News

Keep It Simple

7/04/2008 8:00 PM Eastern

I’m ready to turn my laptop into a Frisbee from the 14th floor.

The Web site is misfiring, my Blackberry isn’t synching, and the help desk has me on hold.

Sound familiar?

To a certain extent, technology controls us — not vice versa. We’ve become so dependent on computers, PDAs and Web sites that we’re insulted when they don’t work, as if the device itself were willfully involved in sabotage. As Thoreau wrote, we have become tools of our tools.

Companies have this problem too. In her cover story this week, Leslie Ellis shows how essential it is for cable companies to untangle technology knots as the digital equipment world becomes increasingly fractured. The early pole climbers who stretched wire across the country 60 years ago had no way of knowing that their simple antenna service — a better way to receive broadcast signals — would blossom into so many complex businesses.

Over time, the cable industry, built by so many family-run firms, has consolidated, by necessity, into a handful of corporate giants. Cable’s top operators could meet in a phone booth these days.

With such great scale come many little problems. Comcast’s Downingtown, Pa., facility, one of several erected by big cable operators, is a giant tester and translator of technology, a chance for the cable giant to troubleshoot the latest services before they go live. And hopefully, a way to prevent questions like, “Why doesn’t this work right?” In her typically straightforward fashion, Leslie details cable’s efforts on these pages and in a video tour of the Downingtown facility on our Web site (www.multichannel.com).

The effort is vital to the industry’s future as it continues to transform, even now, from a network of cobbled-together systems into a seamless, self-healing digital network run more and more by software. The No. 1 priority for cable operators now is to drive profits by launching new services and products.

As some readers have noticed, we’re also trying to simplify things here at Multichannel News. In the weeks since I arrived here from our sister publication Broadcasting & Cable, we’ve endeavored to make consuming our magazine — and Web site — a more satisfying experience. You’ll notice more cross-pollination between our print publication and our Web site as we try to meet the demands of our readers and advertisers. We’re still at it.

In complicated times, our mission is simple: Deliver the news that matters most to the cable-TV business. In doing so, we serve a multitude of people who link to it in some way — operators, programmers, viewers, advertisers, bankers, analysts, lobbyists, regulators, engineers and many cable competitors. The challenge for us is to earn your trust by delivering — and sometimes deciphering — the news in the fastest, most comprehensive way we can.

In a perfect world, everyone will get something from the fruits of our reporting. Let me know how we’re doing.

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