The 44 students who attended the second-annual CTAM U last
month at Northwestern University got a crash course in cable marketing.
Although the suburban Chicago campus was just a stone's
throw from Lake Michigan, CTAM U was no summer camp.
Students at the educational forum, developed by the Cable
and Telecommunications Association for Marketing's educational foundation, praised the
intense nature of the weeklong program, which typically ran from 8:30 each morning to 9:30
"I came back all charged up," CTAM president and
first-time CTAM U attendee Char Beales said, echoing the response of several attendees.
"I've been putting things in practice since I came back."
"Some of the things were really fun," Cox
Communications Inc. director of direct-response and database marketing Margaret Ross said.
"We got to run our own cable system."
Each group was tasked to take a system valued at $50
million and increase its value to $200 million in order to sell it four years later.
Groups were given a series of choices to make, such as
whether to upgrade the plant to 750 megahertz, to add programming or to raise rates. Each
decision was fed into a computer simulator, which determined whether the choices made
would raise the value of the system or not.
Students also had a chance to brush up on their negotiating
skills in mock contract talks between programmers and operators. In the role-playing
exercises, programmers took on the roles of operators in the negotiations and vice versa.
Ross said she would recommend a short course in negotiating
before throwing the students into such an exercise for the first time.
"It was interesting to see things from the opposite
side of the desk," AMC Networks vice president of affiliate marketing Joe Leonard
"CTAM U did some very favorable things in bringing
together people from different areas of the cable industry and helping them to understand
each other's point of view," Adelphia Communications Corp. Virginia regional manager
Joe Price said.
Other case studies included how a programmer repositions
itself from a premium network to basic.
Beales was instrumental in founding CTAM U and overseeing
the curriculum each year. "I'm really proud of it," she said.
The goal of CTAM U is to attract both higher-level
executives and rising stars in the industry, and to give them more intense education than
they could find at traditional industry conferences.
This year, CTAM U worked more closely with the Kellogg
School of Management faculty to make sure that the courses were very specific to cable,
and this year's students appreciated that focus.
"Their ability to make it relevant for this industry
was impeccable," said John Lochner, regional manager for Bresnan Communications'
In addition, top cable executives and CTAM U board members
John Sie, chairman of Encore Media Group, and Julian Brodsky, vice chairman of Comcast
Corp., gave presentations to CTAM U's class of '99.
Busy cable executives accustomed to living close to their
cellular phones and pagers were asked to put the outside world aside as much as possible
for the duration of CTAM U.
"They really wanted us to disconnect as much as we
could," Leonard said.
Lochner said that although there was a lot of advance
reading and the courses entailed a lot of work, "It was an honor to be there. It
almost seemed as though CTAM U should be something that every operator is required to
Beales said the program would remain limited in size
"so that we can do it right."
The CTAM U board of directors will meet again in September
to start planning next year's program and to name a new chairman.