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Different Approaches to Multi-Play Offerings

Kagan Research as the question, in moving to an era of the "quadruple play," what is the outlook for media's one-trick ponies � even if those tricks are pretty good? For example, established wireless carriers and both U.S. satellite TV companies are giants. But the wireless carriers offer only mobile voice/data. The direct broadcast satellite companies originate only TV service.

Kagan Research senior consultant Sharon Armbrust notes that the focused, pure-play outfits risk being outflanked unless they act. The reason: Cable TV system operators covered the entire consumer landscape when earlier this year they created ventures with cell phone operator Sprint to offer wireless service. So mobile wireless becomes a fourth pillar, joining cable's existing triple play of TV, fixed-wire high speed data and fixed-wire voice.

Due to this changing mediascape, Armbrust foresees a wave of M&A predicated on expanding breadth of consumer services. "Some will go the 'alliance' route," she adds. "But often the cobbled together relationships are not effective long term."

Instead of alliances or mergers, some media companies will try to diversify by building new services from scratch. The two U.S. DBS distributors are considering $1 billion outlays to construct terrestrial broadband networks to provide a return path. This land-based wireless system would provide Internet access and be a pathway for voice and interactive capabilities that DBS does not now possess.

The quadruple-play cablers may be at the top of the food chain in today's media jungle, but they still face growing competition. Telcos AT&T and Verizon Communications are investing billions of dollars in fiber networks capable of delivering video-on-demand and digital video recorder-style services in direct competition with the cable television giants.

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