July 7, 2009
NPG Blooms in Desert, Elsewhere
Laying a fiber ring in the desert vastness between Las Vegas and Phoenix presented NPG Cable with some unique challenges; dodging endangered snakes and avoiding historical wagon tracks among them.
But three years later, NPG is maximizing its VOD content, is 100 percent VoIP with 20 percent market penetration, and is gradually cracking the enterprise market.
In May, sister publication CableFAX Daily designated NPG its Independent Operator of the Year and plans to include it among other honorees at this year’s Independent Show, slated for late July in Grapevine, Texas.
Technology, and beyond
A Kansas City-based, family-run business since 1954, NPG faced numerous challenges before seeing some return on its Western infrastructure investment. “The cost of doing business in the desert is much higher,” NPG COO Bill Severn said.
“We built a $750,000 microwave over a mountain to get to 20,000 customers. But in the past six months, enterprise customers are letting us in the door and we’re adding more HD,” Severn added.
NPG’s new fiber ring created a master headend that allows HD, VOD and other services to flow to the smaller desert communities.
Building a fiber ring in the desert was a technical and engineering feat. Engaging the company’s employees in all aspects of the business and maneuvering the company through a nasty economic downturn has been the larger challenge.
“Every employee understands each customer touch point and the importance of saving every customer. We’ve had a lot of difficult decisions, but our employees truly believe they have a say in the business,” Severn said.
With customers flush with options, and aggressive offers abounding from the competition, NPG’s margin for error is miniscule.
“Every customer not satisfied at the first touch point, I get an email. They’re buttoning down and we can’t allow them through the gate. We can have all the right technologies, but unless employees understand the mission, all the technology is gone,” Severn added.
Employees and results
NPG’s employees are adopting the mission, he said, and stepping up for the company. Taking the lead is Severn himself, who has taken a voluntary furlough.
“We have friends, relatives and spouses losing their jobs, but they’re open to new ideas about doing things more efficiently. We’ve had no complaints. It’s all about the employees, not just strategies,” he said.
Some of those employees include fourth-generation family.
But NPG is carrying on. Severn said that the numbers surfacing from its commercial business, VoIP and HD were encouraging. And like other successful independent operators, NPG naturally betrays a streak of independence.
“We bought our own switch and tied in all of Arizona with good results coming from the six lines and under customers,” Severn said. “And we manage them all on our own.”