This next-generation cable company is betting consumers are not yet ready to cut the cord.
Video streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime and devices like Apple TV and Chromecast, have made it easier than ever for consumers to “cut the cord” when it comes to their cable subscriptions. In fact, in 2015 alone, the industry lost more than a million subscribers.
With so many people, especially younger consumers, abandoning traditional cable, why would millennial Eric Kuhn, who has spent his entire career working ahead of the technological curve, leave his job as Hollywood’s first-ever social media agent to help launch a cable company? Because “it’s really cool” says Kuhn of Layer3 TV — the first new cable entry in the pay-TV market in more than a decade.
And of all the places to launch, why would executives of Denver-based Layer3 forgo Los Angeles and New York to recruit their very first customers here in the Washington metropolitan area when they went live last summer? “We’re really a D.C. product,” says Kuhn, the company’s chief marketing and government affairs officer. He believes the cable company’s features are especially appealing to journalists, politicos and TV news junkies. “We’re the only cable company to do three C-SPAN channels in HD,” he enthuses. “And the picture quality is so good that the ticker on CNN is the smoothest running ticker I’ve ever seen!”
Self-admitted “wonkiness” about the ticker and three C-SPAN channels aside, Kuhn says that Layer3, founded by tech industry veteran Jeff Binder and Dave Fellows, a former chief technology officer of now-rival Comcast, is trying to redefine the cable experience by alleviating “pain points” of traditional cable that include frustration with customer service and poor picture quality, and creating new features centered around what the customer wants.
Their answers to customers’ “wants” include a sleek set top box that looks like an Apple product and comes in a variety of colors. The box records up to eight programs at a time and operates wirelessly, so there’s no need for multiple cords or multiple boxes around the house. It works seamlessly with web-based platforms like Netflix and Amazon and even integrates social media so viewers can check Facebook and Twitter while watching their favorites shows. “Our picture is incredible,” Kuhn says, adding that the company is a leader in 4K (or Ultra HD) content. Layer3 also touts itself as green, and installers travel in electric vehicles like Teslas or the BMW i3.
But will it resonate with viewers poised to switch away from pay-TV? Kuhn, 29, a trailblazer whose career highlights include putting Katie Couric and the National Basketball Association on social media before becoming CNN’s first-ever audience interaction producer, calls Layer3 “next generation cable,” and is betting yes—his hipper, cooler company will keep the next generation plugged in. (Packages begin at $79/month; layer3tv.com)