When cable operators have DBS to their right and telcos to their left, how should they charge into the valley of competition? Clients like Comcast and Cox pay Bill Opet to know the answers. Strategists like Comcast operations EVP Dave Watson and Cox strategy/development SVP Dallas Clement value his insight. Opet leads the cable and broadband practice at TMNG Global, a media consultancy whose clients also include cable’s rivals. (Like most large consultancies, Opet’s company keeps a Chinese wall between departments dealing with cable and those working for DBS and the telcos. "We make sure the specific representatives working with us, or our industry, do not work on business from our competitors," a Comcast exec says.) DBS generally is ahead of cable in digital channel capacity, pricing and retail store space, Opet admits. But he feels DirecTV and EchoStar have at least two weaknesses—the inability to create or market voice/video/data bundles without help from another entity, and limited capacity to provide on-demand services. Cable operators can draw significant market share away from DBS by pushing bundles, launching all the VOD, ITV, HDTV and DVR services they can and using more retail space to demonstrate them. "They need to do much more to showcase value for their basic video customers," Opet says. "Be first in the market with new service introductions like wireless, and use wireless to generate attention from young adults, who now consider wireless their primary communications vehicle." As for AT&T, Verizon and other telcos, their advantages over cable are their large residential consumer base, the financial foundation to sustain long-term losses in video investment and a regulatory outlook that seems to get better every week. "Not a day goes by where they don’t get a new local overbuild franchise or state legislation," Opet says. For all those advantages, telcos are neophytes when it comes to selling video services and bundles. That’s a weakness in Opet’s eyes. His counterattack for cable is the same as that for DBS, with two tweaks—boost the speed in Internet access by a few megabits, and start offering the speed increase when telcos announce a franchise deal. "Why wait until a launch and the stakes get tougher?" Opet says. "Do it fast so you create a more valuable proposition to customers before the other guy deploys." FAST FACTS ABOUT… TMNG GLOBAL
Founded
: 1990; publicly held, listed on NASDAQ (TMNG)
Consultant employees: More than 400
Cable clients: Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Charter
DBS/telco clients: Verizon, BellSouth, EchoStar, AT&T Video/Internet content clients: Sony, Walt Disney, Yahoo, EarthLink
Other clients: Cisco Systems, IBM, Lucent, Microsoft, Motorola, Nortel, Sun Microsystems, HP BILL OPET
Cable-telco experience
: 25 years
Position before TMNG: cable/broadband group president, Convergys
Other executive roles: McCaw Cellular, Commonwealth Telephone, PSINet

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