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AT & T Grows a Marketing Team

Boston-Despite flight delays and busy meeting schedules, the nine top members of the newly assembled corporate marketing team for AT & T Broadband met with Multichannel News at the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing's CTAM Summit here last Monday.

According to AT & T Broadband senior vice president of marketing Doug Seserman, the MSO has built its marketing team from "the best of both worlds"-former Tele-Communications Inc. and MediaOne Group Inc. staff.

"It's a dynamic group. They're talented and the best in the business at what they do," he added.

Seserman said AT & T Broadband plans to "set the standard for the rest of the industry to follow." His top objectives are to continue to grow the core business, to drive new business, to improve customer loyalty and to improve revenues and cash flow.

Marketing has moved from being an expense item in the past to what drives cable revenues today, he added.

AT & T Broadband's corporate marketing and sales team consists of two sides, including product management and strategic vision that crosses product categories.

Included on the product-management side are executive director and acting vice president of video-product management and marketing Steve Apodaca, vice president of new-product management and marketing Theresa Conley, vice president of data-product management and marketing Kim Partoll and vice president of telephony-product marketing and sales Nancy McGee.

On the strategic side of the team are vice president of branding and partnership marketing Cathy Kuo, vice president of market intelligence Pete Gatseos, vice president of sales and channels strategy Dan Hillen and vice president of customer-relationship management, database and e-marketing Mark Voboril.

Kuo will oversee the rebranding of former MediaOne systems to AT & T Broadband. She is also responsible for branding new services, as well as creating marketing partnerships with programmers and developing bundling promotions.

Along with Partoll, who previously worked for AT & T Consumer Services, Kuo has worked on bundling AT & T cable and long distance in 10 markets.

"We're seeing positive results," Kuo said, adding that offering bundled services has proven "operationally and executionally complex." The company's goal is to keep bundles as easy as possible for customers to buy and for customer-service representatives to sell.

The company has not yet bundled high-speed Internet access with cable and telephone services, but trials are likely to begin by the end of the year. High-speed service will be sold under the general umbrella brand of AT & T Broadband. The company has not yet publicly announced how it will integrate the AT & T@Home and Road Runner by MediaOne brands.

Partoll said AT & T would look more closely at retention programs for its high-speed-data services because the digital-subscriber-line marketplace has become extremely competitive. "In the life cycle of any product, we'll face competition and we'll face churn," she added.

Gatseos and his team are responsible for keeping their eye on the competition through research and competitive intelligence. "We are trying, as we move more away from a monopoly, to get much better at anticipating competitive moves," he said.

His team gathers information on competitors such as direct-broadcast satellite companies from the public domain, Gatseos added, including the companies' own Web sites.

One of his staff members attended the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications Association show last week in Las Vegas. His department will also monitor longer-term threats to cable by attending utility trade shows.

But it's not only the competition that AT & T Broadband keeps an eye on; it also looks at fellow MSOs. "Best practices can be from any industry," Gatseos said. "We start with our counterparts."

On the video side, AT & T Broadband is involved in dish-buyback programs in some markets to help regain subscribers lost to DBS.

"We recognize that we have a competitive environment, and we want to provide the best value," Apodaca said. He added that AT & T Broadband is working on a new overall pricing strategy for its digital-video strategy "that will allow us to compete nationally."

Under Voboril's guidance, the MSO also hopes to beef up its mover program to help keep customers in the fold when they're most susceptible to churning.

A total of 60 percent of moves today are within the same county that the customer formerly lived in, Voboril noted, which means that a move program even within a single system can be effective. The company is also investigating possible industrywide move programs.

Hillen, who is responsible for finding new distribution channels for AT & T Broadband's video and broadband products, is working with utility companies to help keep the MSO top of mind when customers move.

Consumers tend to call lifeline utility and phone companies first when they move. The MSO's entry into the local telephone business will help to put it in front of consumers' minds as they move and sign on for phone service.

McGee will focus on launching local telephony in new markets beyond the 10 AT & T Broadband systems where the MSO already offers the service. She is also working on plans to integrate the former MediaOne markets that offer local phone service.

With the MediaOne systems, "our first priority is to add long distance to the current mix," she said.

Conley is charged with planning corporate strategy for the launching the MSO's next generation of new products, such as video-on-demand and interactive television, as well as determining how new media such as video streaming fits in with the company's business model.

AT & T Broadband must find a way "as we go to the next level to make sure the new products are customer-driven, and not engineering driven," Conley said.

"There's still some skepticism in the marketplace as to whether AT & T can deliver on all of its objectives," Seserman admitted. "We feel confident that we will win. It's just a question of when and by how much."