Subscriber Growth Key for Ops

Chicago -- With basic cable penetration at a record high, cable operators
must continue to find creative ways to show the kind of growth Wall Street
expects from them, executives said at a National Show panel here Tuesday.

Growth strategies include dish-buyback programs, better incentives for
direct-sales agents and stronger audits to track cable theft in the hopes of
turning nonpaying pirates into paying customers.

'When you have 77 percent penetration, it's a difficult job to keep direct
salespeople' if you pay them only on a commission basis, Time Warner Cable
Syracuse (N.Y.) division president Mary Cotter said.

She added that you have to pay higher commissions today to attract customers
who have never connected to cable.

Selling cable to former illegal customers is relatively easy, Charter
Communications Inc. Eastern division senior vice president of operations Dave
McCall said, because 'we know they already like the service.'

Cotter said her division is running about 35 percent conversions among its
illegal connections.

'It's the other 65 percent we worry about,' she added. 'When we find them a
second time, we're not so nice.'