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2003 CTAM Grand Tam Award Winner

Showtime Networks Inc. chairman/CEO Matt Blank quipped: "I've been assuming I got [the Grand TAM] for longevity." Then, more seriously, he acknowledged the key role he has played in helping the cable industry grow from its beginnings.

CTAM, in explaining his Grand TAM selection, puts its this way: "In a career spanning more than 20 years, Matt Blank has made an indelible mark on the cable television industry."

Blank began "as a consumer marketer, first at Home Box Office and then at Showtime," said CTAM CEO Char Beales. "Now as CEO of Showtime, we're delighted he continues to think and act like a marketer — putting the consumer first, creating new territory and demonstrating true marketing leadership."

"We aren't citing a specific accomplishment, but rather a body of work," Beales added.

"I came in when it was an antenna business, a door-to-door business," Blank recalled. Through the years, the focus shifted to selling premium cable — "programming that was different, unedited and with no commercials."

Blank, who joined Showtime in 1988, rose from executive vice president of marketing to president in 1991 and later to CEO.

During his three-decade cable career, he said he has worked for "two big marketing giants." After 12 years at HBO, Blank left as senior vice president of marketing to join Showtime.

At first Showtime used "pure attribute marketing — telling consumers what premium cable was," he said. The next goal was to build brand off that proprietary programming, he added. Which is where Showtime's "No Limits" comes in. While that campaign theme line first appeared five years ago, "that's still our positioning," Blank explained.

He said that the marketing slogan has become somewhat less visible in the past six months because "lately most of the [marketing] money has been spent on [promoting] new programming launches," such as for Dead Like Me
andOut of Order. Blank added that these days digital cable offers "tremendous enhancements" in the form of on-demand and HDTV programming. Consequently, he said, "the business has come full circle." Once again, it is necessary to educate consumers about the benefits of cable, or in Showtime's case, premium cable.

"More and more, the programming drives consumer perceptions" of a network like Showtime, he said.

During Blank's tenure, Showtime has taken on projects that some have deemed controversial, including Lolita, More Tales of the City
and BastardOut of Carolina.

As for the education and leadership aspects of the award criteria, Blank has long been involved in cable organizations, not only CTAM but also the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the National Association of Minorities in Communications and the Walter Kaitz Foundation.

Beales pointed out that "in the early 1990s, he literally saved CTAM from extinction. As CTAM's chairman in 1992, "he engineered a real turn-around of our organization."

Later that decade, he also served on the CTAM Education Foundation board, helping to raise funds for the newly forming CTAM U program, she added.

Earlier this year, Blank chaired the NCTA's National Show in Chicago and also is "a big supporter of and strategist for Cable Positive and NAMIC," Beales noted.

"A really diverse audience has contributed to the success of cable today," Blank pointed out, an indirect reference to the appeal of such Showtime fare as Queer as Folk
and Soul Food.