Canal Plus Taps Ex-GIer as Sales Chief

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With future market share for middleware and conditional-access systems still up for grabs in North America, Canal Plus U.S. Technologies has lured a veteran broadband-sales executive to aid the company in its quest to carve a niche for its product line.

Canal Plus is expected to announce today (July 17) that it has appointed David Moss, a former General Instrument Corp. and Motorola Broadband Communications Sector sales executive, to the post of senior vice president of sales.

In his new role, Moss will be responsible for the company's sales revenue in North America.

Talks about a possible move to Canal Plus started just prior to this year's National Show in New Orleans, he said.

"I was looking for an opportunity to focus in on something in the industry that wasn't quite as broad in scope," Moss said. At Motorola Broadband, he handled sales for the company's entire product line of data, transmission and set-top equipment.

A proposed three-way merger of parent company Canal Plus S.A., Vivendi S.A. and The Seagram Co. Ltd. that will create a media and communications giant called Vivendi Universal also played a part in his decision. That merger "really piqued my interest," Moss added.

Already widely deployed in Europe and Asia, Canal Plus' "MediaHighway" middleware solution and "MediaGuard" conditional-access system have only scratched the surface in the U.S.-notably a deployment on AT & T Broadband's (formerly MediaOne Group Inc.'s) open standards-based, multivendor digital platform in Jacksonville, Fla.

Canal Plus expects Moss to help fill that domestic gap. "Dave is probably the addition we needed to push the U.S. team forward," vice president of marketing Arthur Orduña said, noting that the company hopes "to evangelize the church of open standards in the United States."

As senior director of national accounts at Motorola Broadband, Moss-who joined GI in 1992 and was responsible for the company's sales relationship with AT & T Broadband-managed a 20-person sales team and helped to drive more than $1 billion in sales.

In his new role at Canal Plus, Moss' onus will run along similar lines-to put the company and its products on the North American map, strike deals with MSOs and overbuilders and, inevitably, funnel money into the company coffers.

To that end, Canal Plus is expected to harness Moss' U.S. cable experience and valuable relationships with MSO decision-makers and use them as a springboard to grab coveted market share.

Although the cable industry has experienced massive consolidation during the past few years, its unique fraternal quirks still linger, and insider connections remain as important as ever.

"The technology itself only gets you so far," The Yankee Group analyst Jim Penhune said. "Companies need some insider access if you're someone coming from the outside trying to get in. You need connections or need to have people who know how things work in the U.S. cable industry."

One company that has learned that lesson, Penhune added, is video-on-demand player Concurrent Computer Corp., which was a relative unknown when it tried to break into the cable market in 1997.

Discovering it lacked the industry experience it would require to make a realistic impact, Concurrent took on former Scientific-Atlanta Inc. engineering executive Steve Nussrallah as a consultant and board member in 1998. It elevated him to acting president of its XSTREME division in 1999 and named him president and CEO of Concurrent early this year.

Under Nussrallah's auspices, Concurrent has already racked up deals with a number of top-tier MSOs, including Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc. and Time Warner Cable.

Moss, a cable insider himself, agreed that the industry has retained its congenial characteristics despite consolidation. "I think that's what makes the cable industry unique," he added. "There's still a lot of relationship selling, and it's still a close industry."

Having a well-connected sales executive such as Moss on board at Canal Plus will only make the company a stronger contender in the United States, The Carmel Group vice president of business development Sean Badding said.

"They're picking up the right kind of executives to run the market here in the United States. Based on where they are in Europe, they obviously have the means to be successful in the United States, but it's a tough, competitive market," Badding said.

It could take some time-perhaps as long as two years-before Canal Plus emerges as a leading middleware and conditional-access supplier in the United States, Badding said. But he's "optimistic" about the company's long-term prospects.

Moss, meanwhile, believes the market-share clock for Canal Plus is ticking at an even faster clip. "I think the next six months will be very important for us as far as a positioning standpoint," he said. "[MSO] decisions are being made fairly quick. The biggest hurdle for us right now is to get out there and get our message out on the street."

That message has been and will continue to be openstandards-based systems that enable cable operators to choose interactive applications and equipment from several vendors, Moss noted. Although cable-based interactive services are still in their "infancy," he added, the industry's steep digital ramp-up should drive demand for Canal Plus' services.

Asked whether Canal Plus' participation in Jacksonville could spark additional deployment agreements with AT & T Broadband, Moss would only relay that he believes the marketing and engineering team there is still evaluating the merits of the system. "They might still be in the decision-making mode on whether or not to move forward with that technology," he added.

AT & T Broadband could be inching ever closer to its next open-system decision. According to an industry source, the MSO's Minneapolis system-another former MediaOne property-has yet to launch a digital product, and it could be next on the MSO's digital, open-standards-based agenda.

An AT & T Broadband official said the company has not made any formal announcements about future digital launches.

While Moss tries to generate new sales revenue for Canal Plus, he leaves behind some big shoes to fill at his former employer. Motorola Broadband said the feelers are already out as far as seeking a replacement.

"As of today, we have not announced the replacement for Dave Moss, but we have identified and are working with both internal and external candidates," Motorola Broadband corporate vice president and director Matt Aden said in a prepared statement.

Peter Wronski, the company's vice president of North American sales, will take over Moss' spot in the interim, Aden added.