“Godwin’s Law has been evoked. You lost.”

-A different anonymous coward

Thanks for the opinion, but I don’t subscribe to that insipid piece of drivel masquerading as a “law”; and even if I did, I don’t feel that it applies to my statement.

I admit no defeat… especially since I wasn’t trying to “win”. This isn’t a debate club with a trophy for first place. If someone wants one though, I’m sure they can Google a site that sells them.

Agog (user link) says:

Paraphrase (correction)

Correction: I meant to say that 80% of the internet is powered by Unix and NOT IIS.

Also, I was responding to “Dummy” and not “Garbriel”. I cannot find the source for the statistics I quoted (80% of the net is powered by Unix). I believe it was WebSiteStory.com but cannot seem to locate the document. I do recall, however, that the ratio of Unix->MS servers was 2-to-1 in favor of Unix.

It is also important to make the distinction that when discussing computing it is important to clarify which market segment is being discussed. Microsoft has the clear advantage in personal and desktop computing but does not seem to fair very well in other, more robust areas. Sun Microsystems and Unix do quite well in supercomputing and server farm scenarios.

This is, however, all completely off topic. It is unlikely, even if the “pipe owners” have their way, that the major content providers will disappear. Google and Yahoo are far too influential at this point to be run out of town so easily. Both rank in the top 10 most popular sites on the web.

Google in particular is firmly planted in the public psyche and vocabulary. The “holy grail” in branding is to have the name of one’s product become synonymous with the thing or action – think Band Aide, Kleenex, Q-Tip. Google has become a verb – to google something is to search for it online. Google is not solely a search engine, though. The company is becoming increasingly more diversified which lends itself to stability and longevity.

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