Cablevision’s Bickham: Cable Can Recapture Share From Satellite TV

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Chicago — There’s no reason the cable industry
cannot reclaim the approximately 30% share of the pay
TV business it lost to DirecTV and Dish Network, Cablevision
Systems president of cable and communications
John Bickham said on a panel of MSO operations
executives here last Thursday at the Cable Show.

“Satellite penetration at 30% is, I think, unnatural and
unsustainable,” Bickham said. “It’s a one-way network.
It has no tricks I know of that we can’t do twice as well.”

The panel, “Across the Universe: Top Cable Executives
Talk Products, Competitors, Service and Strategy,”
was moderated by One Touch Intelligence analyst Matt
Stump.

Bickham also noted that 50% of new broadband customers
are taking the operator’s recently introduced
50-Megabit-per-second tier. “I don’t think there’s any
question that cable has the best delivery mechanism for
video and data,” he said.

The key to competing against the more formidable telcos
is to relentlessly focus on customer satisfaction, Bickham
said.

“In this business, your reputation precedes you,” he
said. Carol Hevey, executive vice president of Time Warner
Cable’s East Region, echoed that point. “Our competitors,
whether they’re AT&T or Verizon ... we have
essentially the same products and similar pricing. So the
way to differentiate ourselves is to make the customer
feel good about choosing us.”

John Pascarelli, Mediacom Communications executive
vice president of operations, agreed that simplicity
is key, but he added: “There’s no magic bullet. The biggest
thing is the bundle. Video-only customers, they churn
out ... With the double play and triple play, it’s a totally
different animal.”

Cox Communications chief operating officer Leo
Brennan addressed the commercial services opportunity,
pegging the market at $6.5 billion in Cox’s footprint.
Wireless phone and data services for business customers
is another $4 billion opportunity on top of that, he
said. In 2010 Cox topped $1 billion in commercial services
revenue.

“It’s just been a great business,” Brennan said. “Our focus
has been small and medium-size companies, that’s
our sweet spot — 80% of our revenues are in that space.”

Cox is offering its “Unbelievably Fair” wireless in a
wholesale agreement with Sprint, and expects to launch
the service in 50% of its footprint by year-end.

Time Warner Cable, meanwhile, is an investor in Clearwire
(with Comcast and Bright House Networks) and offers
4G WiMax service to its subscribers, while Cablevision
is pursuing a different strategy altogether, building out Wi-
Fi access points across its service areas and offering that
service to Optimum Online subscribers. “It’s fast. It’s free.
Our strategy has been to extend the wireless experience
outside the home,” Bickham said.

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