Readers reflect on cableco/telecom impact on wholesale monitoring space

Readers speculate about what’s next for new entrants making inroads into security
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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

YARMOUTH, Maine—The fourth annual Barnes Associates/SSN/CSAA Wholesale Monitoring study found the number of monitored accounts was up 19 percent in 2013, a growth figure the authors believe is being propelled by the influx of cablecos and telecoms into the industry.

While growth of this magnitude is usually seen as unambiguously good, this wasn’t necessarily the case among readers who responded to the latest SSN News Poll. Some readers believe the success of cablecos and telecoms in the alarm space does not bode well for the industry.

Still, a slim majority—41 percent—said their entrance into the market benefits the security space, compared with 37 percent who said the entrants will crowd out the smaller players in the industry. Twenty-two percent of respondents said they were unsure what kind of impact the new market participants would have.

“The marketing campaigns of the telecoms and cablecos are generating more interest and business for traditional companies,” said Eddie Buckley, owner of Sheffield, Ala.-based Certified Alarm. “They are also participating at the state and national level trade associations, which is beneficial to all.”

He added: “However, based on past experience, it is unlikely the alarm business is going to generate the ROI to keep them interested in the long run.”

Another reader echoed that skepticism about their long-term presence in the market but offered a different rationale for why their entry could benefit the industry. “The telecoms and cablecos have tried many times to enter the security marketplace unsuccessfully,” the respondent said. “I feel they are a benefit in the long run because they will end up showing their cards on their inability to service the customers. There may be a short-term pain for established integrators (in the form of decreased new business), but in the long run, it will be the companies that understand the business well that will prevail.”

About one-third of respondents believe the arrival of cablecos and telecoms is but a temporary experiment. But about 51 percent said the companies should take an active role in the industry by joining security associations and addressing some of broader industry concerns, such as false alarms.

One reader said it’s a good sign if this takes place. “As the phone companies have had in the past, cable companies have an advantage, as they are in the home and businesses already with cable, Internet and VOIP,” the respondent noted. “The other side of the coin is that some cable companies have joined industry associations and have made an attempt to work within the industry.”

One reader pointed to a correlation between the dramatic wholesale monitoring account growth and certain aspects of ADT’s earnings. “I find it interesting that during the fourth quarter of 2013, ADT reported earnings difficulties at the same time the unexpected increase in wholesale monitoring occurred. This isn’t a coincidence, and so far the cable companies and telecoms are just increasing the churn of accounts. The average age of ADT accounts is probably pretty high, which makes them vulnerable to being poached.”

That same respondent was also less than sure the increased market awareness would contribute to the growth of the industry at large. “I don’t see the great expansion of market penetration occurring that everyone is predicting—just more predatory competitors coming into the established market.”

David Fursman, an independent consultant in the security, solar and tech industries, said that from an innovation standpoint, the additional competition is bound to push the industry forward. “The industry needs to change and adapt or risk getting left behind by younger, more aggressive companies, like Google,” he said, adding, “Google may just be the catalyst the industry needs to get creative.”

The final question asked readers if a telecom or cableco company will eventually buy a security giant to build scale. The majority (48 percent) said it’s too early to say. Twenty-four percent of respondents said the telecoms and cablecos will end up shedding their security business, while another 28 percent say it’s just a matter of time before a major acquisition takes place.

As one reader put it: “Recurring revenue is their forte, and security is just another addition to their package.”

This is an unscientific poll in which SSN received responses from 104 readers in March and April 2014.