Cox Targets 50 HD Channels by Year-End


Orlando, Fla. -- Cox Communications president Pat Esser said the operator is aiming to have the capacity to offer 50 HD channels across its systems by the end of 2007, and it hopes to double that to 100 by the end of 2009.

“We’re seeing an explosion in interest [from subscribers], and I think we have to get ready for that,” Esser said, speaking on a CEO roundtable here at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ Cable-Tec Expo 2007.

Esser said Cox recently revised its goals for the number of HD channels it would be able to deliver. The operator will get there using a combination of bandwidth-optimization tools and techniques, including system upgrades, retiring analog channels, statistical multiplexing of HD signals and switched digital video, he said.

“I’ve asked Chris [Bowick, chief technology officer of Cox] and his team to find the capacity to offer 50 HD channels by the end of this year, going into 2008,” Esser said. “Whether we do or don’t offer that many channels, I want to have the capacity to do that.”

What Esser didn’t say explicitly is that Cox -- along with the rest of the cable industry -- is looking to blunt the effect of DirecTV’s HD hypermarketing push. Backed by aggressive TV spots, the direct-broadcast operator is promising “a future of 150 HD channels.”

According to Esser, Cox will soon launch a Pepsi Challenge-style marketing campaign that will compare the quality of Cox’s HD picture against satellite. “The industry just did a taste test … [and] consumers thought our product was better,” said Esser, who declined to provide further details.

Comcast last month kicked off a similar campaign, citing a survey that found that two-thirds of consumers preferred Comcast’s HDTV to satellite. DirecTV promptly sued Comcast, alleging false advertising and deceptive trade practices.

Asked about the DirecTV suit, Esser replied, “Well, that’s the response if you want to suppress the information … You don’t want to let it get out.”

Esser did acknowledge that historically, DBS operators “got a product jump on us with digital and DVRs [digital-video recorders].” But he added that satellite growth has slowed, and that what’s driven growth for the sector is reseller partnerships with telephone companies.