With the economy in turmoil, how will the cable industry change its marketing messages? It’s a subject that we expect to surface many times over the course of CTAM Summit this week (Sun-Tues, Boston). With companies making dramatic cuts in expenses, it’s no surprise that the confab is expected to see a drop-off in attendance. CTAM pres/CEO Char Beales said the group expects 2,200-2,400 to head to Boston, down from 2700+ attendees for last year’s Summit in DC. But the economy is also helping to spur some attendance, she said, noting that some execs are attaching greater urgency to participating because of the current marketplace challenges. While cable is considered pretty recession proof, there are already a few signs of the industry altering marketing strategies, such as economy tiers for cable services and more emphasis on retention. Many are wondering what it means for the holidays, with consumer spending expected to be sluggish. "We’re changing how we speak about high-def, particularly as we go into the holiday season and more people are buying high-def sets," Comcast COO Steve Burke said during 3Q earnings. Comcast didn’t elaborate on how it’s changing that messaging. Mediacom has announced that it will remove voicemail from its bundle of features for digital phone and sell it a la carte beginning Nov 15. "Rather than pay to provide voicemail for all of our phone customers when most were not taking advantage of it, we decided to start selling it as an additional option," a MCCC rep said, adding that a "large majority" didn’t use the feature. "This will help keep our wholesale phone costs low and allow us to continue offering low retail phone prices into the future." Customers who sign up for voicemail by Nov 15 will pay $1.93/month vs the standard $4.95/month rate. CTAM organizers have asked many speakers to change their presentations in order to address marketing during the downturn. Sessions that seem especially likely to delve into the topic include Mon’s afternoon general session dubbed, "Phone+Mobile+Internet+TV—Does It Add Up?" and Tues’ closing lunch, whose speakers include Cablevision COO Tom Rutledge, Discovery pres/CEO David Zaslav and Canoe‘s David Verklin.

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