Abbas Outlines Agenda at NCTC

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Small cable operators must continue to fight for lower prices for not only programming, but hardware, and work more closely with large MSOs, the new chief of the National Cable Television Cooperative said Wednesday.

Those are some of the priorities set forth by Jeff Abbas, who was promoted last week and named president and CEO of the NCTC, replacing Mike Pandzik. The co-op negotiates contracts with cable networks and vendors for its members.

“It’s more critical for us to have a presence with the large operators as they work through new business ventures,” said Abbas, citing the recent multi-MSO deal for wireless service with Sprint Nextel Corp., which other operators can participate in.

“We need to have a greater understanding and presence in all those sort of larger-scale industry-level issues,” he added.

Abbas, a lawyer and former vice president of programming for Adelphia Communications Corp., most recently served as the NCTC’s senior VP of business affairs.

Last week, Kyle McSlarrow, president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, spoke at the NCTC’s board dinner. “There are issues where small cable can help the NCTA,” Abbas said. “We’re definitely looking forward to having a great relationship with Kyle and his organization.”

One of Abbas’ duties in business affairs was to continue to find ways for the NCTC’s members to get volume discounts on license fees for programming the way that large cable operators do.

The mandate was to find “ways for our members to be treated more like an MSO, and that sometimes means you have to find ways for them to act more like an MSO,” according to Abbas.

He wants that kind of stance taken on the hardware front. “We also need to have a more aggressive thrust on price negotiations over hardware, most particularly set-top boxes,” he added. “That’s the major item today.”

Just last week, in a sign of the group’s proactive stance, the NCTC filed suit against OLN claiming that the network violated their carriage deal by mandating minimum distribution levels for its National Hockey League telecasts. Abbas said the suit spoke for itself.

The NCTC must also guide its members through the digital transition and help them to expand into ancillary services such as on-demand and HDTV, according to Abbas.

And while the American Cable Association, a lobbying group for independent operators, represents political agendas in Washington, D.C., the NCTC must bring its business concerns to the Hill, Abbas added.

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