By Mavis Scanlon Cable CEOs losing subs to satellite could take a page from Roxanne Austin’s book. The dynamic president of DirecTV, which last week touted its 12 millionth customer activation, doesn’t miss an opportunity to sell DirecTV, especially in her own tony Orange County, Calif., environs. "In my neighborhood I make sure everybody has DirecTV," she told CableWORLD while in New York recently promoting DirecTV’s new DVR. "If they don’t, I knock on their door and try to change that." Earlier in the summer, for example, she was out on a walk with her husband when she spied a Cox Digital Cable truck parked in front of a neighbor’s house in their gated community. Over her husband’s protests-"You can’t go in there and tell them they can’t get cable," he said-she marched up to the door and asked her neighbors what they were doing. "We’re getting a digital cable box," came the reply. In short order, she was able to halt the installation-with the help of an undisclosed special offer-and sign them up for DirecTV. Talk about direct sales. "I am fanatical," she said, "but I really believe in the product." Of course, Cox, the dominant cable operator in Orange County, believes in its own product. "We can certainly understand our video competitors’ strong desire to win more customers in our franchises," said Cox spokesman Bobby Amirshahi in an e-mail. "However, it would appear that the vast majority of consumers in Orange County and in all our service areas see a greater value in Cox services, and, in fact, one in three selects Cox for multiple services." Amirshahi backs up his statement with some not-too-shabby data: In Orange County, Cox high-speed Internet had a penetration of 39% of total homes passed, Cox digital telephone had a 35% penetration of homes passed and digital cable saw 50% penetration of basic subs, as of September. DBS penetration averages about 11% in Cox markets, far lower than its 18% penetration nationwide, according to Cox’s figures. DBS is more successful in certain Orange County markets, such as Newport Beach, where Adelphia Communications is the main cable provider. Competing against Adelphia in the relatively small community, DBS penetration is up to 15%, according to MBC Databank. Still, with its focus on being "best in breed" in video-there is not yet an economical way for DBS providers to offer high-speed Internet, so they have partnered with telco providers to create their own bundles-both DirecTV and EchoStar Communications have homed in on digital video recorders as a differentiator. As of last week, DirecTV counts half a million DVR customers nationwide, a figure most cable operators will be chasing in coming quarters.

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