Even with Consolidation, Cable Hiring Still Strong

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The "help-wanted" sign is still posted throughout
much of the cable industry, as operators and networks continue to hire employees despite
rapid industry consolidation.

But unlike the early days of cable -- when marketing,
programming, ad-sales and affiliate-relations jobs were plentiful -- technical positions
relative to broadband and the Internet are the most desired by both operators and
networks, according to two recently released Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources
Association surveys.

While jobs are available, the industry faces stiff
competition both internally and from outside industries for the best and brightest
employees. As a result, industry executives believe companies will have to alter
traditional incentive and benefits approaches to lure prospective employees.

With the explosion of convergence within the industry,
executives said, cable has grown well beyond its television-only roots and into
technological advances such as telephony, high-speed modems and Internet-site development.
As a result, the demand for high-tech professionals has increased the current work force.

"The cable industry is attracting more people because
the industry has more to offer than just marketing and ad sales. Right now, the cable
industry is the darling of Wall Street, so the opportunity is there for everybody,"
Warren, Morris & Madison Ltd. cofounder and senior managing partner Charles Morris
said.

Executives said all of this has occurred despite
considerable consolidation within the cable industry. "We're seeing that even
though we have fewer companies, we have the same volume of employees coming into the
business because of the new telephony and high-speed-data opportunities," AT&T
Broadband & Internet Services vice president of compensation and employee relations
Isabelle Arace said.

The new-media sector has experienced the largest growth,
with a tenfold lift in the number of reported positions since 1995-96, according to the
report. Initially created to facilitate information dissemination, online versions of MSO
services and programming networks have developed into revenue-generating operations,
creating many new jobs in the process.

Also, the report cited a 10 percent year-on-year increase
in the number of reported engineers due to MSO consolidation, the move of
telecommunications giants into cable operations and traditional networks investing in
cable programming.

On the network side, the most apparent increases have been
in new departments and positions created as a direct effect of network multiplexing. Such
expansion has resulted in the creation of new technical, administrative and ad-sales
positions in both the national and international marketplace, according to the report.

As far as MSO consolidation, despite folding in several
companies under the Charter Communications banner, Charter not only expects to retain its
"talented" employee base from its acquired companies, but it is "always
looking for good people" to come aboard, according to MSO executives.

Cox Communications Inc. vice president of human resources
Judy Henke said her MSO is also actively hiring new employees throughout the company.
"The whole concept that consolidation isn't providing as many opportunities is a
myth," she added.

But not all MSOs are hiring at an accelerated pace. Time
Warner Cable's work-force growth has been flat "for quite some time," vice
president of corporate communications Mike Luftman said.

While opportunities may exist within cable, executives
said, the industry faces stiff competition from telcos and Internet-service providers
looking for the same skill sets.

"There's much more competition for people who
have some sort of [technical and Internet] knowledge," CTHRA president and Discovery
Communications Inc. senior vice president of human resources and administration Pandit
Wright said.

To combat the problem, Wright added, cable has begun to
train its in-house technicians to deal with new and complicated bandwidth applications.
"Training is what you should be doing within your own companies to keep the people
who are coming to work for you," she said.

Henke added that more than 70 percent of Cox's
technical work force has been through convergence training.

AT&T Broadband has created regional training services
to help employees with the new job skills, Arace said. "Our career programs train you
in the advanced skill areas so as you move up the ladder and reach the top rung,
you'll be able to specialize in anything," she added.

But executives added that the industry would also need to
provide greater incentives to attract employees to cable. With upstart Internet services
often providing lucrative stock options and other attractive benefits to prospective
employees, it's imperative that cable makes its own packages stronger.

"A lot of folks are not showing flexibility in terms
of attracting and keeping people. The old pension and 401K-plan stuff isn't such a
big deal anymore," Home Box Office vice president of human resources and
administration Kiko Washington said. "Understanding the need of the current crop of
employees and adjusting benefits accordingly is important."

Arace said the CTHRA surveys can provide the industry with
guidelines on how much to pay and how to develop compensation packages based on what
competitors are doing within the industry.

She added that future surveys would also include
information from nonindustry companies to further help the cable industry from a
human-resources perspective.

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