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Mediacom’s Italia Commisso Weinand: ‘Do the Right Thing’

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Italia Commisso Weinand has seen a lot in 40 years in the programming negotiation business. Through stints at Comcast, Tele-Communications Inc., Times-Mirror Cable and Time Warner Cable, and since 1996 at midsized cable operator Mediacom Communications, she has hammered out deals that have set the benchmark for both large and small operators.

But as programming deals have evolved from simple carriage agreements nailed down over the course of a dinner conversation to the complicated digital, mobile and on-demand rights tomes that can take months and sometimes years to work out, she has stuck to one basic tenet: Do the right thing. That goes for both sides of the negotiating table, Commisso Weinand said in an interview with Multichannel News. As deals get more complicated and programmers rely more and more on carriage fees to make up for advertising and viewership declines, that tenet becomes more important than ever.

For Commisso Weinand, doing the right thing doesn’t mean she wants programmers to acquiesce to her every demand. She has said for years that Mediacom is more than willing to pay fair prices for content. But she also insists that programmers realize she has a business to run and that programming talks should consider other constituencies besides the two sides at the negotiating table.

“It’s not about us; it truly is about the customer,” Commisso Weinand said, adding that larger companies sometimes lose that perspective, especially when dealing with operators the size of Mediacom.

“I’m the buyer, not the seller,” Commisso Weinand said. “When my staff gets mistreated because there is a big ownership group, and they’re so much more important and they’re so much bigger, that’s when it all breaks down. But we’re still around. Most of those people don’t have jobs today. The arrogance persists.”

Commisso Weinand is fiercely protective of her negotiating team, which with just four people — group vice president of programming Barry Paden, vice president of programming Joseph Appio, vice president of advanced consumer services John Woods and consultant Glenn Goldsmith — has hammered out countless deals and stuck together for 18 years.

That kind of longevity doesn’t necessarily mean they always agree, but it does mean that they can let their opinions be known, Commisso Weinand said: “I have smart people. They don’t always agree with me. We have arguments.”

Paden said that, during programming negotiations, the team has “very entertaining conversations, because we have three different points of view, but we get to a good place.”

To which Commisso Weinand added, “a good place for the company and for the customers.”