Rochester Goes To the Mat for Marketing To some of us, Geof Rochester has always been a second-generation cable marketer. When he was hired from the lodging industry, I recall the buzz: this classically trained marketer and Georgetown alum was going to bring an outsider’s perspective and fresh insights to the tired old discipline of cable marketing. He spoke differently than the industry’s marketers of that age and could regale a roomful of marketing colleagues with war stories of what it was like to conduct business in a truly open marketplace. But then something dramatic happened. The industry he joined turned day into night and night into day. Analog was replaced by digital, a handful of video options became a panoply of consumer choices, and the level of competition went from silly to downright savage. The cable marketplace had become a true battleground; one whose stakes and whose roadside casualties made Rochester’s old industry look like a softball game at a company picnic. And now, as I write this, I have a hard time getting my arms around the fact that was over ten years ago. Geof Rochester is no longer the new kid on the block. In fact, he’s now a seasoned cable marketer, his resume trumpeting time with both a major MSO (Comcast) and a major programmer (Showtime). So last week when I heard Geof was moving to, perhaps, the most marketing-centric company in this industry (WWE), I figured it was time to give him a call and catch up. He told me right off the bat he’s a kid in a candy store. "This place is amazing," Geof said. "At some times it looks like a television program; at times it looks like a network and at times it looks like a start up." At all times, however, he said the WWE is "nimble." "This brand reinvents itself everyday," he told me, adding that although it is not the size of say, a Viacom or a Time Warner, the issues and the passion are the same. Geof told me he spent his first week dealing with marketing issues in Indonesia, Germany, China and the former Soviet Union. He gives WWE head Vince McMahon credit for not just recognizing market trends and capitalizing on them, but being quick to make decisions and empowering those around him to do their jobs without a lot of interference. "In fact," he said, "this place should be a Harvard case study." As for the MSOs, whose marketing efforts used to be the butt of jokes, Geof’s respect as a marketer is second to none. He told me he considers it amazing that every time cable gets counted out a "Brian Roberts or a Steve Burke rises up" to lead a new revolution of products and services which subsequently leave cable’s competitors scrambling to play catch up. And speaking of competition, Rochester calls the first wave of telephone company showdowns "Telco I," which he admits was more about flash than substance. But, because of that, he urges cable operators not to confuse the telcos’ addled video offerings of ten years ago with their most recent foray. The telephone companies and their partners have deep pockets, Geof says, and for that reason he predicts that, from a competitive standpoint, "Telco II will be big, hairy and scary." We talked about a number of things before we hung up, including Big East basketball – Geof was a basketball manager under John Thompson at Georgetown and roomed with former Hoya man-child Ed Spriggs. But then he left me with one last thought about cable. "If there’s one word that sums up this industry, it’s complexity. Cable is a brave new world, and it hasn’t gotten easier. In fact, it’s exponentially more complicated than most people could ever imagine. But that’s exactly what makes it so much fun." M.C. Antil can be reached at m.c.antil@att.net.

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