Cox Takes Best of Show


With federal regulatory agencies crawling all over corporate America to uncover more ne'er-do-wellers, it was with much trepidation that the editors of Multichannel News
sat down during these dog days of summer to select our "Operator of the Year."

At one time, you could argue that everyone, to one degree or another, is a winner. But those days of innocence and trust are long gone.

Given the alleged sins of Adelphia — and the fact that AOL Time Warner Inc. is under investigation, which unfortunately brings the possibility of dragging Time Warner Cable into the mire — the task was more daunting than ever.

"Who the heck is next?" is not a naïve question to be asking these days.

But Cox Communications Inc. has always stood out as an exceptionally run company. Perhaps now more than ever, it's also an MSO worthy of emulating.

So the vote was unanimous: Cox is the deserving winner of an award that was originally bestowed by our former sister publication, Cablevision, and is now given by Multichannnel News, which absorbed that publication last January.

So don't miss why Cox — and perhaps not your own company — won this award, which will be featured in the Sept. 30 edition of Multichannel News. The awards ceremony will be held in the fall at the Washington D.C. Cable Club, with more specific information on the date to come shortly.

Why Cox? While Wall Street continues to hammer cable companies, including Cox, the MSO posted better-than-expected results in almost every area of its operations for the second quarter, in a very difficult economy.

And that period was not an anomaly, but the result of five years of delivering a sound digital, data and voice strategy.

Under the leadership of Jim Robbins — a CEO who doesn't spout pipe dreams, but instead loses sleep over how his company will execute its strategy — the Cox team brought home the bacon this year on many fronts.

Instead of losing basic-subscriber growth, a worrisome trend that is now almost taken for granted in this competitive landscape, Cox might have turned the tide by posting a better-than-anticipated 1.6 percent in that category.

What that means is that to grow its basic-subscriber numbers, Cox had to steal share from direct broadcast satellite and the telcos. The company did that by essentially selling non-video products to non-video homes.

Also, with Cox's network upgrades almost complete, the MSO is reaping the benefit of its investment through lower churn rates. The bundled offering is clearly working for Cox.

During the second quarter, 21.4 percent of Cox's basic customer base were bundled customers, which has led to the halt in churn.

Interestingly, Cox has done a little rethinking of its video-on-demand services, slowing down on further rollouts in more communities. Instead, it will drill down deeper into markets where the product has already launched, to learn more about it.

Those are among the myriad of reasons why Cox is this year's Multichannel News' Operator of the Year. Our editors will be digging deeply into Cox this month, to fully report on why this company is such a winner among some sinners.

So save that Sept. 30 date and reserve some extra time for an in-depth read about this very special cable operator. I, for one, am confident that this year's Operator of the Year Award will not become a dubious distinction.