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Leading Charter'sMulticultural Charge

Colombia-born David Saldarriaga joined Charter a few years
ago to spearhead marketing and sales in the operator's Northwest KMA region.
Six months ago, the 19-year cable veteran was given an additional strategic
task: to spearhead a multicultural marketing team and find ways to grow the
company's multicultural offerings. Hispanic
TV Update
contributor Laura Martinez caught up with Saldarriaga to talk
about MSO's plans for targeting the Latino community and why this demographic
is key for Charter's growth. An edited transcript follows.

MCN: You were born,
raised and educated in Colombia. How did you end up becoming a "cable guy" in
the U.S.?

David Saldarriaga: I
studied advertising in Bogota, and at some point after graduation, I came to
New York for a while. I spent about six months in the city and even worked
briefly at a basement garage parking cars in the Upper West Side. Back in
Colombia, I worked for companies like Gillette and Kimberly Clark, but I always
wanted to come back to the U.S. Eventually, I came to the U.S. and worked first
in D.C. and then went to Orlando (Fla.) to work for Bright House Networks,
where I spent nine years as marketing director. From there, I moved to Cox and
then came to Charter. All in all, I've been 20 years in the U.S., 19 of which
I've worked in the cable industry.

MCN: You were recently charged with boosting
Charter's multicultural offerings. What does the company have in mind?

DS: I was
given this task for several reasons, including the fact that I have certain
experience with it. I helped launched Bright House's Latino package, "Nuestros
canales de Bright House," and have done other multicultural work in the past.
Also, when you look at the 2010 Census results, you know you have to jump on
the [Hispanic] opportunity. We see the Census as both a risk and an
opportunity: It is, of course, an opportunity for growth, but it is also risk
if you don't do anything, because your competitors will.

MCN: Is this the first time Charter will embrace a
multicultural offering?

DS: Before
I joined Charter, there were a few people working on this area. But when I
joined the company was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy [it emerged in 2009]. Before
the bankruptcy, the company had to do certain changes and the multicultural
part sort of phased out. Since then, we hadn't done much in this area. But this
is definitely changing now.

MCN: Let's focus on the Latino opportunity. How important
is this market for you?

DS: In the
area that I handle, we have markets like Yakima, Kennewick or Wenatchee (Wash.)
where the Latino population is over 50%! These are regions with a very
important agricultural activity and many Mexicans came to work here. There are
areas in which the multicultural market is key.

MCN: What is
Charter's current Latino offering?

DS: For years
Charter has offered a Latino tier, offering anywhere between 10 to 30
additional channels, depending on the region. We have always sold [the tier] as
an addition to the digital service but I think this is a costly proposition: It
came to about $65, including basic, expanded, cable box and Latino channels. I
proposed something a bit more affordable, and in October 2011 we launched PaqueTV.

MCN: What is PaqueTV?
DS: PaqueTV is a
digital TV bundle that combines the best of Charter's Spanish-language
programming alongside English programming. The offer is 120 channels more or
less; it is a combination of Spanish -- and English -- channels we offer for
$39.99 a month for the first 12 months. After 12 months, the package goes up to

MCN: Compared to other offerings, $49.99 is still
very high. How do you market that?

DS: It might not
be the $29.99 that some satellite operators offer, but, in the end, [satellite]
customers end up paying a lot more in "extras." Besides, with Charter, you
don't have to sign a 2-year contract, as is the case with other operators --
you can cancel the package whenever you want to. And that is very important to
Latinos. Many don't want to commit to two years.

MCN: Where is
PaquetTV available?

DS: Right now, it
is available in two regions: California and the Northwest. In other Charter
regions, you can still buy the Latino View tier.