ACA VP/COO Rob Schema says it best. "Nobody plays the cable chess game three to four steps ahead like Patrick does." For an independent operator, Patrick Knorr’s Lawrence, Kan.-based Sunflower Broadband has a tech profile that large MSOs envy. We’re honoring Knorr because this year he’s done it again, leading Sunflower through a digital upgrade, ahead of many industry peers. In the following Q&A, Knorr discusses that and shares advice on other steps his cable brethren are just now taking.

CFAX: The Magazine: Metering broadband usage is old hat for Sunflower. Time Warner Cable and Comcast began testing metering this summer. What advice do you have for other operators just now jumping in?

Patrick Knorr: It’s the right way to go. The infrastructure costs are so huge, and with the introduction of HD video on the Internet it’s almost a mathematical impossibility to offer an unlimited, un-metered service. Try to roll it out as gently as possible. And communicate the benefits, which are really huge. It keeps prices down for many customers. For high-bandwidth customers, it helps manage the system.

CFTM: Sunflower has been a front-runner in dynamic ad insertion. What have you learned about targeted ads?

PK: The clock is ticking on the model of sending out a channel to 50 million subscribers and placing an ad on that channel. Today it’s about who’s watching what channels. And cable is in the best position to measure that — even better than the Internet, because cable still has a personal relationship with the subscriber.

CFTM: Sunflower integrated newsroom and cable operations long ago. What advice would you offer Cablevision as it enters newspaper publishing?

PK: We’ve had the most success taking the rich content the [ Lawrence Journal-World] offers and building a local cable channel around that. It’s a valuable product that really helps us from a competitive standpoint.

CFTM: Sunflower just completed a digital upgrade in Lawrence. How are you helping make a smooth transition?

PK: We try to communicate that our transition to digital is not the grand broadcast transition because we don’t want to be misleading. Some people are frustrated, but they understand that technology is changing.

Three Industry Issues on Patrick Knorr’s Mind:

  • Getting standards in place for blended, targeted advertising.

  • Facilitating cooperation between operators and programmers, not the government, to develop ways to offer more programming options.

  • Developing open standards that foster creative, low-cost applications for set-top boxes.

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