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Backtalk

8/22/1999 8:00 PM Eastern

One fruit of last year's widespread MSO consolidation is a
10 percent increase in the number of engineering jobs in the cable industry.

At first blush, that finding -- from the just-released
compensation survey by the Cable and Telecommunications Human Resources Association --
sounds highly suspect to this jaded, ink-stained wretch of an editor.

After all, just about all of us know at least 20 or 30
people -- and, quite often, many more -- in our own personal circles who have been the
victims, and not the beneficiaries, of cable-industry consolidation to date.

However, when you think about how these mega-mergers have
created the kind of scale and efficiencies that make it worthwhile for companies to invest
in new services like cable modems, telephony and digital television, that 10 percent
figure rings true.

You need a very specialized and well-trained work force to
install, market and service those new products, which, for many years, were just dormant
ideas buried in the research-and-development lines in most business plans, but which are
well on their way to full deployment today.

And with competition for those kinds of workers becoming
increasingly fierce, the CTHRA's role -- to recruit the best people to cable -- becomes
even more center stage.

Hence, last week, for the first time I can remember, CTHRA
leaders held editorial board meetings with several publications to unveil the findings of
this very important and eye-opening study.

Debunking the idea that consolidation is a synonym for
downsizing, AT&T Broadband & Internet Services vice president of compensation and
employee relations Isabelle Arace -- who also chairs the CTHRA's Compensation and Benefits
Committee -- says, "We're seeing that even though we have fewer companies, we have
the same volume of employees coming into the business because of the new telephony and
high-speed-data opportunities."

And that rise in tech jobs was not the only jewel in the
CHTRA's annual compensation report. The association reports that in addition to
consolidation and the rollout of new technology, there is also tremendous growth in many
other sectors.

The report paints a rosy picture of the cable industry --
that it is not only expanding its work force, but also increasing compensation levels.

With cable basking in its status as the darling of Wall
Street, job creation is actually flourishing.

At programming networks, for example, new jobs have been
created as a direct effect of single-channel networks expanding into multichannel
operations, the CTHRA reports.

And at both networks and MSOs, the "dot.com
factor" has seen jobs in the new-media sector grow tenfold since 1995-96. As those
online products generate revenue, even more new jobs are being created, with competition
for key Internet-related positions becoming particularly intense.

The CTHRA stresses that not only is the number of jobs
increasing, but the pay is getting a lot better, too, not only for new media, but also for
employees in ad sales and affiliate marketing. "Stock options have become a big issue
for people coming into the work force," Arace says.

There's a lesson in this report for everyone, and not just
cable, says Paul Gavejian, a principal at Buck Consultants, which helps the CTHRA to
prepare its annual survey.

"Consolidation doesn't come cheap," Gavejian
says. "You have to retrofit the technical, administrative, marketing and sales areas,
and this survey shows just what it costs in human capital to do it."

That's wise advice for all, and especially for those
companies that are not only in the process of downsizing, but creating new jobs to prepare
their companies for the future. And we all know about a few of those, don't we?

September