A Triple-Play Valentine

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Over at Cablevision Systems Corp., it’s got to be a sweetheart of a day as customers rush to sign up for a $90 bundle of video, data and voice services and the MSO continues to rack up more than 1,000 new phone subscribers a day.

Launched just last fall, Cablevision’s “Optimum Triple Play” offering was the scorn of Wall Street, as analysts warned of heated pricing wars to come.

But that has not happened. Instead, the bundle enticed satellite-dish owners to ditch those services and sign up for the Triple Play, an offer available only to new Cablevision subscribers. The MSO also has a “Double Play” for existing video customers who want to add data and voice.

As good as that all is, there’s a bigger story here and that’s about retention marketing. Take a look at my online interview this week with Patricia Gottesman, Cablevision’s executive vice president of product management and marketing. (available at www.multichannel.com/multivision.)

You’ll hear about a brand new development, the Optimum Online Store, where customers can cash in on a variety of discounts ranging from coupons for discounts for plasma television sets, or dollars off their monthly cable bills. Although the store concept is new, Gottesman says the early indicators point to a success. This is the kind of savvy marketing that comes straight from the dog-eat-dog wars in which many retailers live.

But I’m not ready to take the bait. While several staffers here have taken the Cablevision plunge to Internet-protocol telephony, I’m waiting for local number portability, which Gottesman says is right around the corner.

She says it’s now in tests and will be available this year. And there’s more. Cablevision, like every other MSO, is studying its wireless options and hopes to offer that in the bundle soon.

For a company that has had its oh-so-very public spats — such as Cablevision chairman Chuck Dolan and his son Jim being at loggerheads about the sale of Voom, or the company’s very messy and loud battle with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg over a West Side football stadium that would compete with the MSO’s Madison Square Garden — all oars are pulling in unison.

Cablevision should be tooting its horn over its triple-play success, but maybe that’s all getting lost, given the fires burning elsewhere. What all of this says to me, though, is that the Dolans have always done things a bit differently, which is actually a testimony to their entrepreneurship.

For instance, while many cable companies are scrambling to add employees with telephony experience, they have been at work for years at Cablevision. For about a decade or so, Cablevision has been offering corporate customers its Lightpath phone service, well ahead of the pack.

So size really doesn’t matter if a company sticks to its knitting. In fact, Cablevision, with its 3 million households, still generates the most revenue per subscriber — and it’s proving how nimble it actually is.

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