2008 CABLE SHOW: Cable Pioneers Class
GREG ALLSHOUSEIn 1985, Greg Allshouse’s promotion to chief technician at the Tele-Communications Inc. cable system in Clarion, Pa., didn’t just mean a pay raise. It marked his rite of passage into the cable industry.
Since then, his career has spanned a variety of disciplines, including his current role as facilities manager for Comcast.
But in the beginning, a career in cable wasn’t exactly top of mind for Allshouse.
“I applied to all the utility companies in the Clarion area. When I was offered a job at Centre Video, a TCI company, I took it.
“The rest, as they say, is history,” Allshouse said.
“First, I was an installer, then in technical operations and engineering, then in cable’s finance portion of the business,” Allshouse recalls.
“I’m amazed at the diversity of jobs I’ve held.”
Allshouse also makes time to work on several task forces at the Society of Cable & Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) and was recently elected to its board of directors.
BRIDGET BAKERAs a young “20-something female” working on Capitol Hill, Bridget Baker was exposed to a variety of potential careers, including banking, retail, insurance, oil and gas. But Baker could not resist the excitement of cable, joining the industry in the mid-1980s.
“It was the Wild West nature of the early days,” she said. “It was rich in opportunity and fun, and there were so many characters around. True entrepreneurs. I thought I might enjoy some personal success in a less-established industry, and cable looked a lot more exciting than banking or retail.”
The Fashion Channel, where she served as regional manager of affiliate relations, would be Baker’s first stop in cable.
But it was just a year later, in 1988, when her career really took off.
“Tom Rogers hired me at NBC when he and Bob Wright had the vision to get NBC into the cable business,” said Baker.
“And Susan Packard was my boss, a stellar executive and woman I greatly admire,” she added.
Today, Baker is president of TV Networks distribution for NBC Universal.
RICK BECHTELWhen Rick Bechtel joined the cable business in 1979, he admittedly had never heard of his new employer, C-COR Electronics. In fact, the entire fledgling industry was something of a mystery.
But all that changed quickly, once he settled into his new job in State College, Pa., home of C-COR and, it just so happened, where his future wife resided.
“[My wife and I] wanted to live closer, so I took a job at C-COR in State College, where she was working in the public library. It was at C-COR where I learned to become a true RF engineer and learn the inner workings of a cable plant,” he said.
After establishing his engineering foundation at C-COR, Bechtel went on to hold engineering positions at Valley Video Cable, Storer Cable, Media General, Texscan, the Excalibur Group and Comcast. He is now manager of commercial data solutions at Cable One.
His vast engineering and technical knowledge has served the industry well. And during his four years at the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, he worked to establish and develop industry-wide training policies.
GREG BICKETGreg Bicket traces his infatuation with cable to an article in The Wall Street Journal about the industry and its potential growth.
“Nothing had been figured out in cable,” he said. “It was learning about customers, figuring out the product, building the technology and making financial sense of the business. I was intrigued.”
Intrigued enough to begin his 28-year cable career as a trainee with American Television and Cable in Durham, N.C., which eventually led to his current job as senior vice president and general manager of Cox Communications in New Orleans. At Cox, he led the New Orleans system through the Hurricane Katrina disaster with limited damage and, most importantly, no loss of employee life.
On the way, Bicket was vice president of operations for Daniels & Associates, senior vice president for United Artists Cable, and held executive positions at Harron Communications, TCI International and his own communications-consulting company.
For Bicket, cable is home. “It’s been a fascinating, thrilling career… I’ve been honored to work for some of the industry’s brightest thinkers and pioneers,” he said.
PAUL BRAUNFor Paul Braun, it all started at Berks Cable in Reading, Pa.
“Over time, my responsibilities expanded from just public access to being responsible for all programming for the system and its public-affairs efforts,” Braun said. “I was sold on the power of video that a cable system could create and direct.”
In those days, cable’s world consisted of 12 channels and no satellite signals. Not so anymore.
“Today, we have unlimited choices of content from many sources and the capability of selecting and storing our personal choices. Cable now includes other products beyond TV,” he added.
Braun, who is now vice president of public affairs at Time Warner Cable’s National Division, has won numerous awards, including the 1987 ATC Programmer of the Year Award. He has also received the prestigious Brad Wojcoski Award for his impact on the fight against HIV and AIDS.
And he has been named a Cable Pioneer. “I tend to think of this honor more as a rite of passage into cable curmudgeon-hood, and that the innovation and flexibility of the people in the industry can face any challenge,” Braun said.
KEITH BURKLEYKeith Burkley admits that he initially stumbled upon a career in cable in 1971, when he was an installer technician at Sterling Manhattan Cable TV.
“Early on, I wasn’t inspired by cable. I just needed a job, and in those days, just a few months of installs made you experienced. I figured I’d do it until I got a real job,” laughed Burkley.
But that “real job” came soon enough when he joined Hartford Cable TV as lead technician. “I began to like cable and felt it was a good place to be,” he said. “It was racing along, was fun and exciting. I didn’t want to miss out on that.”
Burkley went on to become chief engineer at American Cablevision in Monroeville, Pa., then to Austin Cablevision and eventually to his current position as president of Time Warner Cable’s New England division.
“After 29 years in cable, I’ve never had to look elsewhere because it’s the most exciting industry to ever come along,” he said.
JIM CARLSONJim Carlson owes it all to a friend who, in 1987, sang the praises of the cable industry, which he had recently joined.
Carlson went on to work for Jones Intercable, where he spent 13 years building the corporate communications function and was instrumental in developing corporate policies and programs.
“My friend told me cable was unlike anything he had ever experienced and he urged me to take the position at Jones, even though it meant transferring from Providence, R.I., to Denver,” Carlson said. “It was my very first job in cable.”
His experience at Jones, particularly working closely with cable icon Glenn Jones, helped prepare Carlson for his next career move — establishing Carlson & Co. as a leading communications and public-relations firm.
“Communications had not been one of the cable industry’s priorities in the early days, and we were constantly educating our various publics about the industry, how it worked and its critical issues,” he said.
Carlson served three terms as vice president of the Cable Television Public Affairs Association (now the Association of Cable Communicators) and on several additional industry committees.
JOEL COHEN“I was always interested in the entertainment industry,” said Joel Cohen, “but cable was a combination of entertainment and financial. It was a new and emerging industry and I found it to be very fascinating, with room to grow.”
Cohen, who began his cable career at TelePrompTer Corp. in 1978, has been instrumental in advancing the financial and administrative functions for Westinghouse/Group W Cable, United Artists, Harron Communications and Avalon Entertainment.
Along the way, he has served as director of the National Cable Television Association (NCTA) for two terms.
And, as a leading proponent of cable, Cohen participated in many of the industry’s financial, operational and administrative organizations, helping to develop best practices for the industry.
He has also been instrumental in the development of international cable TV and programming relations.
“Cable offered an amazing number of opportunities, and it’s an honor to be recognized by your peers as a contributor to the industry,” Cohen said of being named a Cable Pioneer. “And for being there for the industry and its people. There aren’t many true pioneers left, and I’m in awe of them.”
DAVE FELLOWSIn 1983, while working at GTE Labs, Dave Fellows saw his first microprocessor embedded inside a set-top box.
He couldn’t help but be struck by the contrast with the coil dipped in Vaseline that connected the telephone industry networks.
“My first reaction was, wait a minute, we [the telephone industry] have a coil dipped in Vaseline and cable has a microprocessor? We’re toast!” he said. “I eventually joined Scientific Atlanta.”
Fellows went on to serve as SA’s vice president of strategic operations for the company’s satellite division, and as president of the equipment supplier’s cable and satellite divisions.
He later moved on to be chief technical officer and eventually executive fellow at Comcast, where he now acts as advisor to the No. 1 U.S. cable operator’s senior executives on various industry issues.
“I was taught vacuum tubes in college and dealt with paper-tape, punch cards and slide rules. Now, I have participated in the transition to Wikis, PDAs and HDTV. Can the semantic Web be far behind?” Fellows said with a laugh.
Still, Fellows is surprised to be counted among cable’s pioneers.
“When I think of the people wandering around the NCTA Show in tuxedos, I think of the founders of the industry,” he said. “It’s just hard to think of myself as deserving to be in their company.”
STEVE GAUTEREAUXA part-time sum-mer job at Mission Cable in San Diego (later to become Cox Communications) was all high school student Steve Gautereaux had in mind. Forty years later, he is the company’s vice president of network management.
“I recognized that I was involved in an industry that had a future,” he said. “People were investing in color TV and adding video outlets in their homes, and looking for 'crystal clear’ reception. That’s when I decided to stay at Cox.”
Through the years that followed, his roles there ran the gamut from construction laborer to operations manager of all outside plant.
During his career at Cox, Gautereaux’s departments have built and rebuilt all 6,000 miles of plant, and migrated the plant to a full-service network.
“Being involved in this industry has never been boring. There’s always something new. New challenges, new opportunities, new competition,” he said.
“Now, I’m honored and humbled to be recognized as a Cable Pioneer.”
TOM GULLETTIn 1947, Tom Gullett bought a small TV set and installed a 50-foot tower on top of his home. Then, in 1948, while operating a radio sales and service business with his brother-in-law, he built one of the earliest known cable systems in the country to serve several small towns in Eastern Kentucky.
“I had a seven-inch TV set with lots of snow and was experimenting with getting signals off-air when I saw this beautiful picture coming from atop a nearby mountain top. It was then I realized how powerful TV could be and the unlimited potential of coaxial cable,” Gullett said.
It was usually just Howdy Doody, wrestling and boxing matches from WLW-TV in Cincinnati, but it was television, and for the next 15 years Gullett would refine and tinker with his system until he purchased the Tele-Ception cable system in 1963.
He would go on to build and operate a string of cable systems in Kentucky, along with five systems north of London, England, and was one of three men who founded the Kentucky Cable TV Association in 1965.
MICHAEL HARNEYAfter graduating from University of California at Berkeley and spending three years at IBM, Michael Harney joined Scientific-Atlanta in 1980. Then, in 1984, he was introduced to pay-per-view.
“I was part of a small division at S-A dabbling in video for hotels and commercial businesses,” he said. “I was really excited about it, and felt it was a real opportunity. S-A actually installed more than a thousand hotels with PPV in about 18 months, and we sold everything — set-top boxes, modulators, satellite dishes and receivers. And did installs. I was very young, and this seemed normal. Years later I would learn that it was not.”
In time, Harney would serve as vice president of subscriber management, vice president of broadband engineering, vice president and general manager of digital video systems, and hold top executive positions in related subscriber network sectors at S-A.
He has also been awarded 13 patents for a variety of interdiction, subscriber terminal and descrambling technologies.
STEVE HAVEYFresh out of high school and eager to join the exploding cable industry in South Florida, Steve Havey’s entry into the business began by installing Master Antenna TV systems.
Beginning in 1976 as a subcontractor to Scientific-Atlanta, installing satellite earth stations, Havey’s journey through cable’s twists and turns, including several “technical revolutions,” led to his current position as vice president of North America cable for S-A, now part of Cisco Systems.
“In 1976, satellite was a brand new technology, and the growth potential seemed enormous,” he said. “That’s what inspired me to join SA on a full-time basis.”
It also launched a diverse career that would take him to several different disciplines within the cable industry. “I’ve had the pleasure to work in many aspects of the industry, including field service, applications, engineering, marketing, manufacturing and as a general manager, and all with one company. It has also allowed me to work with so many of cable’s pioneers. It’s a privilege to be inducted into the group,” Havey said.
RUSS HILLIARDA 14-year-old Russ Hilliard was introduced to cable legend Bill Daniels, whose advice to consider a career in cable was duly noted.
It wasn’t long before Hilliard and his brother Les were helping their father build the Scottsbluff, Neb., cable system, marking the beginnings of a 38-year career.
Hilliard is now the surviving patriarch of a three-generation cable family.
“Bill Daniels is why I entered the cable business. It just made sense,” Hilliard said. “And later, after a handshake deal with John Malone for 60 franchises, our business exploded. Since then, it’s been a helluva ride.”
He would go on to build and operate several successful cable systems throughout the Rocky Mountain Region and the West, despite some early holdups and anxieties.
“We had no idea cable would explode like it did,” he said. “It’s the craziest thing. A wild ride.”
Hilliard also played an early and invaluable role in the National Cable Television Cooperative.
MICHAEL JOHNSONIn 1972, armed with only a single van and a vision about cable TV and its growing need for installers and construction skills, Michael Johnson embarked on a career that would eventually lead to his current position as owner and president of Amtec.
Once Johnson began wiring apartment buildings, his business took off.
“Jim Petro at Rollins Cable encouraged me to become an installer and help build an installation workforce for Rollins Cable,” he said. “Once I found out from my college roommate that an antenna placed on a hill with amplifiers could provide multiple channels, I knew it would be a far better career opportunity than a roller rink or car wash franchise.”
Johnson would go on to build businesses such as Advanced Cable Industries, Premier Cable Communications, AM Broadband Services and his current endeavor, Amtec.
During Johnson’s 36-year cable career, his companies have won numerous innovation and service awards, including Comcast’s Partner of the Year Award in 2007.
“I have committed myself and my company to cable,” Johnson said. “That’s where our roots are. To receive this acknowledgement makes me very proud.”
ROGER KENNEDYRoger Kennedy was 26 years old when, along with a handful of colleagues, he launched Kennedy Cable Construction in 1972 to serve the growing needs of the still emerging cable industry.
Kennedy’s business grew to become one of the largest independently owned cable contractors in the South, constructing all or part of the original cable systems in Atlanta, Charleston, Dallas, Phoenix, Tampa and several other major cities.
“When I was working for a cable contractor in 1965, I thought this would be interesting work. And cable was new, with a bright future. It was my first career choice,” Kennedy said.
“I want to continue our legacy as a company you can trust to meet the needs of the cable and telecommunications industries,” he added. “And it’s an honor and privilege to be chosen as a Cable Pioneer.”
Kennedy has been an active member of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) since 1988 and remains active in several state cable associations.
JOHN KLINDWORTHIn true Cable Pioneer style, John Klindworth’s cable career began after climbing a water tower to install antennas that would receive broadcast signals from Minneapolis, in Zumbro Falls, Minn., around 1960.
Following a three-year stint at DuMont developing color TV, Klindworth started his own company in 1957 engineering, designing and installing broadcast TV.
But it was the fledgling cable industry that caught his eye. “I noticed other markets could use cable, so I started building and operating systems in rural Minnesota. Then, I began to meet the challenges of very difficult signal reception areas like the Caribbean, New Zealand and other remote areas void of TV. They were all business opportunities,” Klindworth said.
“The cable TV business has opened new avenues of business opportunities. I was able to look beyond broadcast TV in the Midwest and see the rest of the U.S., and eventually the world. I’m very proud to be part of this industry and now a member of the Cable Pioneers.”
Klindworth has built cable systems in nine countries and served in the U.S. Navy from 1940-1946 as a specialist in radar development and special-use TV equipment.
MIKE MANNINGMike Manning’s career began with a serendipitous glance at the job board at Loyola Marymount University in 1976.
“The job was a shipping/receiving clerk and I didn’t even know what cable was, or what [the company] Cable TV Supply was. But TV was my major, and I was going for it,” he said.
He also recalls his first cable show, and how it reinforced his commitment to the industry.
“The industry was just taking off with the introduction of satellite delivery,” he said. “There was a buzz and an energy unlike anything I’d ever seen. I told my boss when I returned from the show that I had found a career.”
Manning eventually moved on to CommScope, where he now serves as CommScope’s senior vice president of North American Broadband.
“Cable has been much more than a career. It’s been a journey of exploration that never ends,” he said.
DAN MULVENONAs a teenager in 1967, Dan Mulvenon took his first steps towards a career in cable. “I circulated a petition in our neighborhood to extend the cable plant to our small cluster of 20 homes. It worked,” he said.
Following his early passion for broadcast journalism, Mulvenon embarked on a short-lived career at a local Salina, Kansas, TV station. The pay was low and the focus on style over substance convinced him to change careers. Enter HBO.
“I answered an HBO ad for a sales rep in Kansas City and believed it was the start of a programming revolution. Former NCTC (National Cable Television Cooperative) chairman and CEO Mike Pandzik hired me in 1980 and then again in 1994,” he said.
Mulvenon became a key member of the NCTC, where since 1994 he has acted as vice president of corporate communications.
“In 1986, I took a job outside the cable industry, but kept an eye on the business. I was always fond of the mission NCTC had defined and was thrilled to be invited back into the cable industry in a role that helps the small and independent operators. They truly embody the true cable pioneer spirit,” he said.
STEVE NELSONThe Cable Channel has become one of the cable industry’s most enduring entities, and since 1987 has provided cable-industry show attendees with instant access to relevant information from the comfort of their hotel rooms.
Its creator, Steve Nelson, didn’t exactly envision that future, however.
“I was vice president for the computer trade show Comdex and looking to create a hotel-room TV channel for the show,” Nelson recalled. “That didn’t happen. But I got an opportunity to do it for cable at the 1987 show in Las Vegas. So I thought, why not take a shot?”
The shot paid off, and 21 years later the Cable Channel continues to provide on-site information and topical discussions during cable shows.
Nelson also provides free time on the channel to industry organizations such as the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing and others, as well as to charitable events and organizations such as SkiTAM and Cable Positive.
“In 1987, I never dreamed I’d be doing this for over 20 years,” Nelson said, adding that “it’s a thrill to join the Cable Pioneers.”
RICK PALMERIn 1973, Rick Palmer invested in a small cable system in Petoskey, Mich. His first task was to set up the accounting and internal control systems and financial reporting for the cable operator and launch a new network called HBO.
Palmer would spend more than 30 years in operational, financial and managerial positions for many of the leading companies in the cable industry.
He is now Comcast’s senior vice president of finance and administration for the company’s Eastern division.
“I truly can’t think of an industry that has transformed itself so many times over the years, but that manages to maintain the smaller, family roots and culture from which it began,” he said.
“There is so much to be proud of over the past 35 years. I never could have imagined that three decades later we would be part of the fabric of our customers’ lives,” said Palmer, who will retire at year-end.
JOHN PASCARELLIIn the early 1980s, John Pascarelli was selling cable door-to-door while at Continental Cablevision (later to become Comcast) before he was asked to hire and train new sales representatives in Eastern Massachusetts.
His journey through the cable industry has included stops at Cablevision Systems, Storer Communications, Helicon Communications, and Mediacom Communications, where he is currently executive vice president.
Under his direction, Mediacom now spans 23 states and offers a full complement of advanced services.
Pascarelli has also found time to contribute valuable experience to organizations such as the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing for 20 years, and has served on its board for six years.
In addition, he has been recognized with numerous CTAM marketing awards.
JEFF PORTERSketching pictures of cable installations while he was in high school gave Jeff Porter a first-hand glimpse of the industry in its most fundamental form.
“My dad worked at Times Wire and I would draw pictures to help teach installers how to hang cable. I was like the police sketch artist. And I could draw better than my dad,” he said.
Once out of the Army, Porter’s career thoughts turned back to cable, and he joined Systems Wire and Cable in Phoenix.
“I could do just about every job associated with the manufacture of cable,” Porter said. “I even wrapped cable reels in cardboard for shipping. The people in cable have always been fun to work with.”
Porter’s cable career has included jobs as electronics technician for Scientific-Atlanta, senior account manager at ADC Telecommunications and regional sales director for BigBand Networks. Currently, he is Northeast Region sales director for Mixed Signals.
Asked about his Cable Pioneer honor, Porter made note of its special meaning. “I now belong to a group that already includes my dad,” he said.
GREG PRICEAs a high school student, Greg Price repaired radios, record players and TVs for his father’s business in Morgan City, La.
Once his father decided cable could be a profitable business, it wasn’t long before his Allen’s Television Sales and Service business became the second cable system in the state of Louisiana, circa 1961.
“Coming from a small family owned and operated MSO, one would think that one’s industry contribution was too minor or even insignificant to qualify for any recognition on a national level,” Price said.
“The list of Cable Pioneers is truly a representative overview of those who have formulated this industry. It’s absolutely an honor to be added to that list.”
Beyond his pioneering efforts as a small, independent operator, he has also been active in numerous organizations.
Price has dedicated his time and efforts to organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America, and was recently honored by the Louisiana Shrimp and Petroleum Fairs and Festival Association as State Volunteer of the Year.
RUSS SKINNERThrough a help wanted ad, Russ Skinner interviewed for the chief engineer’s job at All American Cablevision in Columbus, Ohio, around 1974. He was the only one who could answer the simplest of questions about TV, and he got the job.
“I thought I’d wanted a service avionics career, but answering that ad and having worked in electronics since I was 12 when I built my own equipment, I was hired at All American. Thinking back, I can’t think of a better place to be than cable,” he said.
Skinner has been instrumental in the development and deployment of hybrid fiber coaxial networks and was directly involved in establishing the guidelines of Off Premise Addressability, BTSC Stereo and fiber optics for use in the American Television and Communications divisions (now Time Warner Cable).
He is currently a member of the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers, Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and the cable-engineers’ society Loyal Order of the 704, as well as the Cable Labs Conditional Access Committee.
TOM STANIECFresh out of the Air Force in 1971, Tom Staniec landed a job as an RF lab technician for Craftsman, which later became Magnavox and Philips Broadband, and the following year he joined NewChannels Corp., a Newhouse organization. It was then he realized cable was a good career fit.
“I found bench engineering boring, so when my mentor at the time, Peter Biondilillo, taught me RF field engineering and testing, I knew cable was something I’d like as a career,” he said.
For the next 36 years, Staniec would serve as director of engineering, vice president of network engineering, vice president of affiliate network services, vice president of operations and network engineering, and vice president of transport network engineering, all at Time Warner Cable or affiliated companies. During those years, Staniec was the first recipient of the Polaris Award.
“Peter [Biondilillo] once told me that he would teach me everything he knew about cable in exchange for one promise. That I teach the same to others,” he said. “I’ve kept that promise since 1971.”
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