Honoring Six Who Built an Industry

The 2013 Cable Hall of Fame class runs the gamut of industry participants, from the former CEO of the largest media conglomerate to a former trade-association chief, to a groundbreaking programmer to a trailblazing local operator from the Pacific Northwest.

All six of this year’s honorees, though, have in common a track record of outstanding achievements and contributions to cable. They are: John M. Egan, chairman, Evolution Digital; James P. Mooney III, principal and managing partner, JLM Partners (deceased); Timothy P. Neher, partner, Pilot House Associates; Richard Parsons, senior adviser, Providence Equity; Josh Sapan, president and CEO, AMC Networks;and Amy Tykeson, president and CEO, BendBroadband. The 2013 Cable Hall of Fame selection committee was chaired by Jerald L. Kent, chairman and CEO, Suddenlink Communications, and chairman of The Cable Center’s board of directors. Since 1998, 96 men and women have been inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.

“We are thrilled to honor these six cable visionaries,” said Kent. “The Cable Hall of Fame class of 2013 is a distinct group of industry veterans who have helped to shape and build cable into the thriving and innovative industry it is today.”

Added The Cable Center’s CEO, Larry Satkowiak: “Congratulations to the Cable Hall of Fame Class of 2013. These six individuals have been at the forefront of the cable industry’s development, and we look forward to honoring them at the 2013 Cable Hall of Fame Celebration during The Cable Show.”

The 16th annual Cable Hall of Fame Celebration will be held on Monday, June 10, at the The Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell will be the event’s emcee. In addition, Brian Lamb will be presented with the 2013 Bresnan Ethics in Business Award, honoring the late William J. Bresnan, founder and chairman of Bresnan Communications and long-time chairman of the board of The Cable Center. Lamb is executive chairman of C-SPAN and has been a part of the public-affairs channel since its launch 34 years ago. Lamb was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame in 2000.

Biographical information reprinted from The Cable Center’s Cable Hall of Fame Celebration program. Copy credit: Erica Stull, Stull WordWorks

John M. Egan
Chairman, Evolution Digital

An economics major with a passion for technology, John Egan has been a key figure in cable’s transition to fiber technology. As communications group president and then CEO of technology distributor Anixter, Egan believed the full technological potential of cable hinged on moving from copper to fiber, from analog to digital, and from simple to complex networks.

He led the creation of Anixter’s cable spinoff , ANTEC, which introduced the Laser Link line of optical transmitters and receivers. Arris Interactive, ANTEC’s joint venture with Nortel Networks, developed technology to allow voice and data to travel over a hybrid fiber-coax network. Egan led Arris until he retired in 2002. Now chairman of Denver-based Evolution Digital, he is focused on digital solutions for bandwidth reclamation and advanced set-top boxes.

Egan has placed the utmost value on his family. He married his wife, Lynn, while they were in college. The couple’s two sons, John and Chris, were born while their parents were in their twenties. “We got a chance to see them grow up when we were still in the prime of our lives, [and] the cable industry was very much a family affair,” Egan recalled. “Many of the trips we took as the kids were growing up were with industry people.” It was no surprise that both sons followed their father into the cable industry. The elder Egans have six young grandchildren.

Sports have also long been an important part of Egan’s life. Before suiting up for his business career, Egan played center for the Miami Dolphins. Team sports taught him a number of lessons that he took with him to boardrooms and executive suites, including the importance of working with people who have a broad range of skills. “People who were good as linebackers weren’t good halfbacks — you have to see people’s individual talents,” Egan said. He also learned that “losing oft en teaches you more than winning.” Today he is a trustee of the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Team Foundation and an enthusiastic amateur skier and golfer.

The most important advice Egan offers the next generation of cable executives also comes from sports: “If you play defense, you lose. … If you try and protect something rather than modernize and change, you’re dead.”

James P. Mooney III
Principal and Managing Partner, JLM Partners

When Jim Mooney arrived at the National Cable Television Associaton’s headquarters in 1981 to handle government relations, the nascent cable industry faced hostility on multiple fronts.

City governments were extracting unjustifiably high franchise fees while broadcasters, Hollywood producers and baseball owners objected to the prospect of cable interfering with their revenue. Mooney left his job as chief of staff to the U.S. House of Representatives majority whip, joined the NCTA and led the charge that resulted in the 1984 Cable Deregulation Act.

That victory was one of the critical developments that enabled the industry’s subsequent explosive growth. Mooney was named NCTA president in 1984 and presided over the organization until 1993, when he left to found the communications firm JLM Partners with his wife, Louise Rauscher Mooney. He passed away late last year.

Behind the scenes at the NCTA, Jim Mooney hired the smartest people he could find, many of them women who continue to lead the industry today. “Jim didn’t see gender,” Louise Mooney said. “You didn’t get any breaks or face any obstacles because you were a woman.” Once employees proved themselves, Mooney gave them support, visibility and authority.

He was passionate about history, classical music and politics. “He’d watch political conventions like other people watched football,” Louise Mooney recalled. And he was a hardcore book-lover. It wasn’t just the words on the page, but the sensory experience of opening, holding and reading books. Mooney grew up in a poor family where books were a luxury. As an adult, he did his best to spread the joy of reading by donating books to local charities.

Mooney was an active volunteer with the debate team at son Jimmy’s high school. Parents did most of the judging for debate tournaments, and Mooney took to the job with gusto. He expected debaters to speak eloquently rather than confuse their opponents with the rapid-fire style in vogue at the time.

Mooney’s dedication to his principles never wavered, in debate, career or life. As Jeff Kingshott , Jimmy’s debate coach, said, “He did what he thought was right, regardless of whether it was popular.”

Timothy P. Neher
Partner, Pilot House Associates

On the golf course or in the C-suite, Tim Neher is unfailingly humble. Joining Continental Cablevision as a regional manager in 1974 and eventually advancing to president, chief operating officer and vice chairman, Neher is reluctant to take credit for the company’s many accomplishments. His proudest achievement at the company, he said, was “the way we conducted our business. … We had an amazing team who all worked hard to do it right.”

Neher was part of the second generation of cable leaders, building on the legacy of those who started the industry. His cadre of East Coast cable executives was called the “junior hackers” by a group of golf-playing cable founders that included Amos Hostetter, founder of Continental Cablevision.

The original hackers were a source of inspiration for the young guns. “I suppose the obvious lessons included their work ethic and resolve to build a brand new industry despite the hurdles competitors and regulators put in their way,” Neher said. “They showed great resilience at every turn, coupled with a willingness to take huge capital risks along the way. Not to overstate it, but it really was inspiring.”

On the golf course, the younger men “became great friends, which undoubtedly made it easier, and more fun, for us to partner in various ventures along the way.”

Golf has been a lifelong love, Neher said, calling it “a great equalizer.”

Those boundaries included the border between cable operations and programming: Neher served on the Turner Broadcasting board and was instrumental to the launch and growth of the Golf Channel. The dual perspectives enhanced Neher’s natural empathy for both sides of the business.

“Wearing two hats was helpful,” he said. “As a programmer, we understood the importance of demonstrating value added. As an operator we were, perhaps, a little more understanding at contract-renewal time.”

To many of his peers, Neher’s influence contributed significantly to the cable industry’s growth. Appreciated as a smart, savvy negotiator with tremendous integrity, Neher looks back on his role in cable in the high-flying ’80s with characteristic modesty. “We were all expanding so fast, even if we didn’t always get it right, we benefited from the rising tide that lifted all boats.”

Richard Parsons
Senior Adviser, Providence Equity Partners

A key figure in cable at a key moment in the industry’s history, Richard Parsons has interests that run wide and deep. As CEO and chairman of Time Warner Inc., Parsons led the world’s largest media company from 2002 to 2008, steering the massive enterprise through turbulent waters.

He joined the company as president in 1995. Unlike most of his peers, he moved into the executive position from outside the industry — he was previously chairman and CEO of Dime Savings Bank. The outsider’s perspective had its advantages.

“You get to be the smart dummy,” he said, “the guy or gal who doesn’t know why we can’t do things a certain way, and just asks questions.”

That adventurous spirit has led Parsons into unusual pursuits. Among other things, he owns an Italian vineyard and winery — Il Palazzone in Montalcino. “My wife told me when I was 50 that all I did was work,” he said. She encouraged him to pursue something different before he burned out. “I loved Italy, and I was a bit of an oenophile, so we went looking.”

He’s involved in the business, on hand every year when the grapes are harvested and set up for fermentation, and for the barrel blending. “The lifestyle is on the land, in the fields, part of a very natural process … [with] a product at the end of the toil. And you get to drink it!”

Parsons’ most rewarding endeavor, however, is closer to home. “Being a grandparent,” he said, “is the highest state a person can achieve on this earth.”

Parsons is actively involved as a volunteer with a long list of community organizations. He serves on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, and chairs the New York Education Reform Commission. A lifelong jazz aficionado, he’s chairman of the Apollo Theatre Foundation and of the Jazz Foundation of America, a national organization that helps older jazz and blues musicians in crisis, offering the artists financial support along with the opportunity to continue making music.

Parsons sees these and his many other charitable efforts as a sound investment: “These organizations keep communities vibrant and vital. That’s where you want to have your business. It’s a virtuous circle.”

Joshua Sapan
President & CEO, AMC Networks

Cable programming was still in its infancy when Josh Sapan set his sights on a cable career. Since then, he has expanded the boundaries of the cable industry and continues to play a key role in transforming the television landscape.

Sapan joined Rainbow Media Holdings (now AMC Networks) in 1987 as president of the national entertainment division. He advanced to CEO in 1995, and, in 2011, led the company through its spinoff from Cablevision Systems.

A passion for independent film drove Sapan into the entertainment industry. After college, he hit the road as an impresario, screening movies in Midwest college towns and creating new audiences for classic film. That first experience bears striking similarities to what Sapan does today.

“It was alternative, it was for profit, it was entrepreneurial,” he said. Just as cable promised programming diversity, Sapan’s road shows gave his audiences access to new and wide-ranging films — everything from John Wayne to Buñuel. Developing alternative distribution models to introduce compelling content to new audiences would become a mission Sapan would continue throughout his career. Early on, Sapan was inspired by Ralph Lee Smith’s The Wired Nation. The book’s vision of an America connected by wire “was a breathtaking thought, seemingly impossible.” Sapan said he imagined what that world would look like then and thought, “I have to go work in that business.”

Sapan said he considered himself fortunate to be recruited by Marc Lustgarten and influential cable pioneer Charles Dolan to work at Rainbow in 1987. Today, Sapan remains at the forefront of the evolving cable television industry. Programming such as AMC’s Mad Men and Breaking Bad is are the center of what’s been widely referred to as a new “Golden Age of Television.”

Sapan is active in a variety of industry associations. He helped found CTAMU — a Harvard Business School program for rising cable leaders. He is also a trustee of The New School in New York, a popular guest lecturer at New York University and Columbia University, and a participant in The Cable Center’s Cable Mavericks program.

Sapan said he sees a bright future for the cable industry, especially as new technologies impact how companies deliver content and how audiences receive it. “There’s probably no better intersection of freedom of speech and enterprise than what’s occurred on the cable dial,” he said.

Amy C. Tykeson
President, CEO & Chairman, BendBroadband

As cable operations develop an increasingly national focus, Amy Tykeson proves there’s no place like home. At the helm of BendBroadband, she has established the company as a force to be reckoned with in Central Oregon.

After learning the programming side of cable as HBO’s vice president of area marketing in New York, Tykeson returned home to run the family business in Bend, Ore. Working at HBO was so much fun in the 1980s, she said, “I couldn’t see myself in operations.”

“Now, I can’t imagine myself not being in operations,” she said. “I would miss the connection with our customers.”

BendBroadband’s slogan is, “We’re the local dog. We better be good.” As the “local dog,” Tykeson’s commitment to community is a fundamental part of the company’s identity. “Our employees are active in the communities we serve, and their neighbors are our customers,” she said. She sees a three-fold local connection: BendBroadband is a major employer in Central Oregon, the company’s services advance the region’s economic development and appeal, and, as a corporate citizen, the company supports dozens of non-profit organizations and events.

On the economic development front, Tykeson is especially proud of the BendBroadband Vault, a Tier III, LEED-certified data center catering to medical and financial institutions. The company also sponsors programs as varied as Connect to Compete through the Boys and Girls Clubs and TEDx Bend.

That kind of corporate citizenship has earned BendBroadband recognition as Outstanding Philanthropic Corporation by the Oregon and Southwest Washington Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

Her local focus doesn’t limit Tykeson’s active involvement in the nationwide cable community. She serves on the boards of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, CableLabs and C-SPAN.

“It can be a little lonely out here in the West, and we have to do a lot of networking,” she said. As one of just a few women heading MSOs, Tykeson is a role model for industry women and one of the early visionaries behind WICT. Her advice to young women entering cable: “Speak up, share your opinions, get involved in the community. … Find where your passion lies and tap in to what fills up your bucket.”