Panelists: It’s a Gift to Keep It Simple

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Cable has a wealth of unique products it can use to attract consumers, but it must carefully choose which to pursue — and make those offerings as accessible and simple as possible — officials said at the May 2 National Show general session.

Today, cable operators can pick and choose from — or ultimately bundle — a broad range or technology-based products, including HDTV, home media centers, high-speed data, broadband content, digital video recorders, video-on-demand, ITV and telephony.

A big question becomes: “What do you put your resources against?” said Cox Communications Inc. executive vice president of operations Pat Esser, who took part in the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing co-sponsored panel.

At the same time, ESPN executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Sean Bratches warned: “It’s going to be a marketing challenge to introduce such an array of products to the marketplace and then manage sending them a $600 bill.”

Esser agreed. “At the end of the day, if it’s not simple, the consumer is going to turn it off,” he said, noting that retail could become one of cable’s most important sales channels in this environment.

Panel moderator Char Beales, CTAM’s president, pointed out that only a fraction — 2 million — of HDTV homes subscribe to high-definition service from cable or direct-broadcast satellite providers.

One of the issues is content, according to Charter executive vice president and chief operating officer Maggie Bellville. She said “sales just went crazy” once Charter added ESPN HD to its HDTV offering.

Bratches promptly walked over to Bellville and handed her some cash, prompting her to quip, “That’s probably the only time I’ll get something from ESPN.”

Cox has already had huge success with HDTV, according to Esser, signing up cable-nevers and upselling basic subscribers to digital.

Video is Cox’s top priority, Esser said.

“We as an industry took our eyes off of it,” he said. “It gives us an opportunity to layer other services onto it.”

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