BY SHIRLEY BRADY Susquehanna Communications’ enriched broadband content might be available elsewhere on the Web, but the top 20 MSO is banking on the appeal of one-stop shopping to drive its first foray into tiered broadband services. Susquehanna has inked a deal with Synacor, a dot-com turned broadband content aggregator, to provide its high-speed Internet subscribers with premium entertainment from Disney Interactive, Fox Sports.com and CinemaNow.com. This is the first cable operator deal for Synacor. Ron Frankel, the company’s president and CEO (and the former president of MGM Interactive) says he has ten content providers now on board and will be announcing “a pretty rich group of additional content providers” in the next 90 days. Besides offering licensed content, Synacor’s back-end software integrates with an operator’s network to handle customer registration, rights management, password storage, billing and other logistics for the MSO while providing a seamless interface for the customer. “We enable MSOs to add profit and revenue to their broadband platforms by leveraging our relationships with their service,” says Frankel, who is looking to add more “experiential products” such as e-greeting cards or online personals to his lineup. Susquehanna is launching the bundled service in early April for $39.95, which is only $8 more than its broadband customers currently pay. The operator is paying Synacor a flat fee for the platform and a variable fee for each premium subscriber. SusCom high-speed subs will be able to play games with Disney characters on Disney Blast, get sports news from ESPN Insider and watch movies such as Scooby-Doo from CinemaNow. “We’ve had great success with our high-speed access product, and this gives us another opportunity to provide content in a unique way,” says Dan Templin, Susquehanna’s VP of marketing and programming. “It helps us showcase the best of broadband while driving our cable modem product.” Templin says the Synacor platform offers “a truly end-to-end solution” with the convenience of a unified log-in via the SusCom home page and no additional billing for SusCom’s broadband customers in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana and Maine. “We’re offering a 30-day free trial, which is more appealing than the one-day free trial offered by Disney Blast, for instance,” he notes. “We’re planning to heavily market this through cross-channel, TV, print and our retail sales channels.” Although Synacor doesn’t offer two of the stickiest online applications — music and games — Susquehanna already offers gaming from Buzztime, an interactive gaming platform bundled with its digital tier. Templin says more than half of registered digital homes spend one hour to 70 minutes a day playing on the service. Better still, he adds: The MSO’s customer retention improved 38% in November and December.

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