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Catching Up in HD: Cox Communications’ Bob Wilson

Mar 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

The player: Bob Wilson, senior VP of programming at Cox Communications
The play: Mr. Wilson has led closely held Cox Communications’ efforts to compete with satellite operators such as DirecTV by boosting high-definition programming options with both linear channels and video-on-demand programming. Cox, whose 6 million subscribers trail only Comcast and Time Warner Cable among U.S. cable providers, has about 30 full-time linear HD channels.

The pitch
: Cox has agreements for 20 more HD channels it’s “imminently about to complete,” Mr. Wilson said. With 50 HD channels, Cox would be on par with U.S. cable leader Comcast and No. 2 satellite provider Dish Network, though it still would trail DirecTV’s approximately 90 channels. As for VOD, which Comcast has been touting as its competitive advantage over DirecTV, Cox is “very deliberately launching HD content because it costs the consumer a lot more bandwidth than standard-definition VOD content,” Mr. Wilson said.

The challenge
: Like all cable providers, Cox has more signal-processing limitations than either satellite providers or fiber-optic television services like Verizon’s FiOS and AT&T’s U-verse. Because of this, Cox must either invest in more bandwidth in order to process the larger volume of information contained in an HD broadcast or be more selective in what linear channels it provides. “We carry just as many of the relevant channels that are available” as Cox’s competitors, Mr. Wilson said. “We don’t want to burn up a lot of bandwidth for signals that aren’t true HD. We think we can afford to wait a little until there’s more true HD content.”
Backstory: Except for a three-year stint in the 1980s, Wilson, 55, has been with Cox since 1979, joining the company after five years as an insurance-bond underwriter. He grew up in Baltimore, attended Lehigh University and is based in Atlanta.

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