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SCTE Seeks Corporate Buddies

Alan Breznick

Seeking to boost its membership ranks and offer more customized education and training for cable employees, SCTE is recruiting cable operators and vendors to join its new corporate alliance program.

The Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) , the cable industry's main tech group, is rolling out the new program with three major US MSOs signed up as charter members and more cable operators said to be on the way. The first three members -- Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), and Suddenlink Communications -- collectively account for a large chunk of the industry's 100,000 or so engineers, operations specialists, technicians, and other employees.

SCTE officials say they will also enlist smaller North American cable operators as alliance members, not just the biggest MSOs. In addition, SCTE plans to bring in equipment suppliers as corporate members, with the first vendor partners expected to be announced soon.

"This is for all operating companies," said SCTE President & CEO Mark Dzuban. "It's really a very holistic corporate alliance."

Under the new program, alliance members will pay upfront partnership dues to the SCTE, based on the number of employees they have participating. Individual employees, who now pay $68 a year for their SCTE memberships, will continue to pay dues as well. But their fees will be discounted up to 25%, depending upon how many of their colleagues sign up as well.

In return, the SCTE intends to work with alliance members and CableLabs to craft education and training programs highly tailored for employee functions and the emerging new technologies that they're developing and deploying. For instance, the organization intends to help train workers for rollouts of such new cable technologies as DOCSIS 3.1, wireless, and IP video. "It further aligns training with the needs of the industry," Dzuban said.

In the process, SCTE executives aim to boost their individual membership ranks from 16,000 to 17,000 today to a total of 30,000 over the next year. And, with the help of their regional chapters, they intend to train even a higher number of employees than that.

While the biggest portion of its $11 million annual budget comes from its fall trade show, Cable-Tec Expo, SCTE makes a nice fraction of its revenue on those membership fees. So, a jump of 13,000 to 14,000 members, even if at discounted fees, could add at least $650,000 to $700,000 to its coffers.

But SCTE officials say the new alliance program is about a lot more than just the extra money. "It's more a way for them [the corporate members] to get more people involved," said Bill Schankel, VP of marketing for SCTE.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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