Tele-Communications Inc. has a new marketing chief --
Doug Sesserman became the third head of marketing for the
nation's largest cable operator in less than two years when he replaced Tom French
last week as senior vice president of marketing for TCI's cable unit, TCI
French came to TCI last July after a two-year stint as vice
president and director of marketing at U.S. Satellite Broadcasting and a brief tenure at
the short-lived American Sky Broadcasting Inc. venture. He replaced Camille Jayne, who
joined TCI in January 1996 as head of its digital-television business, and who became the
company's senior marketing executive within a year.
Officially, French resigned "to pursue other
interests," but his departure was widely viewed as the culmination of a number of
differences with senior management. One bone of contention reportedly centered on a
reorganizational move that took power away from the national office in Denver as part of a
broader decentralization effort within the company's marketing department.
A TCI spokesman said the MSO was "continuing to look
at the structure of the company in a broader, pragmatic fashion with an emphasis on
getting closer to the customer." Decisions on "what functions go where,"
the spokesman said, will be made throughout the summer.
Marketing executives felt that French's lack of cable
experience may have hurt him at TCI. Before joining USSB, French had been a brand manager
at liquor distiller Hiram Walker. One MSO marketer thought that French "may not have
come up to speed fast enough regarding the industry and [TCI]." Another cable veteran
said marketers coming from outside of the industry "believe that if you brand it,
they will come, but they need to be reminded that cable is a transactional business."
French's most notable achievement at TCI was launching
the MSO's first national loyalty program earlier in the year. The "TCI
Rewards" program -- modeled on airline frequent-flyer programs -- gives steady
customers points toward earning gifts and discounts based on purchases, and it has been
one of the most extensive in the history of the industry.
What's more, TCI gained 155,000 new subscribers in the
fourth quarter of 1997 and 115,000 during the first quarter of fiscal-year 1998.
Sesserman, 36, joined TCI in April 1996 after 10 years as a
marketing executive with The Quaker Oats Co. He was vice president of marketing before his
promotion, and he will be responsible for all national brand and image development and
marketing for TCIC's video and Internet services, as well as corporate research.
Sesserman will report to TCIC president and CEO Marvin
Jones, who praised Sesserman's "strong branding and product expertise" in a