In the spirit of unprecedented cooperation between the marketing and technology sides of the business, CableLabs and CTAM announced last week they will jointly manage the Cable Mover’s Hotline, a project designed to make it easier for customers who are moving to disconnect and reconnect service with one phone call regardless of who their cable provider is. “Our research showed that people are six times more likely to subscribe to a dish service when they move,” says Joe Rooney, SVP of marketing for Cox Communications. “And when they move, they are more likely to call their phone company first, meaning we lose the opportunity to sell them our phone and data services. We knew that the key to keeping customers who move was to get them at the time of disconnect.” So CTAM began working with CableLabs to come up with a solution. CableLabs already runs and operates Go2Broadband, an Internet-based e-commerce application that relays consumer queries related to HSD offers to individual operators. CableLabs chairman Dick Greene was confident the system could be expanded to handle a phone-based mover’s program It took three years, but for the first time, Rooney says, “someone moving from one place to another can call one number and transfer his or her service much more easily.” Of course, this isn’t the only national mover’s program. The U.S. Postal Service has a mover’s package that gives consumers names and numbers of organizations to call in their new town for home services. Companies can advertise, and EchoStar’s Dish Network has prominent ads in the brochures. DirecTV has a national moving hotline service as well. Customers call the hot line before they move. They pack up their equipment but leave the dish behind. Once they’re in their new home, DirecTV will ship a new dish and install it for $25. It’s precisely that program that helped convince Rooney of the necessity of having a program for cable. “The last thing we want the customer to see is a satellite dish on his roof and decide to call the dish operator rather than us for service,” he says. It wasn’t easy to put together. Each participating MSO — Adelphia, Bright House, Cablevision Systems, Charter, Cox, Comcast, Insight, Mediacom and Time Warner Cable — had a lawyer sit in on every meeting to make sure privacy and antitrust issues were tackled before the project launched, says CTAM VP Seth Morrison. “We probably went through four sets of fine-tuning before we came up with a plan that met everyone’s requirements,” he says. Calls that are transferred to a rep from the same company (say, a Cox CSR in San Diego hands off a call to a Cox CSR in Phoenix) can also pass along all the customer’s service records. But calls transferred from one MSO to another are limited in the information they can share due to privacy rules. A Time Warner Cable CSR transferring a call to a Comcast rep can only tell the CSR the customer’s first name, Rooney says. Operation of the program is being managed and funded by CableLabs, which has two full-time and a few part-time staffers dedicated to the project. Morrison says he’s spending about a quarter of his time these days managing the marketing portion of the project as well. Individual companies will compensate CSRs for successful hand-offs and completed transfers, he says. At this point, nine systems counting 22 million homes are actively participating in the program, and Rooney says there’s a 57% success rate. The goal is to be fully deployed in all member markets some time in the first quarter of 2004. Other operators are also expected to join the program, including competitor overbuilders, Rooney says. Eventually, Morrison says, the program could be expanded to include a toll-free number customers can call to order, disconnect and transfer all their services. A website is also planned. Existing websites dedicated to helping people move may also partner with the cable industry to jointly promote the Cable Mover’s Hotline service. “It’s still very early, and we think the numbers will go up substantially once everyone is up and running and more comfortable with the program,” Morrison says. “Right now we’re getting an average 2.4 RGUs per sale with this program.”

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FCC Seeks Comment on NAB NextGen Petition

The FCC Media Bureau is seeking comment on NAB’s petition regarding the treatment of multicast streams under the NexGen TV local simulcasting rules.

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