The Bundle Battle, Baby! "The more you sweat in peacetime, the less you bleed during war" – Chinese Proverb. I love this quote because it is so true and so applicable to our industry today. We are in a bundle battle. And, while it feels like war, it isn’t a full-blown war—yet. Over 90% of cable’s customers can get a true triple play from their cable provider while less than 10% can get a true triple play from their RBOC. The real war begins as the bad guys continue to grow their triple-play offerings. So, for our beloved cable industry, it is time to sweat! The good news is that we are in a wonderful position:

  • We are successfully driving penetration of the bundle. According to the NCTA, cable has taken nearly 11 million phone customers from the incumbent, while a Sept 2006 MICRA study found that fewer than 400K subscribe to a telco wireline video service. That’s roughly a 30:1 ratio in cable’s favor. The telcos must build-out their network, cul-de-sac by cul-de-sac, while we drive the bundle penetration even deeper across all customers—not just the wealthy.
  • We are marketing smarter than ever before. We are investing in marketing sciences, helping us better match the needs of individual customers to our product sets. We are measuring everything. No more "half of my marketing isn’t effective. I just don’t know which half" excuses. Today, marketing must be accountable for its results. A cable call center has metrics around every call —average speed of answer, repeat calls, etc. Marketing metrics help us maximize our marketing spend.
  • We know we must leverage our points of differentiation. Since every video supplier in our industry offers the same programming services, we must play to our strengths and differentiate ourselves from our competitors. We have the opportunity to stand out in the way that we serve our customers. While the bad guys require DSL self-installs, we give the customers options. For those customers who want help, we will gladly hold their hands and help with our suite of products because we are the trusted provider. This month’s J.D. Power & Associates sweep for cable’s phone offerings demonstrates that.
  • We are driving growth in commercial services. Outside of phone, business services is our best weapon to hurt the RBOCs. Business customers have had limited choices and have long been neglected by the telcos. Business services provide an irresistible opportunity for cable to seize.

Is it all good news? Will we not lose some customers? Of course, we should expect to lose some video customers as we continue to gain share in telephony, broadband and commercial services. Therefore, to really win the war, it’s essential that we mobilize our armies: our employees—especially the front-line foot soldiers who interact with customers every day. In this new world, it will be the job of every employee to be competitively smart. Everyone must be up to date on our products and our competitors’ products. To win, we have to take every customer loss personally. Marketers need to help employees understand the bundle battle. We want everyone to follow us up the hill and not to fear aggressive and often confusing volleys thrown by the bad guys. And we must ensure that our team plays fair. Winning fairly is the best reward. (Joe Rooney is svp and chief marketing officer for Cox Communications, and the current chmn of CTAM. He oversees Cox’s national marketing, sales, branding, marketing sciences and research, and he has held numerous leadership positions with CTAM over the years)

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