Cable has got itself in a twist

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The Independent Online
It is "all change" at the big cable companies, as yet another chief executive, this time Alan Michels of Telewest, gets the chop. What on earth is going on? The quick answer is that cable is in woeful shape: its penetration rates are stuck in the mid-20 per cent range, its range of programming is either dire or bought in from market leader BSkyB, and its marketing and after-sales service record is, in a word, lousy. Some of this must be put down to the leadership, or lack of it. In the main, the (mostly) American executives parachuted in to run the cable industry here have been telecoms men, and technical types - better at digging up roads, laying cable and establishing switching networks than at selling CATV and telephony services to a consumer market they barely understand.

The new man at Bell Cablemedia, Dan Somers, puts customers front and centre in his new strategy. Likewise, Stephen Davidson, who is to take over from Mr Michels at Telewest, is a man who talks marketing, even if he, like the man he replaces, is a finance type, not strictly a salesman.

But with a new man at the top, at least Telewest can get on with the task of making cable profitable in the UK. Once the networks are fully built out, and the information highway begins to develop more quickly in, the cable industry ought to benefit, even if heads roll in the meantime.

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