You can often tell how important a subject is to a company by where it appears in an investor presentation, and how much is said about it. Last month Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt spent a lot of time at UBS’ annual investor fest touting digital phone, ITV and wireless. More than midway through his talk, Britt turned to high-definition TV. He spent less than one minute on it. Comcast operations EVP Dave Watson followed the same path in his presentation. Even though the universe of homes with HD sets is growing (it’s at 20 million) and two more HD cable networks launch this month, some feel HDTV has become an afterthought for cable. Not true, is the consensus of our HD roundtable of Cox Communications SVP, marketing, Joe Rooney, ESPN’s HD chief Bryan Burns and In Demand Networks SVP, programming, David Asch. They feel HD will thrive this year. Still, in a wide-ranging discussion, they acknowledge concerns, particularly with consumer confusion. They also discuss simulcasting and how video games can assist HD marketing. (Following is an extended version of the interview that appeared in the print edition of CW.) CableWORLD: It’s January 2006. Where’s HDTV in your company’s priority list? Joe Rooney, Cox Communications: It’s toward the top. Clearly, it’s important to consumers and therefore, it’s important to me as a marketer. CW: What’s at the top? Rooney: It’s the bundle, baby. Still number one, but the elements within the bundle are key, and HD is one of those. What’s making HD more critical, more quickly than things like interactive TV, is the fact that it’s the number one win-back strategy we have against satellite. Customers are coming to us from satellite because of our high-def product. In addition, when you buy an HD set, retailers like Big Box have very impressive displays, and it forces the consumer to look at their [multichannel] video provider and say, `Well, I really want to watch HD on here. Do I have the right provider to get it?’ It’s important for us not only to do the best we can on the marketing and sales front, but also that our retail presence is the best it can be, and we have the right value proposition for the consumer. We think we have the best HD out there. CW: Are Joe’s thoughts the exception, or the mainstream in operator HD thinking? David Asch, In Demand: I’ll speak to that more from the network side. Our goal with our three platforms—two linear HD channels, a HD PPV service and a HD VOD service—and we’re fortunate to have three platforms to play with—our goal is just to put the best programming on all three of those fronts all the time. CW: What platform (linear HD, HD PPV and HD VOD) works the best? Asch: The easy answer, to be honest, is all of the above. But I can be more specific. Obviously, on-demand is a growing platform that gives consumers a great amount of choice and convenience. When you’re able to bring a new technology and a great viewing experience like HD to that, it does add to the effect. Consumers are responding to HD VOD and HD PPV. Buy rates there tend to be a bit better. On the HD network side, HD is hard to match, whether it’s sports, movie or music programming. Anything we can do to enhance those experiences is going to be well received. CW: When Joe says HDTV is toward the top of Cox’s list, not at the top, is that similar to what other operators are saying? Is HD not as sexy or alluring as what operators can do with digital phone, VOD, ITV or DVRs? Asch: I’m not hearing that. It might be because in terms of the different platforms, we provide to cable operators the product they will use to retain their best customers and attract new ones. Bryan Burns, ESPN: Joe’s right in that HD for operators is a toward-the-top priority. I don’t think it’s our place to comment about the priorities an operator makes. They have their own economic situations, plus there are some economic models for other products they have these days that are very compelling, and I respect that. We’re undergoing such a transformation in TV that if HD is not at the top of the list, it will be there soon. CW: How’s that? Burns: We know now that for the first time, this year, there will be more HD sets sold than standard-definition sets sold in this country. That’s a defining event. We also know from our research here, based on the consumers we reach, that consumers buying these products are equipped to spend money to feed them, which is a good thing for us and our distributors, which is what we want to happen. So there are good economic reasons to push HD going forward. CW: There’s still plenty of consumer confusion—half the HD sets aren’t hooked up to a cable system’s HD offering. How can you change that? Rooney: There’s an education opportunity for the operators and our content partners to make sure people know what HD is, when they’re getting HD and when they’re not. Some of the confusion comes from customers thinking they’ve got HD when they don’t. It’s not hard to understand. There’s a little bit of a bait-and-switch from the DBS guys who talk about thousands of HD channels, or 1,000 local HD channels, when you have to have a home in every metro marketplace to have 1,000 HD local channels. That doesn’t help. But there is an education opportunity and we have a number of different initiatives intended to help clarify for customers what HD really is. CW: How much responsibility does the cable industry take for the confusion? Burns: I prefer not to point fingers, but I will, even though I have many friends in the consumer electronics industry. We’ve come to know them very well over the last 3-4 years at ESPN. I recall going to an FCC meeting a year ago where that weekend, I took the Sunday newspaper circulars and pulled out all of the various phrases used in them to sell HD sets. I repeated them all in a row, and when you hear them all in a row, it’s stunning. `Three-two cinematic motion pulldown,’ followed by the next thing someone says. As a consumer, when you read all these things, it’s scary. You don’t know what to buy. You don’t know what to do. Consumer electronics companies, in their zest to make their products better than the next one, have created a lot of this. It’s just the nature of what they do. Programmers and distribution partners can be part of the solution to this problem. I don’t think either one of us is the problem. Asch: I echo a lot of what Bryan says. Any kind of new technology is confusing, and you’ve seen it with DVRs, even DVD players at the outset. Technology inherently is going to be confusing, and for better or worse, the technology keeps getting more and more advanced. We hear things like aspect ratio and interlaced or progressive screens, and while these things mean a lot to the three of us, they don’t mean a lot to a consumer. They look more to having a great viewing experience, or having a wide screen versus a narrow screen. All we can do is keep educating people on the technology and accelerate that process. CW: OK, so how do you make HD sexy without getting consumers deep into tech speak? Rooney: The way to make it resonate with consumers is to listen to them and find out what’s important to them. The CE manufacturers and retailers are in very competitive environments where they look for an edge. That’s where cinematic pulldown and 720p/10 ADI discussions come from. They look to make sure the consumer understands that their set on a shelf has it just as much as the one next to it. For me as a marketer, I’ve got to ask consumers what’s important to them. What they really want to know is whether it’s easy to use. Are you going to back it technically? Is Cox going to help me get the set connected, and support me when I run into problems? Are you going to get me the most updated content? Will my regular channels look OK? When we talk to customers, we tend to use that data in our marketing messages so it’s clear that we are listening and acting on what’s important to them. CW: How do programmers contribute to that dialogue, so customers get the benefits of HD? Asch: One way we do that is with creative, innovative programming. What we can help the operators with is running shows that demonstrate the benefits of HD. Sports look great in HD. Customers who play music programming in HD, who have surround sound at home, really get a benefit. The more programming we can provide hopefully can translate into a good consumer experience. CW: There’s a perception that there’s not enough HD programming out there. True? Burns: We’ve come to the point in this industry where we can say that’s patently untrue. The week of Nov. 6 [2005], we looked at all of the SD/HD simulcast services—ABC, Starz, Fox, NBC, Showtime, ESPN2, The WB, TNT so on and so forth. All have rated programming. We took a look at what the aggregated rating points were delivered nationally to programming on those channels delivered in HD. It was more than 1,000 rating points…Boston Legal, West Wing, CSI Miami, Commander in Chief, you can pick them. The shows people are watching are now available in HD. Those shows delivered more than 1 billion household viewings in one week. Those who say there’s not enough available simply don’t know what they’re talking about. CW: Are there other deterrents? Burns: One of the major deterrents to HD was high TV set prices. But retailers will tell you that price has become less and less of an issue, or it’s no longer an issue. It’s more about financing now, such as paying no interest on a set until January 2008. When you walk into your local Circuit City store, literally HD is all they’re selling. It’s very hard to find a 4 x 3 set to buy these days. HD is what’s going out the door. CW: How much will HDTV prices plunge in 2006? Asch: You already see prices on some models falling below $1,000 a set. What will happen is that the 40-inch HD sets get to $1,000 by the holidays in December. That’s a guess, but seeing how fast the prices are coming down, a good one. Depending on where you go and the size of the set you want, you can buy HD models in the $500-800 range. When you get the 40-inch sets at that price, we’ll see a tipping point in customers for HD. Burns: It’s fascinating to see what’s happening at retail, You can look at Harvey Electronics in New York City, or any Wal-Mart in America and you can buy an HD set now for under $600. There’s something out there for everyone, and what has occurred here is based on the space you have in your viewing location—I choose those words carefully—no matter who you are, your next set should be an HDTV. Asch: With the price coming down, people are not just buying the primary HD set for the living room or the dining room. Prices are coming down enough for you to put a small HD set in the bedroom. Rooney: A smart CE manufacturer will try to keep the price above $1,000 and get you to buy a bigger set than you picked up last year. When you see the big HD sets, it’s hard to say you could save a hundred bucks on a smaller set. Burns: And we should acknowledge some other things driving this business. Video games will have a huge impact on HD over the next year. Whether Xbox 360 or PlayStation or our work with Electronic Arts to produce video games under the EA banner in HD, or the coming of Blu-ray DVDs, all those things are driving people to walk into a store and buy HD. It all plays off one another. CW: Do you see combining HD with Xbox, or HD with Google, or HD with DVRs as a tactic to attract younger demos? Rooney: Marketers are always looking for hooks, ways to capture the customer’s imagination. The hook of HD and gaming, or HD and broadband, is an interesting way to talk to consumers. We look at segmentation data of who buys HD. It tends to be 25-54, $75,000-plus in income, multiple PC ownership and early adopters. That’s today. Tomorrow, young people will increasingly be a larger target, and the marketing might have to be a bit hipper. Burns: I was watching some of my services a few days ago and saw Xbox 360 run a commercial on our air whose focus was on HD graphics. I almost fell out of my chair! They were using the TV medium to push what they had. Those people are pulling it together—making the association of TV and HD and spinning things both ways. Rooney: The other advantage of Xbox 360 is that every game is HD and every game is online-enabled. I’ve got HD and online in one, so that’s a perfect product for me to be promoting. CW: What genres move cable customers to buy HD? Asch: The easy answer is sports, movies and music move the needle. Pro sports, college sports played at a high level do very well. HD gives you an avenue to do some of the alternative sports like competitive eating. You can experiment a little bit. Travel programming can look terrific in HD. On the movie side, you’ll see action pictures doing very well. With music, most of the early HD adopters have surround sound systems. As people get home networking and more advanced home technology, things like music take advantage of both sound and sight quality. Our programming will continue along those paths. We recently hired a new original programming head who will work on that, as well as other directions. Burns: For us, popular HD sports programming mirrors the ratings and viewing for SD. The highest-rated cable program often is NFL Sunday Night Football. That will be Monday Night Football this fall on ESPN. Our major sports coverage does the best. However, we are trying to diversify the HD lineup. For example, we just did the National Finals Rodeo from Las Vegas, a Cox stronghold. We did a whole week of it—wild stuff, and the consumer reaction was just great. We’re trying to do different things, but the staples—college basketball, NFL, major league baseball—that people watch in SD they watch more in HD. CW: Joe, on average how many HD channels do your systems carry? Do any do particularly well for sales? Rooney: Around 12-13 channels per system. It would be hard to point to a specific programmer that doesn’t provoke sales. Go in and look at the pictures—sports looks wonderful in HD. I could not imagine not having ESPN/ESPN2 HD. About 70% of our customers say they sometimes watch shows in HD they wouldn’t normally watch. That describes some of the shows I watch on INHD or INHD2. Shows I’ve never heard of or seen before that look so awesome that they stop you in your tracks. You put the remote down and spend an hour there. We don’t do news on HD yet, and ultimately, that will be an important programming genre for HD because you want to be able to read everything clearly and quickly, or feel like you’re in the action. Movies on our premium HD services or on INHD are very important. Sports from ESPN and nature shows on Discovery HD Theater are terrific. One thing people like about our service is that we have your favorite prime-time cable or broadcast shows. CW: Do you promote cable shows and channels over broadcast shows and channels? Rooney: The DBS guys have most of the same HD channels we have, only they charge more for them. The difference for us is we’re the only place where you get the local HD broadcast signals. CW: Do sports with concentrated HD marketing campaigns, like the Summer Olympics, draw new subscribers? Burns: I look at those as one-trick ponies. You have to ask the people behind them if they work. We try to go for consistent, predictable programming like a live Saturday-night college football game in the fall. Same place, same time, same station, if you pardon the pun. Having said that, we just acquired with ABC rights to the next World Cup soccer championship this summer, plus the next three thereafter. So we’ll put over 60 World Cup matches on ESPN HD/ESPN2 HD and ABC Sports HD this year. We’ll play the best of both worlds here. We’ll take the big event if we can get it, but our staple is predictable scheduling for consumers. CW: Are HD sports specials a good-trick pony, or a bad-trick pony? Burns: You get a limited number of people who will come along for the ride short-term. But the big upside is with consistent, predictable programming, 12 months a year. CW: Will there be as much HD promotion as regular ESPN promotion for NFL Monday Night Football this fall? Burns: I cannot begin to tell you the size and scope of what we’re going to do this fall. I was looking this morning at the layout of some of the new trucks we’re going to build and use to run Monday Night Football in HD. There is going to be a daylong HD extravaganza every Monday this fall on both ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD. Monday Night Countdown before the game will be on-site every week in HD. We have big plans there. Asch: High definition is a great medium to do event-based programming. You can help drive viewership and create a great original destination in some cases. Very early this year, we’ll present a Motley Crue concert shot in HD, using 20-plus cameras. Those kind of events add a lot of value because they cut through the clutter and allow people to have some destination and mark time to watch. Rooney: Event-based marketing has always been an interesting way to take advantage of consumers’ interests. If you think about what’s coming up for big HD events in the next few months, you’ve got the NFL playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, the launch of MTV’s MHD service, the first HD service targeted to youth and the first all-music HD channel. In addition, we’ve done a fair amount of promotion around Xbox 360. Frankly, campaigns combining Xbox with MHD could bring the youth audience to HD in a much bigger way. Do we want to be part of these big events, so they think about us as a provider of HD? Yes. There’s a short-term promotional opportunity that might hold long-term implications in terms of customer preference. CW: Will you roll out MHD everywhere? Rooney: Yes, we’ve got a commitment to the product, and we’re one of the few operators that’s stepped up so early to this. CW: Is it better to concentrate HD marketing and promotions on specific series like Monday Night Football? Rooney: I agree with Bryan’s ESPN strategy on consistent programming. ESPN HD is a simulcast of ESPN, so they’ve already got a ton of effort driving eyeballs to ESPN. To watch SportsCenter in HD, Sunday Night Football in HD is terrific. What makes sense to me as an operator is simulcasting. All your promotional dollars go to one product. ESPN and ESPN HD are the same—one in SD, one in HD. Let’s say a service like The Puppy Channel is carried on analog, and your new Puppy Channel HD channel doesn’t have the same programming. Different programming hour-by-hour, month-by-month. You have two different Puppy services, so the consumer is confused and the operator feels like he’s in a weird place. I prefer the strategy where I launch a simulcast HD channel. Burns: When we first started an HD service 34 months ago, I didn’t think we were headed for a simulcast strategy. We were headed for a hybrid strategy with some original HD content. The more we listened to consumers, and to operators, we decided the simulcast strategy was the way to go, hence the launch of ESPN2HD. CW: But at some point, doesn’t cable HD have to have some attractions that you can’t get anywhere else? Burns: Not at all. In 2008, there will be 100 million HD sets that will have been sold in the U.S. Do we want to clog up Joe’s bandwidth with multiple services? No. At some point, everything becomes ubiquitous and everything becomes one. We’re in a transition period now. The endgame is not specialized channels. Asch: At some point, everything will be in HD. When you go to Circuit City or Best Buy to buy TVs, if you really look hard, you can buy an analog set, a wide-screen set, or a digital non-HD set. More and more, all you will get are HD sets. CW: In San Diego, your employees go into retail stores to help answer HD questions from customers. How long have you been doing that? Rooney: A few years. I was in a Big Box retailer this weekend looking for holiday gifts for my family. There was a factory rep from a CE manufacturer there, answering questions and demonstrating the product. The retailer likes this because they don’t have enough people—it’s hard to staff at peak demand. Even if you did staff at peak demand, could you really train everybody on every product in that store, and every service connecting to every product in that store? It would be hard to keep track of all that. If we’ve got Cox employees in a Big Box store on evenings and weekends, able to educate people and showcase the HD lineup, we’re making it clear what HD is and isn’t, and helping to overcome misconceptions between our HD and DBS. So with the retailers we work with in San Diego, our employees are there 5-9 p.m. and noon to closing time on weekends. We also demonstrate VOD and DVRs. Since all of our DVRs are HD, it’s easy to put content on the HD DVR and show it off. CW: Are you rolling this practice out to other markets? Rooney: We currently do this in Arizona and Orange County, California. I’d venture all of our major markets do something. We’re not afraid to borrow good ideas from individual areas and share best practices across the organization. CW: Is this a model Comcast, Time Warner and other MSOs should follow? Rooney: Comcast, Time Warner and others, from what I understand, are doing this in some of their markets. Burns: Helping to educate the consumer about how to get service is important and very relevant. We’re platform-agnostic here, but It’s clear consumers are confused about the scene, and if our distributors educate them to their betterment, that’s a good thing to do. Asch: Here’s something else we should do to educate people about HD, especially with HD VOD. Let’s say we do a big boxing match in HD. We cross-promote on our SD channels and barker channels. When we do a cross-channel spot on a SD title, show or event, we promote the HD version as well. You want to tell the standard PPV or VOD user there’s a better HD platform they can watch this on. CW: David, when you have joint HD marketing involving operators, programmers, retailers and other parties, what works and what doesn’t? Asch: Last year, we did a promotion with Samsung where we did a big concert each month with artists like Bon Jovi. A lot of people like Samsung will look to artists or brands that are highly identifiable, and that kind of campaign works. It’s hard for me to say what doesn’t work. When we put our eggs in a basket, we invest a lot of time and make sure in conversations with operators that the campaign is useful to them. Rooney: What works for us on these campaigns is the win-win-win, where it’s a win for us, a win for our programming partner and a win for the consumer. Usually for the programmer, they look for top-of-mind with customers, eyeballs for their major programming, an ad sales upside locally and/or nationally. The consumer wins with great deals on our services. On our side, we are much more successful when marketing, ad sales and PR work together on events, rather than separately. What doesn’t work is when the campaign is not win-win-win. That’s when the campaign is very labor-intensive, or single-product focused. If I’m a field marketing guy, I’m not interested in doing single-product marketing projects that take a lot of time and work, and have a little bit of potential. I’d much rather do something that drives sales of the bundle, or helps me get into retail in a bigger way. Burns: We are blessed here to have a variety of media in which to work joint campaigns. We sell all kinds of things here—cars, beer, financial services and Mountain Dew. When we turn the operation we have here around in support of our own products, and we crank up ESPN Radio, ESPN.com, ESPN the Magazine and our ESPN TV channels to all focus on the same thing, that’s a huge win for us in the marketing game. Those who watch and listen to our services know we actively promote HD across every media we have. It’s worked very well for us. Rooney: The ESPN Playbook campaign we did last year was a successful deal. We worked with ESPN to develop an educational online placement with an instant-win component. It helped people understand what HD was, the difference in different HD formats, why cable is the best way to get HD programming and what’s great about ESPN’s HD. That was a win-win-win. CW: Will these pairing be the way to get people of color taking HD? Or do you have to go beyond that? Rooney: We’ve been successful generally with our marketing to Latinos and African-Americans. Part of that is because we respect those customers. We use research to ensure that we understand the appropriate way to communicate, the appropriate product mix to reference. If you look at any demographic group—take Latinos—you’ll see what they think about HD, VOD, DVR, and which products are most important, where you start, what messages to give. Speaking to Latinos about on-demand content is a home run. We do more on VOD with Latinos than we do on HD now, but that will change over time. CW: Do your systems run HD content on VOD? Rooney: We’re not as far along on that as some of the other operators are. Asch: We definitely see more action from operators on HD VOD. It has to be about the content. We’ve made some HD movies available on VOD, and it translates into a bump in the buy rates. Granted, it’s a small universe right now, but now that a lot of studios are offering their best films in HD, VOD will be a great tool. Burns: It’s simple from our standpoint. When our distributors say they want HD VOD from us, we’ll deliver it to them. We’re starting to hear an early stage of interest. Asch: One thing we’re able to do on VOD for HD is to offer nontraditional product on VOD. With some movies running on INHD, at a later point in time, we will offer on VOD the version playing in IMAX theaters around the country. and they look terrific. It gives us a broader offering than what you find with traditional studio product. They are pretty successful. CW: Joe, do you get a bump out of HD VOD as you might for HD DVRs? Rooney: I’m not sure I can compare the two. HD DVR is huge—about 42% of our HD households have an HD DVR. They go together very well. When I think about what I can get out of HD, I go to customer relationships. About 35% of our HD customers are new to us. We connect tens of thousands of HD customers every month, and 35% of the time it’s a new relationship. New people moving into a neighborhood represent a big chunk of that 35%, and this is also a big DBS win-back strategy. Satellite customers recognize they’re charged extra for the HD channels we provide free, and you have to buy the equipment in most cases. It’s hard to get a DBS service call, compared to us, willing to go into your home and help with your installation. CW: A year ago, In Demand brought advertiser and ad agency people together in a New York theater to show HD. In Demand made a pitch—how about running ads on our INHD services. Anything come of that? Asch: We’re continuing to make that pitch. We’ve had some national advertisers on our channels, such as BMW and New Line Cinema. So Some results came from that event. There are still two issues associated with HD channel ads. One is viewership. This is very much an early adopter buy you’re making, for a small but attractive audience. Two is on the production side, where a lot of commercial producers weren’t producing spots in HD. The trend now is going toward making HD spots, as the production and editing equipment becomes less expensive. As the HD home universe expands, you will see more people make HD advertising. Burns: On the national front, hold that thought. Back to you very soon on that deal. On the local front, if operators have the systems in place to run HD messages, fine with us. No problem. CW: What’s been your experience with digital ad insertion? Rooney: Digital ad insertion is a huge growth area for cable. We have hundreds of digital channels and we need to insert on them. We’ve been doing it in some markets for a few years. Digital simulcast will come in a bigger way this year, so digital ad insertion will become more important. I assume that HD ad insertion will follow on the heels of digital insertion. CW: David, until you get ratings, how do you justify the HD audience to advertisers? Asch: You show it as a very attractive audience. When we do audience research, we find the audience for HD is very similar to audiences for other cable programming, in terms of age and household income. The audience is going to grow. By the way, since we’ve talked about gaming, that audience is right in that sweet spot as well. We’re able to target those people. This is also a tech-savvy audience. I’m not sure if the tech curve is getting shorter, or people are coming up on tech quicker. With all of these devices people use, such as Blackberry or DVD or even VoIP phones, the iterations keep coming. People who have HD sets and cable programming are a tech-savvy bunch. Burns: We have sold our first sponsorship flight for 2006, running from now until the Super Bowl, across ESPN HD/ESPN2 HD and ABC Sports HD to Texas Instruments for their DLP products. They have purchased space across all our various mediums. Our multiple platforms help us sell sponsorships. When the day comes when we can accept advertising in HD that will open us up to anybody wishing to produce an ad in HD. We want to exploit both situations. CW: What lessons can the cable industry learn from Voom? Rooney: The lesson operators need to remember, and this applies both to your HD and VOD strategy, is that nothing beats quality programming. Tonnage is not the most important thing to the consumer. I’m not going to watch The Paint Drying Channel, even if it is in HD. It doesn’t matter to say you have the most channels. Customers would consider it a bit of a bait-and-switch if I offered The Paint Drying Channel and The Fish Tank Channel, and I counted them as channels. Quality programming, produced with an eye to what the consumer looks for, wins the day. Burns: Amen. Asch: About Voom, it’s difficult to be both a distributor and a programmer. Now they’ve moved to one model rather than trying to do both—as a programmer. They’re focusing on a lot of niches, as opposed to our focus on general entertainment content. CW: Joe, any HD nets you don’t have which you will add in 2006, aside from MHD? Burns: I know one. (Laughter from all three.) I couldn’t resist that, guys. I’m sorry. CW: What do you think of Mark Cuban’s effort to premiere HD movies day-and-date in theater, on his HDNet Movies channel and DVD. Is he on to something, or will this fail? Asch: You’re seeing a little give and take, and this is a broader discussion for the entire movie business. Cuban did this with his Enron documentary, and he only does this on a limited basis, where he runs the movie many times on HDNet Movies. I can’t say whether it’s a good or a bad strategy. It’s an interesting strategy, consistent with the whole notion of film windows collapsing. Rooney: My last experience in a movie theater wasn’t my most pleasant one. Seems some people have this new willingness to talk on their cell phones anywhere. If I had the opportunity to watch a good movie at my home, with a good day-and-date home theater experience, vs. the sticky floor, cell phone movie theater experience, I’ll take the home viewing option. As a consumer-focused strategy, it seems to make sense. Are there enough titles? That’s a good question. CW: A final question. Bryan, What would you like operators to do better to gain HDTV customers? Burns: Devote a larger percentage of their local spot inventory to the promotion of HD services across the board. CW: Joe, what do you want Bryan and David to do? Rooney: What I really want is continued strong marketing partners. We’ve done co-marketing with ESPN and In Demand, with a lot of promotional muscle behind those campaigns. Let’s flex together, put the muscle together and be stronger and get out in front of consumers more. It’s about bringing marketing assets from each player together to deliver a stronger message than if we do things solo. I can insert advertising in about 50 channels on an average cable system. If ESPN or INHD or any HD programmer brings marketing assets and I bring my cross-channel or event marketing or online capabilities—we have 3 million online customers—that’s a strong partnership. CW: What do you want the retailers doing? Rooney: If wishes were horses, it’s what we should do together. It’s not all on them. Our retail and CE partners are good. Samsung, as well as Panasonic and LG Electronics, are working on two-way Open Cable HD product. I appreciate their work with CableLabs. We have a lot of friends at Best Buy and Circuit City. We have to keep working on the model to make that relationship win for all of us. Asch: It’s our obligation and our responsibility as programmers to give cable operators something to market. For us, to steal Joe’s favorite thought, it’s about the programming, baby. We have to take it upon ourselves to provide the best programming in any area operators can use. Hi-Def Nation U.S. TV homes with HD sets: 20 million
U.S. TV homes actually able to watch HD programming: 10 million
U.S. TV homes passed by cable systems offering HD: 96 million
DMAs with HD services available: 198
U.S. TV stations broadcasting in HD and/or digital: 681 Sources: Jupiter Research, Scientific-Atlanta, National Cable Television Association

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RMCA Transforms into Media+Tech Collective

The Rocky Mountain Cable Association is tearing down all its boundaries. On the surface, it may look like its just-revealed rebrand to the Media+Tech Collective is the latest example of a group shedding cable

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