They say Hell is lined with good intentions, some boulevards are paved with broken dreams and that a good idea and a quarter will get you a phone call. I say that’s crazy. If you can find a pay phone these days, it’ll cost you at least 35 cents. Which leads me to an idea I had recently. It began with an NPR story I heard which said most people who download music for free are willing to pay for it. These music "sharers" say that, for under a buck, they’d gladly purchase songs on an a la carte basis. As I was listening-and, please, bear with me here-I thought of an old promo for ESPN’s Monday night college hoops in which Robert Goulet said, "’Monday night’ – the two greatest words in the English language since ‘chorus girl.’" I loved that spot, but thought that if ESPN had featured a cable operator instead of a kitschy Vegas icon, the copy would have read: "’Monday night’ – the two greatest words in the English language since ‘recurring revenue.’" That’s when it hit me. Why not combine the market’s willingness to pay for music with the cable industry’s love of recurring revenue? Why not a subscription music download service available through cable modems? Like Netflix successfully married subscriptions and movie rentals, while instilling in customers a tremendous sense of value, why can’t cable do that with music? Can you imagine a service that for, say, $10 a month offers unlimited sampling and downloading of music? Such a service would not only open up a bountiful new revenue stream for MSOs, but as a proprietary service it would drive sales of high-speed data subscriptions to a segment of the market they so covet. Well, you can imagine my surprise to discover that cable already has such as service, called Rhapsody. Nine months ago Comcast announced a partnership with RealNetworks to make a relatively limited library (650K) of songs available for downloading either on a subscription or a la carte basis. And at the time RealNetworks already had deals with, among others, Cablevision and Time Warner Cable. You literally could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard that. I never knew such a service existed, and I traffic in this stuff. And while I live on a Cox system, I have friends who are Comcast and Time Warner Cable customers, and they’ve never heard of Rhapsody either, despite the fact that they regularly download music. Look, the billion dollar music industry is in tatters, ravaged by so many years of greed and so little regard for both the artists who create music and the people who buy it. And amid these ruins lies an amazing opportunity for cable to forever change how consumers buy and sell music. And while a replacement model is apparently in place, it doesn’t take Char Beales to tell you that this golden opportunity will go the way of so many others without better marketing. And the time to strike is now; to herd those millions of former KaZaa and Napster sharers, along with the growing multitude of MP3 users into a business robust enough to stand alongside any we’re in. Can a subscription music service work on cable? Sure. Will it happen? That’s a bigger question. A lot of things stand it the way, including a music industry hell-bent on maintaining the status quo and our long-held bias against music as a revenue generator. But Symonds says, if cable operators fully commit to subscription music on top of their existing video, voice and high-speed data services, they will realize a windfall in the form of their two favorite words. And I don’t mean "chorus girl." Curtis Symonds can be reached at

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Blue Ridge Brings FTTH

Broadband internet provider Blue Ridge Communications is updating its networks to convert to complete FTTH service in rural Pennsylvania. The build started in Westfield, PA

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