Merger is talk of BroadbandPlus

Dec 9, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Anaheim, Calif.
The state of the union was topic A at BroadbandPlus, a k a The New Western Show, the tech-heavy 35th edition of the annual cable convention sponsored by the California Cable & Telecommunications Association, which was held last week in Anaheim, Calif.
The “union” that so fascinated the convention was, of course, the recent merger between AT&T Broadband and Comcast Cable, which created a behemoth multiple system operator-by far the largest in the country-when it was formalized just two weeks ago. Not surprisingly, the ballroom at the Anaheim Convention Center was packed for what was widely considered the post-merger coming out appearance of Brian Roberts, chairman and CEO of the new Comcast Corp.
“We’re either going to succeed or fail as an industry,” he said. “For the last couple of years the industry has been going in too many separate directions. If there is one opportunity-big, big picture-that comes out of this [merger] deal, it’s going to hopefully be to reunify the cable team.”
Mr. Roberts urged cable’s leaders to look outward at the larger threat. “We have real competitors-satellite, DSL-[and] change coming,” he said, “and the faster this industry moves and the more unified this industry moves … the more successful we’ll likely be.”
The newly combined Comcast has no fewer than three “Job 1’s,” Mr. Roberts said, and first among them is improving the lot of cable’s many less-than-satisfied subscribers.
“The AT&T Broadband systems in the last 12 months lost 525,000 basic customers,” he said, while the pre-merger Comcast added 75,000 customers in the same period. That net loss of 450,000 subscribers in just one year is a “big problem,” he said. “We have decided that’s a crisis,” he said. “We’ve got to fix that right away. That’s Job 1.”
“What’s the percentage of first-call resolution?” he asked, referring to the need to solve a subscriber’s problem during the first telephone call, rather than forcing the customer to call back. Mr. Roberts said he himself calls “all the time.”
In fact, “I called Saturday night,” he said. “I had a problem with my [video-on-demand] server, and I wanted to just go right through the regular customer experience.” The result? “I also made a little mention to a few other folks,” he said to appreciative laughter.
Despite Wall Street’s cry for cash flow from the newly formed MSO, “We will not pull back on capital spending,” Mr. Roberts vowed. “Our definition of success is going to be how fast we rebuild. … It is nothing short of tragic that in San Francisco, in the Bay area, we don’t offer high-speed Internet.”