Baltimore -- When it comes to "making your smaller
cable systems better," speakers on a panel at the East Coast Cable '99 show here
last week agreed with Susquehanna Communications general manager Carol Rosebrough that
community relationships are cornerstones.
Nurturing such relationships can also bring the added
benefit of blunting competitive inroads by direct-broadcast satellite and wireless cable
providers, the panelists said.
Rosebrough said her 35,000-subscriber system in
Williamsport, Pa., has done well in communicating regularly with elected officials,
community leaders and consumers through a quarterly Cable Update newsletter.
Those relationship-building efforts also add to the bottom
line, she said, pointing out that Update has created enough buzz for
Susquehanna's upcoming cable-modem service to generate a prospect list of 600
consumers well before an ad campaign breaks in November.
By building rapport and trust with elected officials and
the community on an ongoing basis, Susquehanna has "never had a problem" over
rate increases, Rosebrough said in response to a question from moderator Lisa
Schoenthaler, senior director at the National Cable Television Association's Office
of Rural and Small System Operators.
Armstrong Cable Services president William Stewart also
stressed the importance of cultivating relationships, adding that ultimately, those
efforts "do flow down to the bottom line."
Stewart agreed with Bob Weisberg, president of New
York-based Mountain Cablevision, who described being "a good citizen in the
community" as a key offensive weapon against DBS rivals.
High Speed Access Corp. vice president of administration
Richard Pulley -- whose firm is working with small cable systems in 77 communities to
install high-speed Internet access in homes, schools and hospitals -- said that service
can be "a tremendous weapon to keep your DBS and wireless [competitors] out of your