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Cable Operators Detail HDTV Retail Initiative

1/20/2003 02:00:00 AM Eastern

Following the recent digital cable TV interoperability agreement between the cable TV and consumer electronics industries, the country's major multisystem cable operators (MSOs) turned out at a press conference here during CES to unveil a program to help consumer electronics retailers find and promote HDTV cable services in their markets.

Richard Green, CableLabs president, said his organization has expanded its Go2Broadband (G2B) online database to help retailers locate cable systems offering HDTV services. The tool is intended to help retailers sell more HDTV devices by giving an accurate HDTV programming availability story while promoting cable HDTV services to early adopter customers that typically subscribe to premium multichannel TV services.

The system was originally created to help dealers find broadband cable services to match with standardized cable modem devices that they sell. The program served more than 10 million queries in 2002, Green said.

"Go2Broadband allows cable customers to instantly determine what cable services are available at their home address," Green said. "Up to now this program has primarily addressed the availability of high-speed data or cable modem service. Today we are announcing that we are expanding that database to include high-definition service as well."

The G2B program is available to retailers affiliated with a regional cable project. Many of those dealers use an in-store kiosk to look up cable TV information for customers.

G2B accepts customer address serviceability queries from retailers and other affiliates, identifies the appropriate cable company to which to forward the query, and responds back to the retailer with cable operator service availability and offer details. G2B also facilitates the order placement for the consumer once the consumer has decided to subscribe to the service.

Brian Roberts, Comcast Cable CEO and CableLabs chairman, said, "We think HDTV is a huge winner in the years ahead. Everywhere you go at the show, you see better, more exciting and lower-cost HDTV sets and display devices."

Roberts said G2B "was a huge plus to the cable modem business. We have 2,000 retail outlets selling Comcast high-speed Internet, by making [the relationship of hardware and service] seamless to consumers, and we would like to replicate that model."

Roberts called the growing partnership between cable operators and consumer electronics retailers "a watershed change," indicated by the strong turnout of cable MSO leaders at this year's CES.

Glen Britt, Time Warner Cable (TWC) president, said his operations currently have 76,000 HDTV-capable cable boxes deployed today. The operator provides the hardware swap out free of charge to its new HDTV customers as a subscriber retention tool. He added that TWC has recently started a series of joint promotions with manufacturers and retailers to promote new HDTV cable services in its markets.

"Being here at this show last year was a real head knocker in terms of where our best customers were going — and we weren't there. We are now," said Jim Robbins, president of Cox Cable. "I am happy to say that 40 percent of our homes now have high-definition available. Those are in seven markets. We expect to be at 80 percent at the end of this year."

Cox operates the Las Vegas cable operation, which was selected as the test site for the expanded HDTV information in the G2B database.