Robert Gessner

Massillon Cable TV/Clear Picture
Gessner remains a resonant independent voice for indie operators. Under his helm Massillon developed its own TV Everywhere platform, then turned over its management to the NCTC so other small operators could participate. To date, 100 NCTC companies are now being integrated onto the platform for the summer Olympics. Gessner also oversaw the creation of a system of tools, based on cable modem data, to improve system reliability and replace routine sweep and response to customer calls. In February and March, more than 30% of Massillon’s household visits were trips created from the system tools rather than customer complaint calls, and despite increasing the number of digital converters in the system from 25,000 to 130,000 in the past five years, they now run only about 70% as many calls thanks to the proactive technology.
What’s your favorite digital toy and why? I often say I have three problems. I am old, analog and linear. I am pretty old-fashioned, so I don’t have many digital toys. I guess I would have to say it is my iPhone. That stated, I have virtually no active applications. I just use it for email, a calendar and a phone.
The biggest challenge with TV Everywhere/authentication is: Participation. Small- and midsized operators have great difficulty attracting the attention and resources from content providers required for participation. The third-party solutions are designed more for large multi-system companies than single systems. That’s why we developed our own TVE platform.
When it comes to digital trends, what’s something the kids are doing today that we’ll all be doing tomorrow?Unfortunately, I am afraid it will be talking less and texting more.
Without social media, the world would be just a little bit: BETTER. Actually, it would be a whole lot better. Social media is one of the least social means of communication. It is impersonal and often rude.
What’s cable’s biggest digital opportunity in the next year? Probably to develop a breakthrough converged hardware platform with a better user interface.
What digital strategy mistake must cable avoid at all costs? We need to determine how we will participate in the content delivery ecosystem of the future. I think we are on the verge of a real change. Content costs are out of control, especially for sports. Consumers are starting to define a crisis in the delivery of TV programming. That is the first factor required for action to commence. We need to be ready and know what part we will play when that change comes.
Would you rather own a flying car or a jetpack—and why? Probably the jetpack. After all, I grew up with Thunderball and the great scene of James Bond (Sean Connery, the only real James Bond) and his jetpack.

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