Title: vice president of marketing and business development, SCTE

Broadband Background: Swann worked for nearly 30 years for Verizon Communications in Philadelphia before accepting early retirement from the company in 2004. She began her career as a management trainee with Bell of Pennsylvania, and in her final position with Verizon Communications, she served as the president of Verizon TeleProducts Inc., a telecom equipment sales, packaging, and fulfillment subsidiary of Verizon Communications with annual sales totaling $140 million.

You recently attended the SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies; what two things did you come away from Houston with?

It was very interesting to hear about the future direction for technology in the industry. It was an honor to see and hear from so many of the top technologists at once. The take-aways for me were the impact of the Internet on the future of the industry, from the impact on content delivery and customer control to the change in the delivery of advertising and spread of ad revenues. It also struck me that the future of home servers and the emergence of home automation could have a significant impact on the industry and the role of the set-top box. That development could be the next vehicle of change for the communications industry.

As someone who is new to the SCTE, what do you see as the organization’s biggest challenges for the rest of this year and down the road? What will be the biggest challenge for you personally?

From my early viewpoint, continually bringing increased value to our members is the challenge to which this organization has risen every year. This year will be no different. The rapid technological change and increasing competitive pressures not only influence the direction and future of the industry, but they also impact the direction of SCTE. I have every confidence that this society will continue to examine these changes and identify new ways to bring value to its members.

For me personally, with now three weeks with SCTE under my belt, I think learning the operational aspects of a nonprofit association, given my lengthy tenure in a corporation driven by bottom line profitability, will keep me busy!

As almost a 30-year veteran of Verizon Communications, what kind of insight can you give the cable industry that’s out of the mainstream chatter?

Having spent a good portion of my career in retail marketing, specifically during the period of time in which competition was emerging in telecommunications, I would suggest that this industry segment (cable) faces the same challenges. It should not lose sight of the value of building and maintaining customer loyalty before competitive pressure increases dramatically. As pressure on revenue streams starts to increase, it is difficult to make customer loyalty choices that do not add to bottom line revenue. However, valuable customers who feel ignored or burdened by higher prices will look for and take advantage of competitive alternatives to reduce their bills or gain greater value for what they are paying. Quality of service, price, the overall customer experience, and innovative new service offerings all impact the customers’ decisions to seek alternatives.

What were some of your more memorable moments at Verizon?

I had many interesting and exciting times while I worked for Verizon and its antecedents. I worked through a period of heavy regulation where I testified in rate cases in order to change price and services offered to customers. I worked through the Bell System divestiture, two major corporate mergers, the growth of competitive providers, industry consolidation, and the emergence of wireless service from a niche technology to a dominant and universal voice then data service. In all, as a student of industrial structure, I have watched with fascination the continuous change in an industry once a monopoly. Technological advancement and market forces have truly been at the core of all of these changes.

Now that you’ve been here a couple of weeks, what are your impressions of the cable industry compared to telcos and wireless? Strengths and weaknesses of each?
 
Since my tenure with SCTE is just at the three-week mark, I can only offer these observations. The initial sense that I have of this segment of the industry is very similar to the feel in the telcos when competition was in its early stages. Studying that time in that industry could be of value to the MSOs.

What prompted you to come out of early retirement to work for the SCTE?

Even while retired, I found that I was still fascinated by the changes taking place in the communication industry. When this opportunity arose, I couldn’t help but think that it would be very interesting to be a part of the industry from "the other side of the street." Added to that was the opportunity to learn about association management. It seemed like a win-win to me!

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