As HD content proliferates, cable operators need to move fast to prevail in the heated high-def battle for eyeballs, said panelists at CTAM Summit Mon. "Cable, I think, has pissed away 3 years of actual advantage," said Craig Moffett, vp/senior analyst at Sanford Bernstein, adding that DirecTV has done a good job creating a perception that it’s the HD destination for consumers despite cable’s technological prowess. "DirecTV started the ball rolling… (but) switched digital broadcast levels the playing field faster than anyone thought," he said. Lauren LoFrisco, Time Warner Cable’s group vp, marketing communications, said the implementation of switched digital video (SDV), which promises to free up space for HD, remains challenging, but "I don’t think that cable has been behind the 8-ball." She said consumers looking for HD content and value are sometimes unaware of how to get it, noting that about one third of TWC’s customers with HDTV sets don’t even order HD service—even though it’s free. Rainbow Media pres/CEO Josh Sapan said it’s "curious" that some HDTV owners wouldn’t order HD service but said the lack of must-have HD content may be partly to blame. "There is nothing that stands out as electrifying on the content side," he said. In Demand pres/CEO Rob Jacobson, who recently re-branded iNHD to MoJo to capitalize on its affluent male audience, agreed that compelling content will determine the success of HD. "In the end, it’s going to be about the programming," he said. Sapan said consumers will soon expect HD content rather than feel the need to seek it out; and at that point, standard definition fare "becomes increasingly a ghetto."

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