NCTC could drop ‘cable’ as industry group eyes name change

Industry trade group the National Cable Television Cooperative (NCTC) could be dropping the “cable” moniker as it eyes a potential name change.

A trademark application filed by NCTC on May 17 shows one proposal for a new name: National Content & Technology Cooperative. An NCTC spokesperson confirmed to Fierce that the organization will be changing its name, but said it is considering a large number of options and hasn’t yet settled on a final decision.

The spokesperson noted it’s taking time to register potential names, but some of the other choices on the table include simply “NCTC”, “NCTC Online” or even sticking with its current brand of the National Cable Television Cooperative.

The final name will be unveiled this summer on the first day of NCTC’s The Independent Show, which is taking place July 24-27 at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resorts in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

Long-time telecom reporter Steve Donohue spotted the NCTC trademark application. In a recent tweet he pointed out it wouldn’t be the first industry trade group to move away from “cable”, noting NCTA did the same thing in 2016. Formerly the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the group now goes by NCTA – The Internet & Television Association. Another group, ACA Connects, also dropped cable, changing in 2019 from the American Cable Association to its current name ACA – America’s Communications Association.

According to the application, it appears NCTC is also considering losing the image of a coaxial cable that’s currently featured in its logo.

NCTC has been around for nearly 40 years, originally founded by 12 members of the Mid-America Cable Association on the idea that aggregating cable subscribers could help achieve rate savings.

Now, the group consists of over 700 independent cable and broadband companies. NCTC promotes the interests of small and mid-sized cable TV and broadband provider members in negotiating contracts, among other functions.

The group works for its members to create programs to reduce costs, help them procure contracts to gain access to programming content and broadband technology services, introduce new revenue generating opportunities or products, as well as share knowledge and experience among members and suppliers. One recent example is a joint initiative with Qwilt, reached in November, to upgrade NCTC member networks across the U.S. with Qwilt’s CDN technology and services based on open caching. Last summer, it signed a new Master Services Agreement with TiVo, giving members the opportunity to continue receiving the MobiTV IPTV service.

So why the potential shift away from cable? One factor could be that the industry has clearly changed since NCTC formed in 1984, with cable operators in recent years deemphasizing traditional video offerings.

The “Cable Television” part of the group’s name is becoming less accurate over time, said Brett Sappington, VP of Interpret.

“Broadband, not television, is the cash cow for the cable industry,” he told Fierce Video. “Many of the organization’s members are actually moving away from offering their own video service and are, instead, focusing on broadband bundled with streaming services.”

Large cable operators are as well. This week during a JP Morgan investor conference, Comcast CFO Mike Cavanagh spoke about the company’s three business units – and in speaking about cable, he called out investments in the network, wireless and business services, while citing the operator’s 32 million broadband customers. When it came to video, he highlighted its X1 set-top boxes that led to the operating system for its video aggregation platform Flex, and the two together leading to XClass smart TVs (plus a joint venture with Charter in the pipeline for streaming platform and devices).


“Flex, we brought to life, a couple years back, watching the dynamics of cord-cutting, and understanding that having the attachment of video certainly helps with churn, but we don't want to chase unprofitable video bundles,” Cavanagh said, noting Flex provides a way to continue that video relationship without the burden of expensive cable packages.

Comcast also is keen on licensing its operating system and partnering to provide a turnkey technology solution to other U.S. operators as “more and more…are focusing on connectivity and trying to figure out video,” Comcast Cable CEO Dave Watson said last week.

Along with industry changes come some shifts in perception as well. “Cable TV doesn’t necessarily have a positive connotation today,” Sappington noted.

“In fact, many online TV services such as Sling TV or FuboTV emphasize why consumers should ‘drop cable’ and go with their services instead,” he continued.

As for the National Content & Technology Cooperative option for NCTC’s new name found in the trademark application, Sappington said it “speaks more directly to the organization’s core functions” – namely “cooperatively negotiating deals, working with technology providers, and sharing knowledge on innovation among its members.”