Deeper Dive—Evolution Digital’s Hagen ready to battle cable supplier giants

Cash Hagen (Evolution Digital)

Cash Hagen, the incoming chief operating officer at Evolution Digital, has experience fronting a smaller company and taking on industry giants.

As the former COO of WOW, he led the cable operator up against massive players like Comcast and helped the company go public with a $750 million IPO last year.

Hagen left WOW in May and after what he called a “staged transition,” he is joining Evolution Digital effective Oct. 1.

Hagen said his focus right off the bat will be continuing to do what Evolution Digital has been doing. Evolution Digital is well known for offering hybrid IP/QAM solutions for cable operators looking to transition their operations away from legacy systems.

Hagen said that what Evolution has done incredibly well is listen to and work very closely with their customers, and respond to what their challenges may be with technology solutions.

“It’s not take it or leave it. It’s a very close relationship between Evolution and the service provider community that they serve. I think that’s a big part of where they’ve been successful,” Hagen said.

He said it parallels the world he lived in when he was with WOW. He said WOW competed against the “biggest of the big,” going head-to-head each day with Comcast, Charter, Bright House, AT&T and Google.

“For the most part, products are similar enough and pricing and packaging and offering are similar enough. So, what difference can we make for the consumer? And what it came down to was the experience,” Hagen said.

The traditional service provider-focused suppliers don’t always think about the consumer, Hagen said, and what their experience is.

“I think it’s radically changed over the last few years in terms of what consumers expect out of their service provider. When I was at WOW, the mantra was ‘The best customer service is no customer service, because it just works,’” Hagen said.

Evolution Digital does much of its business with Tier 2 and Tier 3 providers, be they cable operators or telecoms. Hagen doesn’t much care for the tiering designations of different service providers, since they are all dealing with the same types of consumers and the same challenges. But the fact of the matter is that giant operators like Liberty Global—which this week announced its new “Horizon 4” pay TV platform—are still out there, and their actions cause reverberations throughout the larger pay TV space.

Hagen said that what sets big operators apart is having the size and resources necessary to go out and discover whatever the next best thing is. He said given the size of Liberty, it’s no surprise they would continue to build and launch their own platform, but he said it’s important to note that it’s not across the landscape at Liberty.

“As you certainly know, that’s an amalgamation of lots of different operators duct-taped and bubble-gummed together over the years. No indictment there, it’s just they have a lot of different properties, different requirements and a lot of different expectations. I don’t think it radically changed what the opportunities will be for companies like Evolution,” Hagen said.

Hagen’s experience successfully helping WOW take on the Liberty Globals and Comcasts of the world will certainly come in handy as Evolution Digital continues taking on big competitors like Arris.

Hagen said his first orders of business at Evolution Digital include continuing to learn about the cable/telecom supplier space. He said as the company continues growing, some structural and operational adjustments will need to take place over time.

“I don’t have a 10-point checklist of this, that and the other. It’s a lot of listening, learning and helping where I can. I’m an insider with a bit of a different perspective coming in, and I think that will help pretty quickly,” Hagen said.