Competition In a Brave, New World

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Competition is a daily
challenge and opportunity for
those of us who work in cable.
Operators attracting and retaining
customers across multiple
services in a dynamic marketplace,
programmers aggregating
hearts and minds (and eyes) as
audiences fragment and new
content platforms emerge — all
against the brave new world of
social media and Web-enabled
technologies and tools. It’s a
turbulent, unpredictable and
extremely energizing time in
our industry.

That’s why the Association of
Cable Communicators chose
a simple and straightforward
theme for this year’s Forum conference
— Competition Everywhere.
Our largest annual event,
Forum gives ACC’s 500 members
— professionals on the front lines
of telling cable’s story — a chance
to come together, share ideas,
recognize excellence and learn
from leaders and experts in our
field, and from each other.

Dictionary definitions of competition
revolve around two or
more parties fighting to achieve a
goal that cannot be shared. A contest,
including a battle for customers,
in which one side wins and
another loses. Cable has already
experienced several manifestations
of this across its history.

Competition from satellite-TV
providers in the 1990s ultimately
led to the development and deployment
of a fully-interactive
digital-cable service that trumps
anything served up on a dish. Cable
providers changed the world
by creating modern broadband,
and then went on to deliver better
phone service than the telcos
were able to manage after 100
years of trying — and the first
real competitive alternative for
consumers since the days of Alexander
Graham Bell. Remember
the CableACE Awards? Now
there are Emmys, more and
more all the time, as cable programming
increasingly defines
the television experience in the
U.S. and around the world. The
evolution of our industry and
what it has accomplished is

But the daily battles continue,
and competitive markets require
cable communicators to be
smarter and more strategic than
their counterparts, to move faster,
seize opportunities, maintain
a relentless focus on those making
the buying or viewing decisions
and work back from there to
achieve a successful result. Competition
does not have to be some
bad thing that is happening to your
business. It’s clear motivation to
be your best, to refine products,
content and value propositions to
their highest possible levels.

From the standpoint of communications,
the dynamic can
be simplified all the way down
to, “we’re better, here’s why,” and
the critical second piece, “they’re
not, here’s why.” Both statements
must be backed by knowledge
and information that is compelling,
accessible and credible, not
spin or hyperbole. Consumers
are sophisticated and increasingly
engaged and motivated to
share experiences and perspectives
with others, as is the media,
and the scrutiny of statements
or claims is never greater than
in a highly-charged competitive
environment, with a variety of
players pursuing success that depends
upon your failure.

When we come together next
week in New York as part of Cable
Diversity Week, we will talk
competition and communications
tactics with key infl uencers
and industry leaders including
Sanford C. Bernstein senior
analyst Craig Moffett — interviewed
by Liz Claman of Fox
Business News, National Cable
& Telecommunications Association
CEO Kyle McSlarrow — interviewed
by Multichannel News
editor in chief Mark Robichaux,
and Peter Giles, president of
Giles Communications.

We will also offer up a slate of
panel discussions featuring leading
cable communicators sharing
actionable information and
insight. Finally, we will present
the Beacon Awards, honoring
excellence in communications
and public affairs. Nominees for
the Golden Beacon, ACC’s highest
honor, are C-SPAN’s Video Library,
MTV’s “A Thin Line” and
Time Warner Cable’s “Connect a
Million Minds” — signature programs
that, respectively, provide
the public with access to a comprehensive
video archive of public
aff airs events since 1987, help
children confront the dangers
of digital abuse and ensure that
the next generation of Americans
have the science, technology, engineering
and math skills needed
to secure our future.

Following a successful Cable
Communications Institute in
New York last spring, conducted
in partnership with Syracuse
University’s S.I. Newhouse
School of Public Communication,
ACC is looking forward to
next week’s Forum and an opportunity
to come together and
continue our efforts to raise the
level of communications work
being conducted across all of cable.
This core mission is increasingly
critical for our industry,
given the active state of competition
that defines it.

Jim Maiella is president of the
ACC and vice president of media
relations, Cable & Communications,
for Cablevision Systems.