You don’t often get these guys together in a room, much less a panel at the massive Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. But moderator and CEA pres/CEO Gary Shapiro somehow convinced top cable, satellite and telco honchos to ponder the future together on stage Mon at the annual gadget confab. Surprisingly, the oil-and-water mixture of Cox pres Pat Esser and Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt with EchoStar chmn/CEO Charlie Ergen and DirecTV CEO Chase Carey yielded few fireworks-although there were plenty of smirks to go around as each side touted their own advantages. Ah, those little moments. Like when Esser politely tussled with Verizon Telecom pres Virginia Ruesterholz over the cost of Verizon’s FiOS rollout: She said it’s about $1,500 per home; Esser said it’s more like $4,000 if Verizon hits its subscriber targets. They went on to both predict that they would capture 60% broadband penetration in their markets within 5 years. Ergen joked that in 5 years "we’re not going to have any customers," which he said would at least meet market expectations. Ergen also took a jab of sorts at his own subs, who he said aren’t generally interested in sophisticated product offerings. "I’m from the South," he said. "We’re just not the brightest people… I say with all seriousness that there are different types of people who do different things." Britt said HD is "terrific" but still lacks a good business model. Panelists said content portability may present more interesting opportunities to drive revenue. "Customers are starting to see the power of the different devices they have" and want content flexibility, Ruesterholz said. But while Britt agreed that "the future is about offering services that cut across these different platforms," he said no one really knows what models will prevail. Esser cautioned against trying to do too much too soon. "[Customers] don’t want any hassle factor," he said. "They want it to work." If devices don’t work properly together, he said customers won’t vent their complaints to CE makers. "They’re going to call my call center because they have a problem," he said. — For more CES coverage, visit http://www.cable360.net.

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