In a move seen as a logical step toward making digital
set-top boxes available at retail, Cablevision Systems Corp. named Joseph Azznara
president of a newly restructured division that will include the company's cable, Internet
and telephony operations, as well as The Wiz stores, in the New York City area.
Azznara, who will report to Cablevision president and CEO
James Dolan, has been with the company for 22 years. Most recently, he was responsible for
telephony, network-infrastructure, customer-service, sales and technical operations
throughout the New York metropolitan area.
The move comes shortly after the company won approval to
spin off its programming and sports assets in Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. as a tracking
stock. According to some analysts, separating the telecommunications and retail segments
of the business is a logical next step.
"If you're going to do a split, you need to put a
public face on this company," SG Cowen Securities Corp. cable analyst Gary Farber
said. "You need to assign some senior responsibility to what is now going to be two
Farber added that including The Wiz consumer-electronics
stores in the new entity also indicates that Cablevision sees its future deployment of
high-speed-data and digital-cable services coming mainly from the retail sector.
"They're placing their bet on retail availability for everything at a certain
point," he added.
In his new role, Azznara will lead the coordinated
management of the deployment, sales, marketing and operations of Cablevision's
broadband-telecommunications offerings, while overseeing and ensuring the integration of
the retail business into the overall digital strategy and operations.
"As Cablevision focuses on its shift from analog to
digital services, Joe's expertise, his ability to develop and execute business strategies
and his team-building and management skills will benefit the company and its
customers," Dolan said in a news release. "I have great confidence in Joe's
Azznara said the company has been working on the
restructuring for about 18 months.
"We have been working very hard to change the way we
operate in the New York metropolitan area," he said. "We've moved from a
geography-based company to a more fleet-of-foot organization to execute our business
strategy. As we move from the analog to the digital world, this becomes a natural next
Cablevision has for the most part held back digital-cable
deployment in favor of its "Optimum TV" advanced-analog service.
On the telephony side, Cablevision's "Optimum
Telephone" product has concentrated on Long Island, N.Y., and parts of Connecticut
for service. But the restructuring appears to pave the way for further deployment of
digital-cable and telephony services.
Azznara said Optimum Telephone is already available through
the company's Norwalk, Conn., The Wiz store, and more could follow in the future. But he
added that the MSO will likely hold off on wide-scale deployment of residential telephony
services until Internet-protocol technology becomes more widely available.
"With consumer telephone, we are going at a much
slower pace," Azznara said. "We're waiting for the transition to IP. We will
continue to grow those markets, but we are not planning on opening up new markets until we
get a read on where IP is going. We will probably look for a hybrid IP solution."
Farber said that although Optimum TV has been successful --
Cablevision has one of the highest revenue-per-subscriber figures in the industry -- it is
clear that digital cable is the future.
"To leverage up the TV set, you're going to have to
deliver more intelligence, whether at the headend or the set-top -- it's their
choice," Farber said. "It looks like they're putting it on the set-top."
Cablevision is already selling cable modems through The
Wiz, so adding set-tops shouldn't be a problem, he added.
Cablevision agreed in September to purchase about 3 million
digital set-top boxes -- worth about $1 billion -- from Sony Corp., and it plans to begin
deploying advanced interactive services throughout its systems this summer.
Azznara said the MSO's digital deployment would also have a
distinct retail flavor.
"Our vision is to make [The Wiz] the place where
people can buy consumer electronics and make it a showplace for connection to our
network," Azznara said.
"Not just devices, but devices that connect through
our network to the rest of the world," he added. "This is a great opportunity to
cross-sell. We are now working hard to cross-train our sales associates at The Wiz to be
an extension of our sales and marketing resources throughout the organization."