Riding the Industry's New Wave

Click here to read profiles of the 2012 B&C Hall of Fame inductees

It's 2012; we're in the midst of a typically divisive (and historically profitable) election season, and speeches, debates and commentary are being broadcast (like everything else) on a once-unthinkable array of platforms. Extraordinary energy seems to be powering the industry -- from dynamic coverage of faraway conflicts to poker-faced scheduling strategies to Washington legislation and litigation. And yet, we cannot hide one fascinating fact: We are still battle-scarred. The Great Recession and fits-and-starts recovery have remade the way we do business. Thankfully, however, that reality has only encouraged the great innovators we often look to for best practices and advice.

Among those figures are the 10 whom we have honored this year with induction in the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame. And as we do every year, we asked our inductees one crystal-ball question: "What is the most important thing you learned in 2012 that will inform your decision-making in 2013?" And what we found was a group of leaders who, generally speaking, are buoyed by the nonstop evolution of technology, and are inspired to keep pushing forward, while absolutely never forgetting the great lesson that your customer must always come first.

And in those ways -- and many others -- these leaders below are happy and grateful to be out front.

Jack Abernethy

CEO, Fox Television Stations

What I look for is trends, and the acceleration of trends. What I learned this year is the use of handheld devices as mediums for watching television is here for real. A lot of trends happen very slowly, but that one, like social media the last few years, accelerated to the point where you can see its ubiquity coming very quickly. The full rollout of our products on mobile handheld devices will not be done all in 2013, but it's going to inform and make sure the decisions made going forward become very important. It's not some medium that can be easily dismissed, or one where you say, all right, that's going to happen in five years so we can sit and wait on the sidelines. That is probably the biggest distinction of the year 2012 for me. 

Philippe Dauman

President and CEO, Viacom

Reinvention and innovation have always been the lifeblood of our business, but the pace of change over the last 12 months has been incredible, and unprecedented in many ways. We have seen the evolution of digital ecosystems that will help us provide more immersive and engaging experiences for the consumer. Our own research has shown that even the youngest audiences are now looking to experiment with these new options.
In 2013, Viacom will continue to push the envelope in terms of new platforms and models-for our partners and our audiences. Everything we've learned in the past few years gives me great confidence that providing our content in multiple formats through a wide variety of partners is the key to future success.

Alan W. Frank

President and CEO, Post-Newsweek Stations

When the business started to go bad in 2008, I made a decision to re-examine everything and re-commit to a lot of good practices and stop a lot of the not-so-good practices, make some things more centralized than they had been and change the way we operate some things. I had a long-term belief that we would come back strong, but we had to be ready to take advantage of it; it would be different and we had to be ready. The years have proved that to be absolutely correct. What we're seeing this year is a very strong year, but the political category can deceive you. You have to pay extraordinary attention to details- otherwise you get bad habits again.
What I learned is you can't go back-you have to stay focused on your mission, on producing great television, on being smart about plans and following through on execution. There's no room for any other way to do it.
Next year, it will be even more important to have great discipline and follow-through and keep going for some creative answers, because they're going to be needed.
This year proved how important it is not to lose focus on the details, on your overall plan and the execution of that plan. I have a strong belief that our business will be strong for a while to come. We just have to keep at it and not lose faith.

Jerald L. Kent

Chairman and CEO, Suddenlink Communications

Technology is evolving so rapidly. We need to make sure we embrace new technology and place intelligent bets on where it's going, and reach out to partners both inside and outside the industry to make sure we're abreast of change and we're where we need to be to understand where it benefits us most. And it's all about embracing technology and change and taking better care of our customers. It's about trying to improve the customers' lives, to make it easier for them not only to manage technological changes but to try to make that change be as easy as possible so they can see the benefit without having technological complexity.

David Levy

President, Sales, Distribution and Sports, Turner Broadcasting Systems

The content and distribution model continues to evolve, and viewer habits continue to progress. As part of this evolution, advertisers continue to look for opportunities to engage with consumers across multiple screens, and distributors continue to expand their partnerships with media companies to incorporate not only traditional television rights, but also mobile and VOD rights, to ensure their consumers can get content in the format they want and when they want. Our continuing strategy is designed to confront the challenges of an ever-growing media universe and have the ability to deliver branded video content that can be enjoyed anytime, anywhere and on any device by consumers, while meeting the needs of our advertising and distribution partners.

Chuck Pagano

Executive VP and chief technology officer, ESPN

I'm still amazed that with all the different devices in the world and in our daily lives, video has such a strong magnetic coupling with people's interests, and that viewing video is now more important than it ever has been. For many years I thought television/video erosion was going to happen because of all of the other media. Not so...our viewership is up on video across the board regardless of the media we are servicing. So what I'm taking from this is that video is going to become even more important as we go into new and different paths in the future. Whether it's new devices or 4K TV or 8K TV or whatever-K TV, video is still the viewing addiction.v
What really cemented this for me was when I was down in Cowboys Stadium in Dallas watching a game recently and I noticed more people looking at that big screen they have than the action on the football field because it was the best way of seeing the story of the football game. That video view is part of the ecosystem now and it will just get more important to our lives as we go on because we are such avid creators and consumers of stories.

Rick Rosen

Board member, head of scripted television, WME

Working on [packaging the Emmy-winning Showtime series] Homeland reminded me that it's about more than just the deal-it's really about the art and how far it can reach. Watching all of these great artists come together to make something that resonates worldwide is the reason why I love my job.

Rino Scanzoni

Chief investment officer, GroupM

I learned that this economy, I don't think, is going to go anywhere anytime soon. I think the issues that we're having as a nation and what the world is encountering from an economic standpoint I think is creating a  fair amount of headwind for the advertising business. When we look back at 2009, I think we all would have thought that by 2012 this would be behind us. And it's not. And it's going to easily go into 2013 and, frankly, beyond. And I think that's going to be a challenge for us all. I think the only thing in 2012 that really sits there is I think we all thought that we would have been out of this economic quagmire, and we're not. And I don't even see the light at the end of the tunnel, frankly.

Judith Sheindlin

Judge Judy
What I learned is, how great it is to have a new adventure at every stage of life. There's always a surprise around the corner.

Lauren Zalaznick

Chairman, NBCUniversal Entertainment and Digital Networks and Integrated Media
We learned that version 1.0 digital businesses-which I consider Fandango, DailyCandy and iVillage-are transformable inside a big media company to behave like entrepreneurs and grow and win like start-ups.
Also, we continue to learn my biggest statement-that content is the backbone of this media company and probably all others. And the only thing to concentrate on is doing that better than you did before.