Vacant homes. Derelict homes. Empty lots. There are, no kidding, about a million more vacant homes today than just before the housing bubble burst (splat!).

There are about 2.2mln vacant homes for sale today. That doesn’t necessarily count the latest ones boasting "foreclosed" signs, either. So, you might wonder, what’s that got to do with the cable business?

Ummm… seems to me that getting new subscribers will be tougher and tougher and tougher. So, you might want to think about keeping customers. And you might even want to think a step or three beyond the excellent example of Cox (still the best at customer service). That alone might not be enough…

It isn’t enough to once in awhile include a "free" VOD movie coupon. Where’s the love?

My bundle costs over $200/month… where’s the love?

Why not a "Bless Ralph" ball cap? A T-shirt that says, "I paid my bill, and I even got this T-shirt!" It’s all going to count…

Because, I’ll bet, DISH tries some more aggressive pricing in the not too distant future.

Holding on to subscribers will be the 2009 game… even with the distraction of the Digital Transition.

* Faxies? Did you win one? Find out Tuesday at the National Press Club in DC with a special appearance by Dan Rather… and "only" 25 categories. Once ran into Rather at a function in New York—told him he’d been my graduation speaker from high school in Houston. He said, "I’m not THAT old!" I grinned. True. Can’t be there, but I’ll bet Seth Arenstein and Mike Grebb make a politically incorrect comment or nine.

* Listen! Things I want to hear: the ever-so-droll Canadian Donald Sutherland narrating the National Geographic special on the ever-so-Druid Stonehenge! (June 1).

* Ralph’s Wall? An entire video wall at the new Comcast HQ in Philly should be something to see… hope it’s ready when we convene for Cable Tec-Expo in June. And, I plan to eat at Ralph’s Cafe as well! (Note to panelists: calling soon; maybe meet in New Orleans?).

* More Nawlins Planning: I presume you’ve already signed up to help out on Sat before the show… but I don’t want you to miss also signing up for the NAMIC breakfast or missing out on Kaitz diversity projects, including the 9th Annual Supplier Diversity Connection Workshop or the new Kaitz/ BET initiative bringing students and faculty from Historically Black Colleges and Universities, the National Society of Black Engineers, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and similar organizations in the New Orleans area to participate in the program. The centerpiece of the program will be a panel moderated by Kaitz’ Dr. Porter featuring: (my favorite) Nomi M. Bergman, evp, strategy & development, Advance/Newhouse; Scott M. Mills, pres/COO, BET Networks; and Tanya Van Court, svp, preschool & parents online, Nickelodeon, MTVN Kids & Family Group. There’s also a CAB -sponsored diversity panel. So sign up. (Nice preview of the city in Newsweek –http://www.newsweek.com/id/134314.) You really already have signed up for and planned to get dirty helping the Cable Cares project… haven’t you? Maybe, collectively, we could have the same impact the Sultan of Qatar had. Well, maybe not. He gave away $100mln to help rebuild the schools. Still, bet we sweat more.www.newsweek.com/id/134314.

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