It’s time to say "thank you" and offer hearty congratulations to some leaders in the cable industry. Interestingly, both key segments of the industry get the kudos, and the fact that we all live and work with each other to produce and deliver what our customers want is what it is all about. The first "thank you" is to Jim Robbins and Cox. I don’t need to make a quiet or secret phone call. I think the whole industry owes them due recognition for taking on the very hard task of explaining the difficulties faced by cable operators when the increasing cost of programming reaches a level that is unsustainable. We have spent two decades trying to explain to regulators, legislators, and especially our customers that the programming they see and love costs the cable company and programmers lots of money, and that is where a portion of their fee goes. It has been a long, hard struggle because folks were used to the concept of "free" tv. Well, we’re not TV – and the programming we deliver has gotten very expensive. That is especially true of sports because of the "food chain" that includes the networks, the leagues, the teams and ultimately the players with their astronomical salaries. It was unfortunate that the explanation and negotiation became contentious. I’m glad it is now over. But it is also a true benefit to the industry (including the programmers) that the public has now gotten a full explanation and airing of how our industry works, and what the options are when it comes to very expensive programming. This will not be the last we hear of the subject, and we should not stop talking about it just because a reasonable deal has been struck in one negotiation. Cox and Robbins, however, should be thanked for being willing to take the heat for clearly articulating the issue. It will work to the benefit of all of us – operators and programmers, in the long run. And then there is HBO. Front page of most major newspapers. The final chapter of "Sex And The City" became a phenomenon with overflowing viewing parties and multiple column- inches analyzing the "right" way to end the series and what it does, or does not mean to our lives. It was great. The series clearly hit a chord in a lot of people and allowed them to laugh, cry, identify and enjoy a truly well done piece of entertainment. The essence of the experience, I think, was captured in the marvelous HBO promo about the "Water Cooler Association of America" and the resurrection of our penchant for shared experiences around the water cooler through HBO programming. The tag line "…it’s not tv, it’s H20" was, of course, a spoof on HBO’s standard, and accurate tag line. They’re right, and they should be congratulated for being one of the first (I wrote columns years ago warning that operators were losing their identity because folks were talking about "…hooking up to HBO") and one of the best. But their underlying message is also very important for all of us. We are not "TV." We are a multi-channel video delivery medium (among other things) providing entertainment, news, documentaries, sports and other programming our customers value and choose to see. We should never let ourselves (or the politicians and regulators) be subsumed by the notion that we are simply "television" by another name. We’re better than that. Lots better.

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