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Cox Chief: Heed the 'Echo Boomers'

Washington— Patrick Esser has an eye out for the needs of the 73 million so-called Echo Boomers.

The new Cox Communications Inc. president, barely three months into the job, has the nation's third-largest cable company focusing its attention and resources on the children of Baby Boomers, those aged 15 to 25 — many of whom would prefer a computer to a TV and an iPod to a radio.

“Needless to say, these are our future VIP customers,” Esser said in a speech here last Wednesday to the Media Institute, an industry-funded First Amendment organization.

Echo Boomers — also dubbed “Millennials” — represent a “seismic shift” in media-consumption habits and patterns, according to Esser, who rattled off a number of statistics in underlining his point.

Perhaps most notably: Within a few years, Echo Boomers will take over 25% of household purchasing budgets, spending money on mobile phones, game consoles and PCs.

“They want network devices and they want portable content,” he said. “Echo Boomers love their PCs so much so that research shows they would choose a PC over a TV.”

While 10% of U.S. households have dropped their landline phones, 30% of Echo Boomers are expected to cut the phone cord within a few years, he added.

The consumption trends of Echo Boomers also will have spillover effects. “Echo Boomers will clearly drive change in media consumption like no generation that has ever gone before them,” he noted. “They will take their Baby Boomer parents right along with them.”

Atlanta-based Cox currently counts some 6.3 million video, 3 million high-speed-data and 1.5 million phone subscribers.

Esser — who on Jan. 1 took the reins from the retired Jim Robbins — predicted that within four years, Cox would offer a total digital simulcast of its analog programming services, that 75% of Cox homes will have at least one digital set-top box and that 70% of digital homes will have at least one digital video recorder.

Also by 2010, Esser expects that 65% of Cox subscribers will have an HDTV package that will include at least 50 HD channels and a “vast array” of HD on-demand services.

In the past year, Cox's DVR penetration more than doubled, reaching 665,000 subscribers.