NuCable: “Company That’s About to Kill Cable Television”

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“Ford Killed the Horse & Buggy.

“Microsoft Killed the Typewriter.

“Apple Killed the Compact Disc.

“Now Introducing… The Company That’s About to Kill Cable Television.”

That’s the intro to the latest ad from the Oxford Club… which thinks this secret company “NuCable” will be able to revolutionize the cable TV business and make all of our lives better (and, of course, make us rich). The spiel is much like growth stock pitches of the past, with intimations that if only you could have foreseen the market upheaval brought by Ford, Microsoft and Apple you would be rich … and now you have the chance to get in early on the next upheaval.

This is not all that different from the argument the Motley Fool has been making in their ads about “Television 2.0″ for a year and a half, but this time the ad is from the Oxford Club, and this time they’re touting not the content owners (the Fool was teasing Disney, Scripps Networks Interactive, and Discovery) but an “upstart” competitor that’s going to be a better distributor than your cable company.

This is the crux of the argument:

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“In what could be just a few months, a deep-pocketed and highly respected tech company will unveil a secret project that will soon become known as the “iTunes of the television industry.”

“I like to call it ‘NuCable.’ But keep in mind, virtually nobody knows about this yet.

“The products’ origins are somewhat shrouded in mystery…

“It was initially developed in a locked-down underground facility.

“(With no front door!)

“Only a handful of the project’s creators were allowed in through secure, underground tunnels.

“But for the vast number of people in America eternally frustrated with their cable companies, this secret project will be a godsend.”

And there’s plenty more — folks have been predicting an awesome next-generation television offering for more than a decade now, powered by the internet… and it’s sort of here, through services like Netflix and Apple TV and Hulu, but it’s not quite enough to overcome “real” TV. Here’s a bit more from the ad:

“Americans are ready for a cable alternative that really works. And in the coming months they’re finally going to get it.

“The Consumers Are Ready… The Media Is Buzzing… And ‘NuCable’ Is the Perfect Storm

“Over the last few months, details have finally started to emerge. And what I’m seeing is exactly what millions of cable customers have been crying out for.

“Keep in mind, there’s only a few media members privy to the technology behind what I’m calling ‘NuCable.’

“But they’re ALL buzzing with excitement…

Business Insider calls it a ‘Holy Grail for consumers.’

Forbes predicts, ‘It will kill the cable industry as we know it.’

“Reuters says the product goes beyond anything Apple or Netflix offers… Daily Finance is calling it a ‘game changer.’”

Any more clues for us? We do get a bit …

“This firm’s share prices have stayed comfortably in the mid-40s over the last year.

“But I can easily see it launching up to $100 to $150 to $185 once NuCable goes live… Even reaching Google levels of $1200, once millions of Americans make the switch.”

(And he includes a chart of this stock, with the name blacked out, going up from the high-$40s to $250 in 2014. Which is, frankly, ridiculous…. more on that in a minute.)

A few more clues for those of you playing along at home? Sure…

“The company behind NuCable is perhaps one of the most important tech firms in the country.

“They’re involved in virtually EVERYTHING that we take for granted.

“Cell phones… computers… tablets… and thousands of other gadgets we use every day. This company has their hand in nearly all of it.

“Again, this is NOT Apple or Google or Samsung that I’m talking about….

“Tens of millions of people are using this company’s products right now.

“Even if they weren’t on the verge of releasing one of the most transformative innovations in American history, they would still be a great investment.

“They handily beat their most recent earnings estimate. They have 3 years of steadily increasing revenue.

“They also pay a solid dividend. Analysts have referred to it as ‘one of the best dividend stocks.’”

That’s about all I can stand to excerpt for you — you can feel free to check out the original ad here if you want to double check my solution. But I do have the teaser solution for you… this is… our old favorite Verizon (VZ)

I know — it’s a letdown, right?

But there you have it.

Verizon may not be on all the top ten lists of most hated businesses in the country, but they’re probably pretty close — particularly if you’re asking folks whether they like paying $400 a month for their family’s phones. Those lists are generally populated with all the folks you have to pay every month, so competitor AT&T and all the cable companies and several electric utilities are usually on those lists (and no cable company has every gone broke because you hate them).

And Verizon is now the sole owner of Verizon Wireless, a gem of an asset with a valuable LTE network, as well as the owner of the still-fledgling FiOS network that’s competing with the cable companies for the “triple play” business (voice, broadband, TV) in many areas of the country.

I own Verizon shares because they were a stupidly easy buy when they carried a 6-7% dividend yield a few years back, but they’re still a fine stock to own for the gradually growing dividend… and I’d wager that the dividend is why most people are in the stock. Like other telecoms and utilities, it’s a pretty classic ‘blue chip’ kind of stock.

It’s also huge. Verizon is a $200 billion market cap company (a $300 billion company if you include debt), and it’s not growing particularly fast.

So why the big push? This spiel from Dave Baumann, the Oxford Club’s media analyst, is based on Verizon’s purchase earlier this year of OnCue, Intel’s “not quite ready for prime time” internet television business, which could indeed end up being a nice puzzle piece as they push to improve and extend FiOS.

But I’d guess that they’re probably not going to begin offering the US what it wants (a la carte cable subscriptions) in the next year or two — OnCue had some good deals with providers to do just that, but part of the reason they probably got decent content deals was that they were a small and experimental project. Big changes are certainly possible but, in truth, it’s pretty hard to see the Verizon behemoth being the company that shakes up and unbundles the at-home entertainment business, not after all of their years of aggressively bundling and tacking on services in much the same way that the cable companies do.

But sure, I guess it’s possible and I’d be delighted to see it — even if Verizon’s broadband doesn’t reach Gumshoe Mountain just yet (we’re still pretty much stuck with Comcast for TV and broadband in this corner of the world). But even if they do this, Verizon’ stock isn’t ever going to go up 10,000% like Apple after iTunes, or 1,000% like Netflix over their hot three year run a little while ago, regardless of the fact that the Oxford folks include those charts to get us excited.

So… Intel’s TV business that they sold to Verizon is not going to fundamentally change the way the company works overnight, but it might make Verizon’s FiOS better (this will apparently enable them to incorporate more IPTV into FiOS, providing more interactivity and on demand features than cable can by itself, and they’ve already been investing in improving their network and making FiOS work with Verizon’s wireless network to provide content across devices). And that’s a good thing.

OnCue also comes with some deals with content providers, though it’s up in the air how those deals will scale inside Verizon’s world. There was good coverage of the OnCue deal in Barron’s here (it only cost Verizon $200-300 million, almost a rounding error for both Intel and Verizon). Barron’s earlier very laudatory piece about the OnCue business, back when it looked like Intel was actually going to spend it into existence for consumers, is here if you want more description of the possibilities of the service and the technology.

Verizon is a good company, I think it’s pretty well and aggressively managed, and they have a huge customer base in an oligopoly. I own the stock and I won’t be selling it anytime soon unless something strange happens, but I’m counting on it as a consistent 5% yielder and I’ll be surprised if it ever beats the market in an up year.

And no, I don’t think Verizon is about to kill cable television — and I will be flabbergasted if Verizon’s stock price moves by triple digits (i.e., goes up 100% or more) in the next three years, let along 1,000%… but I suppose it would be reasonable for the stock to double in 5-10 years if they get a better hold on home entertainment, and I’m happy to see the dividend compound during that time.

They’re also, of course, not working in a vacuum — Comcast and all the cable companies are changing cable TV, too, and cable companies have great broadband pipes into a lot more homes than are served by Verizon FiOS.

So sure, buy Verizon if you like. But you’ll probably still end up hating either Verizon or your cable company in five years.

That’s about all I can tell you about Verizon’s secret “NuCable” business — think it’ll end up making us all rich? Looking forward to seeing the next generation of OnCue in your living room? Let us know what you’re thinking with a comment below.


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47 Responses to NuCable: “Company That’s About to Kill Cable Television”


  1. we are being barraged with offers here in Manhattan for Verizon, going head to head with the cable firms by offering something called Fios, fiber optic. This is another form of cable for Internet and TV. Of course Manhattan is easy to wire up because we all live on top of each other, not on top of a mountain miles from anyone else like the gumshoe does.
    So far I have resisted the temptation to switch but one of these days they’ll get my business, especially if, as it looks like will happen, our rotten cable company, Time Warner, will be gobbled up by the gunshoe’s rotten cable company, Comcast.

    Like(2)

    • Hi Vivian,
      Hold on to TW –or Comcast if it goes that way–as long as you can. We’ve had FiOS for 2.5 years now and seen the monthly tab go from $99 intro offer to 255 with no change in our units or services. And there’s no end in sight, of course. The TV stutters a lot, goes mute, cuts recordings short (we always miss Jon Stewarts” Moment of Zen”) and throws ad banners onscreen way too frequently. We hate it, but we bought the stock anyway.
      Gumshoe is right on as usual. Fun article. Thanks, Travis. I’ll go check the ticker and maybe try a covered call at say 70?

      Like(1)

  2. I calculate the fair value of discounted free cash flow for VZ to be 59 per share; it chart suggests that the stock could be bullish or bearish but if it rose to 50 probably would be bullish over the mid-term.

    Like(0)

  3. What a letdown. I got the pitch from Oxford (I am one of their subscribers to their cheap service, the Communique, not their premium ones so they send me every pitch on earth for the premium advisories and yes I was one of those who forwarded it to gumshoe) and it actually got my hopes up for a-la-carte TV programing. Darn.

    Like(1)

  4. I thought it was a new channel with ears and black and white with exersize remote control and go look if they had a 8 track adapter for sound beyond belief, sounds like new health care or affordable care you can watch how to do check ups( say ah). Travis you are good stay that way , I like your 1 bill a year deal maybe we could have a contest for the irregulars winner get 1 year of thrills ILL chip in like the Dollar on the voter ballot the govt. has with Lois Learner joke, but I chip in the other THIS WAY WE KNOW WE HAVE A WINNER for a Gumshoe Trophy!

    Like(0)

      • Frank, You really get around! Do you still use an 8track? You know that vinly is making a huge comeback! Thank everyone that we kept my dads Jazz and Big band albums! Toast!

        Like(0)

          • Sorry Frank, but my last reply to you went somewhere else! Not sure why but in a nutshell, The only wax is between my ears!

            Like(0)

        • I’ve still got a scratchy copy of I like “Bread and Butter” on a 45rpm. But, back to the crust, lol, of the matter, the company in question is none other than Dollar Tree Cable(DTC). They are a fraction of the price and have a big cash reserve. Dave Bauman says, keep an eye out for them !

          Like(1)

  5. I was a Directv subscriber for 14 years and for the last five years I tried to get their HD service, but their installers couldn’t see the HD satellites for the trees even though my SD Directv had excellent signal strength. So Verizon Fios finally won my business, but TV programming is getting so riddled with commercials that I hope someone can come up with a replacement for TV, no matter who delivers the signal. I understand the need for commercials, but some of the programming I have watched recently has five minutes of multiple commercials, breaks back to the program and two minutes later they are back to commercials. No wonder Netflix and others are getting more business with continues streaming of video.

    Like(0)

    • We refuse to watch commercials. We dvr and skip them. My wife watches the young and the restless daily. The program lasts an hour, but without the commercials it’s 36 minutes. The only exception I make is the morning news that I have while I get ready for work, and even at that I DVR it while I do other things. Darn lawyers, car dealers, auto insurance, and drug companies constantly bombarding me with BS. I don’t know how the broadcasters are going to make any money in the future when no one advertises because no one watches them any more.

      Like(0)

      • Roger Densley,
        When I replaced Directv with Verizon FiOS I installed the multiroom HD DVR so we can now fast forward through the commercials that are becoming more frequent and consumes more of the air time that could be used for entertainment programming. But, before the switch to Verizon I had noted more and more reality programming that is really stupid with senseless content and bad language. I’ve also noticed Verizon has multiple channels with the same programming (both standard and high definition). Thus Verizon is able to increase their channel count without giving the consumer any new content. One channel I wanted to keep when I switched was WGN in Chicago, but the WGN that Verizon carries is not the same WGN found on Directv. Verizon’s WGN channel is WGN American with completely different content. Years ago we lived in Northern Indiana so we like to keep up with the Chicago local news and weather, but WGN America cuts most of that out. Hopefully soon the consumer will be able to pick and choose the channels we want to watch instead of bundling multiple packages of channels just to get a few channels in a specific package. I specifically liked the way Directv allowes the customer to set up their own favorites that can be moved around on the screen to group similar programming together. FiOS allows the consumer to set up favorites, but I have yet to figure out how to group like programming together, thus I don’t have to move through multiple channels to go from one to another without memorizing channel numbers. Maybe one day the industry will see how streaming video is impacting their bottom line and get back to entertaining the consumer with minimal commercials and trash programming.

        Like(3)

  6. I work Verizon FiOS tech support and we recently received training on a new TV service and items that hasn’t been released yet. I think it’s more of an incremental upgrade.

    Like(0)

  7. Fios sounds like a similar offering as AT&T’s U-verse, which is a goof service but not too successful in wresting market share away from cable. People are just too lazy — and the ones who want to change fall for Dish or DirecTV first. No wonder Verizon is struggling there. It might be a good substitute blue chip though, for their LTE network alone.

    Like(0)

  8. Who can afford cable anymore? I had to cancel cable 2 years ago when the last federal income tax hit.

    Like(0)

  9. I had cable from a small regional telephone company. The cable provider shut off my HD cable boxes about twice a week for no reason I can discern.
    Recently switched to DirecTV just to try it after being talked into it by a cute gal at Sam’s Club with promises of more channels for about the same price as cable. I AM getting 2xs as many channels as cable but MOST of the extras channels are 24 hour sellers of crap I have no interest in buying. However I also got about 55 Premium TV channels for 3 months AND NFL access to ALL the games thru Super Bowl for 2014 season for no charge. I really only watch the ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX local channels and about 30 other HD channels. I would be EXTREMELY happy to pay A-La-Cart for JUST the channels I watch as long as I could pay a reasonable price!
    At the end of my two year DTV contract I will probably switch back to cable because I am sure my DTV cost will double!
    I WOULD NOT be happy getting TV over the internet because my internet service REALLY SUCKS!

    Like(0)

    • Hey BJ,
      Why not watch ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX in full HD via an antenna? I fitted one in my attic 3 years ago and have been saving over $100 per month ever since.

      Like(0)

      • I have been experimenting with antennas and can NOT get it to work properly.
        I am in NY area and can get some channels, but not others. I wish I could find
        some help with this.

        Like(0)

        • Tw; If you are talking about problems in the city they may have no solution.That is a high density communication area and to pick a clean signal out of the fog is increasingly difficult.
          It might be possible to use multiple highly directional antennas or use a rotator to get more stations but not really likely.

          Like(0)

    • bj; Adrian beat my comment,,small regional remote telephone co. I use also has “problems”,,,,streaming for me is not useable option. I get hdtv via antenna & tho that also has problems is best option for me. I often use Netflix dvds to watch old tv series,, PBS,, + movies.

      Like(0)

    • Bj. you don’t live just out of a small town in Texas do you? Your statements sounds like were I live just out of town in Texas. It took me 3 years to get internet here,and it works just a little faster than the old dial up and it stops working about 5 or 6 times a week. It does no good to call them they got there same ole spill its not us its your computer,turn off wait 10 min’s. and it will reset. Yet that never works and the wind will blow and it comes back on. Now I all so have DirecTv the basic at $137. a month of 24 hr. add’s. for god only knows what on most of it. Of course HD s out here,good thing is I’am old enough to be to blind and deaf to know if its HD or plan ole what ever tv.
      So yes there could be a new service out there that would replace what we call our wide world of what we watch and see and read e-mail and you know all the stuff we think we need to live day to day.It would need to be easy to work since God knows we are not the smartest people on earth. It needs to be cheap and stay that way not the ole 6 month’s at cheap than God help us its time to pay out half our check to watch plan. I know ole man stop dreaming its not going to happen, That cheap part just want fly.

      Like(0)

    • I cancelled out of Comcast cable also and opted for an antennae. Local channels plus a lot of older programming such as old movies and sit-coms, etc. At least I am not paying to watch a bunch of commercials and public broadcasting has no commercials in the middle of a program. There always at the end. I get an excellent HD picture and I have Netflix, may subscribe to Hulu also, so I can watch all issues of the Good Wife.

      Like(0)

    • If it wasn’t for the NFL Ticket, I’d leave Direct TV as well. Like you, I’d happy with about 20 channels and they can shove all the rest. If only someone would allow you to pick those few channels you actually watch and only charge for them, then they’d own the TV business and put all these sob’s out of business.

      Like(0)

  10. Here in my small MN town we have lots of TV options: Charter cable, local telephone company fiber optic, DISH, and DirecTV. The game I have to play with them to get lots of programming for cheap is to switch every 1-2 years. They all constantly offer “new customer only” deals that are 30-50% lower than their regular price. In my latest switch, installing this coming Monday, Charter agreed to pay the exit fee to DISH (up to $200) in order to get me out of my current 2 year contract without extra cost to me. When are they going to start treating their long-term loyal, proven payment-reliable customers as good as they treat the new customers? BTW, my latest deal is under $99/mo. including 250+ channels, HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Starz, Encore and 50MBps internet service. No long-term contract and my pricing is guaranteed for 1 year. Ain’t free-market competition great? Too bad the government can’t figure that out with respect to healthcare.

    Like(0)

  11. A few years ago in the Seattle area suburbs Verizon was aggressively doing a FIOS build-out. They unfortunately stopped just short of my house just before selling the local phone service provider, who then did not continue adding onto the system. However, I did speak with a couple Verizon techs at the time who mentioned a project to feed suburbia via a wifi system rather than continue fiber to each house. That is, adding to cell towers some type of high bandwidth signal capability for more stationary (not cell) use. I did not hear anything else after that, but I have always wondered.

    Like(0)

  12. I have to agree with Travis’ very well written analysis. VZ is a good stock but it’s not the only game in town and their competitors aren’t exactly resting on their laurals. I doubt VZ will see triple digits any time soon.

    Like(0)

  13. I myself wouldn’t want to kill cable, but I would be happy to read the obituary!

    Like(0)

  14. I live in the suburbs where FiOs and AT&T U-verse are blocked at the county line. I suspect that’s the case in many areas, so it’s unlikely VZ will raise revenue much by garnering new customers with fancy programming and instead will continue to raise their rates. I had Direct TV but it went out every time a cloud passed by, so went bottom-fishing with Comcast, who I blame for all the trouble. Am holding VZ as a div stock, nothing more.

    Like(0)

  15. Hey Doc that’s funny. I did pull the trigger on my local cable company and agree with Adrian’s comment above. I now have 18 free HD channels more time with my kids and walks with my wife, the side effects should be more money in my pocket and improved health.
    A win win for me. Some shows is miss but, can pick them up off the internet a week or so later.

    Like(0)

  16. Travis,
    What is this small company that Marc Richenf…….is talking about as his “Web 3.0″, “Oxford Income Letter” , “digital economy”, “could be No. 1 IT Vendor”, “emerging applications”, possible delivery drones manufacturer, which is almost sure to make us all just filthy rich almost overnight???????????
    Henry

    Like(0)

  17. OK If I put my antenna back up, do I need a transformer from analog to digital? I have tried the “roulette” version of cable and dish TV providers and wound up disliking them all. I am considering Netflix and antenna as the final solution.

    Like(0)

  18. While my VZ experience was awful in NY due to erroneous monthly biling, I am looking fwd to seeing VZ in Canada now to break the monopoly here…. At least, I’ll get the new customer discount!!!

    Like(1)

  19. Crazy idea…if people had any sense at all, they’d get rid of cable TV, spend $200.00 or so, and put up an antenna. ONE TIME COST. Well, they tend to only last about 20-30 years…but if you figure on getting a new antenna every 10 years, that’s $20.00 a year, as opposed to what some people are paying every month.

    But, hey…some people are “just too smart about money” to NOT waste it…

    Like(0)

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