AT&T Broadband senior vice president of marketing and sales Doug Seserman-arguably cable's top marketing executive-will leave his post at the end of this week, the MSO confirmed last Tuesday.
AT&T officials said on background that Seserman and AT&T Broadband CEO Dan Somers reached the decision mutually. But friends and colleagues said the decision appeared to come as a surprise to Seserman, a former packaged-goods marketer who has often talked about how much he enjoyed the cable industry.
He told his marketing team the news last Monday, the day before he flew to New Orleans to co-chair the annual Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Digital and PPV conference.
While in New Orleans, he deftly acknowledged his pending departure. "You've probably all heard about my change," he said, before introducing a keynote speaker last Wednesday morning.
"He was very classy and handled it well," Ideas and Solutions Inc. president Glen Friedmann said. "It's very challenging to face 1,200 of your peers without any time to prepare."
Nancy McGee, a veteran telephony products marketing executive from AT&T Broadband, MediaOne Group Inc. and US West, was asked to serve as interim marketing head for the Englewood, Colo.-based MSO while management conducts an internal and external search for Seserman's replacement.
AT&T Broadband's next marketing chief faces the immediate challenge of driving sales growth to meet the company's publicly stated goal of adding 25 percent more revenue-generating units in digital cable, high-speed data and telephony than it did last year.
Though long-term strategies are important in a competitive and rapidly changing industry, Wall Street is paying close attention to the MSO's short-term growth. AT&T Broadband is preparing for an initial public offering that will spin it off from parent company AT&T Corp.
Seserman said last week that he was proud of the results he helped produce. Several weeks ago, AT&T reported it was the first MSO to hit the 3-million-customer milestone for digital cable. At the end of 2000, AT&T Broadband had 1.1 million cable-modem customers.
"In 2000, we led in high-speed data market penetration, and we achieved our goal of 500,000-plus [subscribers] for telephony," Seserman said.
Said Showtime Networks Inc. senior vice president of field operations Patrick Burks: "He really tried to work on the sales environment there. I loved his packaging and top-down selling approach."
More than a year ago, Seserman was charged with implementing a digital cable packaging structure that encouraged customers to buy bundles of premium and digital basic channels and provided customer-service representatives with a faster way to explain the programming options.
Programmers gave him some credit for what he accomplished.
"The changes he was making seem to be all in the right direction," Discovery Networks Inc. executive vice president of affiliate sales and marketing Bill Goodwyn said. "He was extremely bright and talented."
Like other programmers, Goodwyn worked with Seserman on several of AT&T Broadband's customer-retention initiatives, including its AT&T Rewards loyalty program and its AT&T Broadband Connections customer newsletter.
Seserman oversaw rebranding efforts as the AT&T Broadband moniker replaced both Tele-Communications Inc. and MediaOne after AT&T acquired those MSOs. He also helped assemble a top-notch marketing team, pulling together executives from TCI, MediaOne and AT&T's corporate offices in New Jersey.
Industry insiders noted that Seserman learned the cable industry quickly since 1996, when he joined AT&T Broadband predecessor TCI from The Quaker Oats Co.
"He easily made the jump from a consumer-products background to the cable industry," Goodwyn said.
Adelphia Communications Corp. senior vice president of operations Ann Montgomery said she hopes Seserman stays in the industry.
"He can contribute a lot more," she said. Noting his active involvement on Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing committees, she added, "he's a constant force."
Seserman said last week that he'd love to stay active in the industry and plans to discuss his ongoing role at the association with CTAM president Char Beales.
"It's an incredibly fun business to work in," Seserman said. "The competition is intense. You've got to constantly be ready to change and grow the business. The future for broadband is incredibly bright."
Seserman would not say last Tuesday whether he was entertaining any specific job offers, but said there has been interest in his services.
"My goal is to run a company some day," he said.
Montgomery said that whether or not he stays within the cable industry, Seserman is suited to roles as a chief marketing officer or even as a CEO.
Seserman has already demonstrated his ability to build a team and garner strong employee loyalty.
"He commands phenomenal work performance out of his people," B.G. Marketing Inc. president Barbara Sullivan Roehrig said.
"I'm most proud of my team," Seserman said last week. "They're an incredibly diverse and talented group that is passionate about the business. My greatest legacy is that they'll carry on."
In mid-February, Seserman restructured his marketing team and cut his number of direct reports from eight to four. The four direct reports after the move included McGee, Cathy Kuo, Kim Partoll and Mark Voboril.
Seserman does not expect his staff to rush out the door in the wake of his departure.
"They should stay," Seserman said. "AT&T Broadband has a great future. The marketing challenges are huge."