BY MAVIS SCANLON These days, cable CFOs can use all the help they can get. Since the Sarbanes-Oxley Act was passed in 2002, cable company finance departments have been hustling to ensure that financial reporting practices and internal controls meet the law’s strict requirements. Says William Fitzsimmons, VP of accounting and financial planning and analysis at Cox Communications, “It’s a daily event.” Mary Collins says she wants to ease cable operators’ strain; she just needs them to take her up on the offer. Collins, who was appointed president and CEO of the Broadcast Cable Financial Management Association in February, is planning a seminar to help finance executives maneuver the maze of mandates. But cable companies aren’t big participants in the group she represents. Cable membership in BCFM has in fact dwindled in recent years. Of 900 members, about 12% are from cable networks, but only 1% are from the operator side. Now Collins, whose cable industry career started at Rainbow Media in 1983, wants to boost cable membership. But she has her work cut out for her. “The key thing, and Mary will be great at this, is listening to what the needs are,” says Char Beales, president and CEO of CTAM. It’s classic marketing, Beales adds: Understand your customers and then fill their needs. Collins has already taken a few steps to liven up a staid, numbers-driven organization, including crafting a pithy tag line for BCFM: CTAM for CFOs. The Sept. 17 financial conference, held in conjunction with consulting firm BearingPoint, should give executives the ammunition they need to get much needed resources from their own companies and, at the same time, highlight the issues that affect both cable and broadcast, Collins says. Those issues include ongoing compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley and system and subscriber valuation after a merger or acquisition, she explains. “A huge thing with acquisitions is how do you preserve information,” she says. Collins has forged a relationship with the NCTA and hopes to increase BCFM’s visibility now that the group’s events will be on the NCTA’s calendar. Under Collins, and with the help of Cox’s Fitzsimmons, who was named to BCFM’s board in July and who also sits on the NCTA’s accounting committee, BCFM is undertaking a formal project to look into the thorny issue of cable industry subscriber counts. The goal would be to issue formal guidance on counting customers, customer relationships and revenue-generating units. Different operators and networks have differing definitions. “It’s a bit of a daunting challenge,” Fitzsimmons says. An upcoming strategic planning meeting will further define the project parameters, he adds. Once that is clear, BCFM can begin the process of possibly coordinating the project with the NCTA.