SCTE member since 1981 Title: Vice President, Hardware, National Cable Television Cooperative Broadband Background: Prior to joining NCTC, Tschirner served as vice president of engineering for Time Warner’s Kansas City Division. He is a senior member of the SCTE. What are your primary roles? There are several. I oversee the inside hardware sales team. So order processing, returns, pricing, the Web site, all of that is in my area. I’m one of the direct reports to Mark Bishop, senior VP of Hardware. The second one is providing technical assistance to members for multi-vendor solutions. So that’s VoIP, VOD, digital additions, HD, anything that’s not a clean, out-of-the-box solution. The third part is equipment evaluation—that’s new product and new vendor evaluation. Is it a product that’s being requested by membership? Does it fill obvious needs? The 20-questions list. You don’t have a lab, do you? No, our product evaluation procedures are pretty straightforward. We go to the manufacturer, select stock from their inventory, and ask them to meet their own specifications in their setting. I stole this from Dave Franklin at Time Warner, after seeing how successfully it worked for him. What’s this model? Really, it’s a case of "was the spec sheet written by the engineering department or the marketing department?" It started back in the day of AM lasers, when everybody had the best performance. But when you bought them, they were delivered, and yours never performed like the ones in the ad. You were at Time Warner yourself, correct? Yes, I was 24 years with Time Warner. I started as a service tech out of tech school in 1981, Kansas City, at what was then an ATC system. From there, through the ranks: maintenance tech, headend tech, tech manager … on through director of engineering and eventually vice president of engineering. And I left there, April 2004, to join the Co- op. You’re from Kansas? Born and raised. That makes me a cable oddity: 25 years in the same industry in the same city. How have you found working the industry on this side? I love it. It’s rewarding working with the members, and seeking ideas and seeing them put into action, and to be able to answer their questions and see the light bulbs illuminate. How about your role of being a systems integrator consultant? That requires you to be a jack-of-all-trades and yet master of them all, doesn’t it? Well, I have about a three-to-five year head start on where the members are. Systems and services that members are beginning to investigate and launch are those that have now become cost-effective. So VOD costs, server costs have plummeted, for instance. Actually, two things have happened. Members have adopted digital as a good thing. They’re putting it out as an offensive tool, so they’re getting their box counts up. And VOD is a reality. So given my Time Warner experience, I can take any one of 18 hub sites with servers in them, and that’s still a larger server complex than what a member is talking about for a deployment. So I have a three-year head start. Same with VoIP. I’ve got the t-shirt. The t-shirt? Been there, done that. I’ve done the bill of materials. I know how all the pieces plug in together, where the problems are, what to avoid. Taking that and now using new technology, like GigE instead of ASI interfaces, I can take the building blocks and modify it. Same with multi-color fiber. So it’s using experiences like that and scaling them down—and I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, just that the size of the application needs to be scaled down. What about the MSO/small operator divide? There’s a very real feeling among smaller operators that the large MSOs that make the headlines are spending billions of dollars on trials, or that their test deployments can just burn money. What small operators don’t see and hear is that day to day, where that money is coming from, is guys like me who have to—or had to—count paper clips. Cable earned its reputation of being as cheap as the day is long, didn’t it? Spend no dime before it’s time. What about digital simulcast, that’s fairly new? The technologies are there. So now it’s just modifying the business case. Having been in the vice president’s role before, and being exposed to the financials and the capital expense and ROI and all those pieces, I have that as well. I can talk to the chief tech, I can talk to the guy out climbing the pole and I can talk to the owner and say, "Here’s where the money goes, in and in 24 months, here’s where it comes back out." What topics are you asked about most frequently these days? The top three are HD additions, VOD and now digital simulcast. Those are by far and away the drivers.