We live in a time when three months is five years. The sophistication of technology has made the phrase “early adopter” obsolete. Everyone is an early adopter in a world where a two-year old mobile phone is considered outdated. And once a company has a website on the Internet—whether it’s a cable network or a bottle of ketchup—it’s obligated to entertain, and the reach is global. This is the world in which we live.
The myriad of choices in viewing cable programming content anytime and anywhere on a wide range of devices has given consumers unprecedented freedom and raised their expectation level to lofty heights. They want to be moved and motivated. Like a jaguar in the night, the consumer wrested control from companies in all industries. The second decade of the twenty-first century was tailor-made for the cable industry to prosper.
In 2014, cable experts have the ability to create some of the most forward-thinking, innovative and lucrative strategic alliances with Silicon Valley companies. The question becomes how strategically creative programmers and operators think beyond their threshold to deliver new ways to both deliver and originate content creation. How can new social media technologies be integrated in ways that provide more than mere eyeballs, but ritual behaviors?
For cable operators, a new emphasis exists in articulating the value of the technology they  deliver to their customers. A substantial percentage of cable customers have access to numerous features but are unaware or unclear how to avail themselves of these valuable alternatives. So it’s like owning a Ferrari and driving it like a Volkswagon.
For many cable operators customer service is a critical landmine. Inventive internal strategic models are necessary to empower customer service employees at all touch points. Consider the ratio of how many ad dollars are spent by cable operators to obtain and retain customers verses the incredible word of mouth value in a social media world of a proactive consumer who has had a good experience and shares it. No ad campaign can replicate the authenticity of actual experiences.
Cable operators have the greatest home court advantage over all businesses because they are intimately interacting with customers—in their homes. It is the Nirvana other companies desire. The coming year will bring historic innovation for multiplatform audience measurement from companies like Nielsen. But it is incumbent upon all stakeholders to articulate the redefinition of audience value. Larger cultural media questions need to be taken into consideration. The days of “Mad Men” and the 18-49-year-old are antiquated and offer a lopsided picture of age and advertiser value today. In fact, nearly every demographic demands a new viewpoint. Lifestyle and diversity are the watchwords. If women are having babies later in life, then a 50-year-old woman with a ten-year-old has the same needs as a 30-year-old woman with a ten year old. And children’s programming has the opportunity to rocket into a new era because a six-year-old today is far more sophisticated than a six-year-old ten years ago—and more technologically savvy.
Tweens and teens are often the ones who have an impact in cable upgrades and are considered the chief technology officers in their homes. African Americans, Hispanics and Asians play an enormous role in the success of television’s triumphs, but do they feel adequately represented? Do programmers understand the sensibilities of both urban and Middle America, and how to imbue a universal humanity in characters that transcends diversity? Great programs are able to successfully hit a universal chord. The trick is not to follow another networks success but to reinvent one’s own stand-out brand.
What has not changed and becomes more essential than ever is the importance for great leadership—management from the top down who have a vision and goals—and the humility of employees who are ambassadors tasked with delivering elegant choices to their superiors. Creative thinkers and innovators need structure for ideas-to-action to manifest. That’s what great CEOs do: harness talent so that it is a potent tool that is results-driven and mirrors a singular vision. As Sun Tzu said twenty-five hundred years ago, “The comprehensiveness of adaptive movement is limitless.”

(Debra Sharon Davis, a social trend expert, is pres/CEO of Davis Communications Group, Inc., a strategic marketing, branding, communications company that houses a Virtual Think Tank of thought leaders in diverse fields. To reach Debra directly: ddavis@davcominc.com)

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