Cablecos are responding to the shifting needs of channel partners and business customers.

April 17, 2020

7 Min Read
Comcast Business's Cary Tengler sheltering at home_2020

Above: Comcast Business’s Cary Tengler, a self-described “telecom road warrior” has adapted to working remotely, no doubt due in part to being able to enjoy a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains from his home office.


Craig Leddy

By Craig Leddy

Cary Tengler is well known among channel partners as executive director, national partner programs at Comcast Business – Solutions Provider Program. He’s been sheltering in place in the Colorado mountains, working remotely and taking occasional breaks to go mountain biking. In the following interview, Tengler offers personal observations and updates about partner relationships in the new normal and his thoughts about the future and what he calls “the next normal.”

How has sheltering in place affected the way you conduct business?

From a personal standpoint, the impact of no travel, cancelled events and no F2F meetings has been the biggest adjustment to my schedule and my day’s activities. Like many other telecom road warriors, I usually travel over 100,000 miles a year, so working remotely and utilizing a variety of communications tools (IM, text, email, mobile phones, conference calls, WebEx, etc.) is second nature.

However, now that we are all homebound and deskbound, the use of video conferencing via Teams, Zoom, Google Hangouts, LogMeIn and Amazon Chime has skyrocketed, at least over the last three to four weeks. I’ll be curious to see if this continues at such a high volume or if it starts to slow down over the next couple of weeks as the novelty of the technology wears off.

Channel Partners’ “Cable Connection” column focuses on cable provider developments in business services and channel-partner relationships.

At Comcast, like many others, we’ve turned into Microsoft Teams enthusiasts for both internal and external meetings. The collaboration tools and tight integration with Outlook, Word, Excel, and OneDrive has made it our primary tool for internal comms.

How have things changed in your channel partner and business customer relationships?

Aside from the shift to more video conferencing and virtual meetings, many of our partner conversations have pivoted to addressing mission critical or “business threatening” situations.

One example of that would be a 24-hour emergency install (now completed) on several high speed 1-10 Gbps fiber connections to enable a large equity trading company to maintain operations as they transitioned to a remote/WFH environment over a weekend. Another example (ongoing) is a plan to help several of our call center partners migrate to a WFH model.


An epicure for the blues: Comcast Business’s collection of employees’ favorite recipes.

We’re also interacting with partners on a more personal level and seeking to keep everyone’s spirits up. Our amazing channel marketing leader, Dalyn Wertz, recently published a “Cooking with Comcast Business” cookbook of favorite recipes and we’re producing Work From Home Wednesdays Network Crew Video of the Week (see What Do I Do at Comcast?)

What steps has Comcast taken to support its business customers?

We’ve implemented a variety of COVID-19 related support programs for economically impacted businesses in an effort to keep them connected and communicating. And for our partners’ and customers’ employees who have been impacted by the pandemic, either working from home or now unemployed, we just bumped up broadband speeds and are offering two free months of our Internet Essentials service. We, and the other cablecos, also have been pushing more self-install kits for new service turn-ups to limit F2F exposure of both our tech ops teams and our customers, to keep everyone safe.

And finally, recognizing that a very high percentage of our customers – and partners – are SMBs, we’ve just launched a special cloud promotion offering a variety of free SaaS services (some exclusive) to get them through the pandemic period (see FYI: Tools & Services to Help You Stay Connected).

How will the new normal change the business services environment in the future – “the next normal”?

This is what is really interesting to consider. While the next several months are going to be very challenging from a sales and installation standpoint, I’m seeing a lot of optimism that we’ll see increasingly stronger sales in late Q3 and Q4 as our customers get back to work. In particular, we’ll see companies accelerate their UCaaS, SD-WAN, video conferencing and connectivity purchases as the value of these particular services is more evident than ever before.

I suspect we’ll also see fewer in-person events through the end of 2020 and maybe well into 2021 as people will remain cautious about large gatherings. This will necessitate a shift in sales and marketing strategy toward more digital and social media demand gen…

…techniques and more automation and on-line purchasing — think “Amazon shopping cart” for telecom services.

To that end, I’m paying very close attention to four companies that I think represent the next wave of “distributors” in the telecom and IT space. AppDirect/AppSmart is building out an electronic marketplace for a broad range of B2B services. ScanSource (with Intelisys and intY) has a similar portfolio of capabilities. Pax8 is now one of the biggest O365 distributors with about 10,000 MSPs under them. And Innovative Business Solutions, a Colorado-based master agent, recently launched their tool, which is a game-changer for cable partners.

Each of them is either executing or moving toward a digital-first model as compared to their competition and specifically targeting the “converged” space between traditional IT and telecom services.

What will be the effect on the channel?

We’ll see a lot of consolidation among the traditional IT VARs and solutions providers. The vast majority of them are SMBs, have liquidity challenges and are “ageing out.” They simply won’t survive the next six to nine months.

MSPs and telecom agents will also struggle, but to a lesser degree as their income is based on recurring income or residual commission streams. I do expect to see numerous large telecom agents, including several master agents, sell out in 2020 and 2021, as there is a lot of money out there currently chasing roll-up strategies.

While the landscape of the telecom and IT channels will look decidedly different in 2021, the need for our products and services has never been greater. And with the channel consolidation I mentioned earlier, plus COVID-19 related challenges and the accompanying economic uncertainty, there will be huge opportunities for creative partners to help establish the channel’s “next normal.”

Quick Bits


Spectrum’s Michelle Kadlacek

Like Comcast Business, other cablecos are responding to the shifting needs of channel partners and business customers. Michelle Kadlacek, vice president, enterprise partner program, Spectrum Enterprise, issued the following statement to Channel Partners:

Spectrum Enterprise is working with its channel partners in a virtual environment that currently fosters remote working and collaboration. Spectrum Enterprise and its partners have established regular communication vehicles and cadence which will continue to remain aligned on practices as the COVID-19 situation dictates.

We are working together on the following client support areas:

  • Accelerating bandwidth delivery requests to critical internet and wide area network services;

  • Supporting needs for remote working capabilities; and

  • Expediting requests to change unified communications and trunking services configurations.

Cable providers have responded to the pandemic by committing to the FCC’s Keep America Connected initiative, increasing broadband speeds, opening WiFi hot spots and supporting programs for businesses, schools, health care networks and community services. To see what your cable partners are doing, more information is available through COVID-19 pages by NCTA – The Internet & Television Association and ACA Connects.

Craig Leddy is a veteran cable industry writer, speaker and market analyst, and a contributing analyst for Light Reading and Heavy Reading, which are Informa properties. Leddy founded Interactive TV Works, a media consultancy, to promote understanding of advanced digital services. He is a former editor of Cablevision magazine, senior analyst for The Myers Group and contributing editor for Multichannel News. He teaches the popular How Cable Works industry courses that include CTAM’s Advance Executive Education. He also founded and hosts the Interactive Case Competition, a leading case study contest for business students. Follow him on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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