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Prepping for Cable’s Big Bout

As the “Thrilla in Phila” approaches, we’ve been thinking a lot about boxing and boxers. The analogy is actually quite fitting, given the current competitive environment for cable companies, networks and even the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing itself.

Drawing parallels to recent boxing images on the silver screen — from the real-life story of Jim “Cinderella Man” Braddock to the fictional Million Dollar Baby — these fighters pursued their goals in the face of stiff competition.

The greatest boxers in history also were not only great competitors; they were living, breathing brands, with expert promoters behind their success. Additionally, the greatest fights in history changed the media landscape forever, starting appropriately with Home Box Office’s breakthrough “Thrilla in Manila” telecast and leading to both HBO and Showtime launching pay-per-view television.


Then CTAM created a legacy of pay-per-view and digital conferences, and that legacy continues as part of the CTAM Summit this year.

Cable has been sparring in heavyweight competitions for years, and this will become even more fierce as more fighters enter the ring. Some of these new competitors will be going punch for punch with cable and are adept at fancy footwork. However, cable companies across the country are ready for the next round, having invested heavily in their infrastructure to offer new and very-much-in-demand products. Most importantly, cable is able to deliver all of this value from a single connection into the home.


It’s time for cable marketers to get even more serious about competition, because it’s here to stay. Our futures — those of cable and its competitors — will both be tied to core video revenue and incremental gain from services, such as video on demand, digital video recorders, high-speed Internet and phone. The differentiators may become less obvious, but the challenges will be more complex and the solutions will require more finesse.

The good news for cable companies is that people love the products. The challenge is to get them to love the brands. As an industry, we’re working to change past perceptions by changing the way we provide service. We’re in the early rounds, but if we maintain our focus, cable will continue to close the gap on overall customer satisfaction.

The good news for programmers is consumers love the brands; the challenge is to translate that brand equity across an increasingly fragmented and distracted audience. It’s clear that network brands will help drive cable’s new products and services. In addition, as new platforms emerge and content providers rush to stake their claims, we’re finding ways to keep those brands relevant to a new generation of viewers, who have more choice and control than ever before.

In essence, we’re together at a branding crossroads. The brands that rise above the noise and clutter of the marketplace will remain standing for the next round.

So, the state of industry competition leads us directly to the goals for the CTAM Summit 05. As co-chairs of this year’s event, we sat down with some of the most innovative and strategic thinkers to assemble a conference slate that speaks directly to the industry’s need for branding, re-branding and repositioning its companies and their products.


From general session presenters like Brian France of NASCAR and New England Patriots’ owner Jonathan Kraft, we’ll learn how to make our brands synonymous with excellence. From Ogilvy & Mather CEO Shelly Lazarus, we’ll gain insight on creating a brand from scratch. Rock star-business person-philanthropist Jon Bon Jovi will explore the importance of re-inventing a brand – a tenet that has guided his successful career growth over the last two decades.

The breakout sessions will focus on winning techniques, tactics and training for building brand equity, maintaining market share, selling products, developing knock-out creative and reaching more viewers. Planned and led by marketers for marketers, these sessions will provide a strenuous workout for everyone from veteran fighters to the new faces at the gym.

If you haven’t yet made arrangements to attend the 2005 CTAM Summit, we urge you to do so now. It’s our goal that after two days you will be a better, more strategic marketer with a better understanding of the issues that face our industry — and you’ll be in fighting shape for the next 10 rounds of competition on the horizon. See you at the “Thrilla in Phila!”