Atlantic Broadband, with 300,000 subscribers in four U.S. geographies, is a top-20 cable operator, thanks, of course, to the fact that so many of the MSOs that used to be on that list have merged, converged, consolidated, been acquired or, in the case of Lenfest, went kicking and screaming into that cold night.
Nevertheless, as any college will tell you, being in any top 20 is a good thing. Of course, as any small cable operator will tell you, being outside the top 5 is not necessarily a good thing. Al Kuolas, Atlantic Broadband’s CTO, seems more inclined to favor the good model rather than worry about the size differential.
"We actually had a pretty positive year last year; we met all of our financial and subscriber goals," he said.
This happened at a time when the cable industry is facing increasing competition from both telcos and satellite providers engorged with HD channels. ‘Not as bad’ "Maybe in our markets it’s not quite as bad as some others, partly because we have a fair amount of new growth," Kuolas suggested. "The Delmar (Delaware-Maryland) area, the Aiken, SC, area and Miami Beach (the company also has presence in Central Pennsylvania bleeding into New York and West Virginia) continue to build and add housing units, so we’ve done well holding our own in terms of subscribers."
Unlike some cash-strapped small operators, Atlantic Broadband isn’t going to sit still, either. The MSO has implemented Harmonic‘s universal edge QAM product to expand its VOD offerings, especially with high definition VOD.
"The combination of having a reasonably strong linear product with high definition content on the VOD side gives us the opportunity to present as many screens or options to the customer – or more options to the customer – than many of the satellite guys can," he said.
The operator, he said, takes HD content from free channels and pay movies and stores it on the headend server so that "at any given time, a customer has not only the 30 or so linear channels on HD to choose from, but another several hundred choices on the VOD platform," he said. Hours of HD programming The server can currently handle about 2,500 hours of content, but that will be increased to about 3,800 hours in the next several months, he said. The edge QAM, too, will get some additional responsibilities as the year progresses.
"Today we use it only for VOD, but I can imagine at a future time, perhaps late this year or early 2009, we’ll be looking at deploying switched digital, and at some point probably later than that going into a modular CMTS platform and using it for high-speed data delivery," Kuolas said, sounding very much like a top-5 MSO.
– Jim Barthold