Welcome to the second issue of a
three-part series in Multichannel
News celebrating 30 years of continuous
coverage of the cable-TV
Last week, we put a spotlight
on 30 cable legends who made a significant impact on
the early history of cable. This week, we’ll highlight leaders
who are having an impact on the industry today.
Few other American industries have produced such
personalities, some famous (Jon Stewart) and some
infamous (Chris Albrecht). Each has played a specific
role in transforming cable TV from an antenna service
to a provider of voice, video and data on multiple channels
This edition also features guest columns from
three of the brightest minds in the TV industry on
themes central to cable’s success — programming,
technology and finance: NBC Universal Cable Entertainment
president Bonnie Hammer, former CableLabs
CEO Dick Green and InterMedia Partners managing
partner Leo J. Hindery Jr.
The stories in this package were reported and
written by K.C. Neel. As always, we urge you to share
your memories from the past 30 years with us at
Chris Albrecht is considered
one of the entertainment industry’s
Albrecht spent more
than 20 years at HBO, where
he was chairman and CEO
from 2002 to 2007 and was
responsible for turning out
some of the most notable
and critically acclaimed programming
on the dial, including
The Sopranos, Six Feet
Under, Deadwood and Sex
and the City.
Albrecht was forced out of
HBO in 2007, after he was
arrested and charged with
roughing up a girlfriend in
a Las Vegas parking lot following
an Oscar De La Hoya-
Floyd Mayweather boxing
match televised by the network.
That prompted word to
leak out that HBO in 1991
paid a settlement of at least $400,000 to a woman who worked for
Albrecht and accused him of choking her during a confrontation in
Still, he remained in high demand. It wasn’t long after the scandal in
Las Vegas that he announced he was joining talent agency IMG as head
of its global media unit. After a falling out with IMG owner Teddy Forstmann,
Albrecht joined Starz Entertainment in January of this year as president
and CEO, succeeding Bob Clasen, who retired.
In a wide-ranging interview with GQ last month, Albrecht discussed his
checkered past that included drugs, alcohol and women. He also talked
about how he plans to turn Starz into the next HBO, with original programming.
That task won’t be easy, he admitted to the magazine, given
the fact that his entire budget is less than the $115 million he spent on
HBO’s Band of Brothers a few years back. Still, Albrecht’s reputation for
brilliant programming remains intact and many industry players expect
great things ahead for Starz.
“It’s a town of second, third and fourth chances,” actress Sarah Jessica
Parker, who starred in Sex and the City, told The New York Times in
2007. “I would never be reluctant to work with him again. Maybe I’m being
Pollyanna-ish, but people want to work with people who have been
When it comes to political theater,
Roger Ailes has few peers. Ailes,
who produced Broadway plays and
musicals in the 1970s and has
served as a political consultant for
several Republican candidates for
three decades, knows what viewers
and consumers want.
As chairman of Fox News and
Fox Television Stations, Ailes, a
former CNBC president, has built a
juggernaut of conservative news coverage
with the blessing of his boss
Rupert Murdoch, who is also wellknown
for his conservative political
bent. TV commentators including Bill
O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck
and Sarah Palin have helped build
Fox News Channel into the toprated
news network on the dial. The
Fox News division is expected to
make more than $700 million in operating
profit this year, according to
The New York Times.
The network’s “Fair and Balanced”
tagline has won numerous
marketing awards, including
a Cable & Telecommunications
Association for Marketing Hall
of Fame award in 2008. In a column
that ran earlier this year,
Howard Fineman of Newsweek
called Ailes the de facto chairman
of the Republican National
Committee for his power over
the party and its members.
Ailes may rattle a few cages and
ruffle a few feathers — Fox News
and the Obama administration
threw repeated barbs at each other
earlier this year — but he garners
respect. “Regardless of whether
you like what he is doing, Roger
Ailes is one of the most creative
talents of his generation, CNN analyst
David Gergen told The New York
Times in January. “He has built a
media empire that is capable of driving
the conversation, and, at times,
the political process.”
By the time Comcast rolled out phone
services, other companies were much
farther along. With Cathy Avgiris at the
helm, though, the MSO was quickly
able to make up some serious
ground. Today, Avgiris serves as senior
vice president and general manager
for communications and data
services and oversees all aspects of
Comcast’s high-speed Internet, voice
and wireless businesses.
Avgiris was in charge of the
MSO’s digital voice business and
added the wireless and high-speed
data divisions to her stable of responsibilities
earlier this year. She
has been busy lately launching Comcast’s
Internet 2go product, which
provides 4G wireless data service.
“Cathy has done a tremendous
job growing our voice business and
launching our 4G wireless data service,”
Comcast Cable executive
vice president David Juliano said
in March, when Avgiris was promoted.
“Under her leadership, Comcast
became the third-largest residential
phone services provider in the U.S.
in less than four years .”
Avgiris joined Comcast in June
1992, as head of what was then its
Northeast region. After advancing
through various posts in cable operations,
she joined the high-speed
Internet group in 2000, which had
150,000 subscribers at the time. Following
Comcast’s acquisition of AT&T
Broadband in 2002, she became senior
vice president of fi nance for the
newly formed telephony group.
Prior to Comcast, she was vice
president and controller for Drexel Industries,
a small forklift manufacturer.
“It was really a great training
ground for getting into operations,”
she told Multichannel News in 2007,
when she was named one of that
year’s Wonder Women, adding, “Cable
is a lot sexier than the forklift
Cable has always been known as having a somewhat collegial environment
for sharing best practices and cheering on each company’s efforts. But it
took Char Beales and the Cable & Telecommunications Association for
Marketing to really bring the industry
together for successful collaborative
Indeed, Beales has been involved
in some of the cable industry’s most
important and influential programs
over the past three decades.
At the National Cable Television
Association, she was instrumental in
convincing Hollywood that cable programming
was worthy of recognition.
At CTAM, she has helped prepare
the cable industry for competition
with coordinated marketing
efforts and programs that individual
companies wouldn’t be able to
pull off, like the Cable Movers Program,
which allowed subscribers
who were relocating to sign up for
service with the operator in their
new neighborhood before moving
into their home.
Beales understands the industry
and how it works. As a result, CTAM has crafted several successful programs,
campaigns and organizations under her watch. She is described
by many industry players as tough but congenial, hard-working and open
to both sharing and accepting new ideas.
Beales was lured to CTAM in 1992 by Matt Blank, chairman and CEO
of Showtime Networks and chairman of CTAM at the time. The organization
was suffering from a lack of vision and was almost broke — something
Blank conveniently forgot to tell Beales, she told Multichannel News in 2009.
But she was intrigued by the possibilities the organization had and
the effect that successful programs could have on the industry. And it’s
Among some of CTAM’s successful efforts under Beales’ watchful eye:
the Cable Movers program, the Movies On Demand campaign, a businessservices
council and an advanced cable solutions consortium.
After eight years running DirecTV,
Chase Carey resigned and returned
to News Corp. in June as deputy
chairman, president and chief operating
officer. He replaced Peter Chernin,
who left to produce movies with News
Corp.’s 20thCentury Fox studio.
At the time of Carey’s return,
News chairman Rupert Murdoch
called Carey “one of my closest advisers
and friends for years,” and
noted that he’s “delighted we’ll once
again be working together across our
businesses as we face the challenges
and great opportunities ahead.”
Carey’s tenure at DirecTV was
successful. Under his watch, the
satellite-TV provider grew from 12 million to 18 million subscribers and free
cash flow increased from breakeven in 2003 to $1.7 billion in 2008.
In addition, DirecTV ramped up its high-definition TV offerings and focused
on customers with better credit who wouldn’t mind paying more for quality
television. Carey also oversaw the turnaround of DirecTV Latin America after
bankruptcy, nearly quadrupling its subscriber ranks to 5.8 million.
Before he became DirecTV’s CEO in 2003, Carey had spent 15 years
with News Corp. in various senior executive roles, including COO of News
Corp. and co-COO of Fox Entertainment.
Carey barely had time to get used to his new/old digs before the imbroglio
with Cablevision Systems blew up earlier this month. Carey has long advocated
the notion of multichannel providers paying to distribute broadcast
stations. Fox successfully completed that deal on Oct. 30, days after it
inked a new pact with Dish Network.
When Jeff Bewkes took over control
of Time Warner Inc. as chairman
and CEO in 2008, it was like
inheriting a cluttered and crumbling
old house from a beloved aunt. It
wasn’t like he didn’t know what he
was getting himself into. Bewkes
has worked for Time Warner for
over 30 years now.
But remodeling Time Warner’s
house was a major undertaking.
Within the first year, he consolidated
his power base, rejiggered some
top management positions, consolidated
the movie studios, and spun
off both the cable operations and
troubled AOL unit.
Bewkes was working at Citibank
in 1979 when he left to take a
job at Home Box Office. Among
his first tasks: sweet-talking hotel
chains into subscribing to the
fledgling movie service. He quickly
rose through the ranks. By 1991,
Bewkes was HBO’s president and
chief operating offi cer. He became
chairman of the entertainment and
networks group in 2002 and three
years later, he was promoted to
Time Warner Inc. president and
chief operating offi cer.
Now that Time Warner’s interior
is in better working order, Bewkes
has been concentrating on other
issues, notably TV Everywhere,
something he assertively promoted
at the National Show in Los Angeles.
He told The New York Times in
August 2010 that “people want
to use whatever screen they prefer.
Some people want a laptop or
a tablet, some people want a television,
a big TV. They want control
over when they watch, what they
watch; they want to be able to pull
things that they want.”
Glenn Britt isn’t known for passionate
outbursts or rash behavior. But
people who know him say his quiet
demeanor is just what’s needed
to run the country’s second-largest
And while Britt, who serves as
chairman, president and CEO of
Time Warner Cable, is known for
his calm, hushed tone of voice, he
can be hard as nails. TWC, where
he’s been CEO since 2001, has
been involved in its fair share of
tussles with programmers over retransmission
consent and programming
Britt told Broadcasting & Cable
in 2008 that TWC’s board believes
those battles to hold down costs
are the right thing to do for consumers.
“But I think the reality is
consumers tend to see everybody
involved as [unsympathetic] large
companies and a sort of pox on everybody’s
house,” he said.
Britt also was instrumental in
TWC’s aggressive launches into
high speed data, residential telephony
and has overseen the MSO’s
adoption of new services, including
high-definition television and digital
Britt has spent his entire professional
career at TWC and its predecessors,
starting at Time Inc.,
where he worked in the controller’s
department, Time Inc.’s fledgling cable
system (then called Manhattan
Cable), and HBO. He even spent 18
months in Tehran, Iran, working for
Time-Life Books, which was helping
the government publish how-to manuals.
Britt left the Middle East a year
before the overthrow of the shah of
Iran, “not because I was smart,”
he told Multichannel News in 2006,
“but because my contract was up.”
When Time Inc. merged with Warner
Communications in 1990, Britt
moved over to the combined cable
company, where he has stayed for
the past two decades. He led it to a
successful IPO in 2007.
Rocco Commisso is no stranger to
the nuances, headaches and benefi
ts of public equity and debt. As
CablevisionIndustries’ chief financial
officer, he oversaw the first
successful offering of public debt
by a privately-held cable company.
Commisso, a former banker,
formed Mediacom Communications
in 1996, after CVI was sold.
He took the company public 10
years ago and managed to amass
systems counting 1.2 million customers,
making Mediacom the seventh-
largest U.S. MSO.
But Commisso felt Mediacom’s
stock was undervalued and
he wanted the freedom to make
the long-term decisions that Wall
Street too often derides. In May,
Commisso tried to buy Mediacom’s
outstanding shares — he
already owns 40% of the outstanding
stock and controls 87% of the
votes. However, Commisso was unable
to convince the special committee
to buy into his proposal and
two months later, he pulled the
plug on the offer.
Bitterly disappointed, Commisso
nevertheless said he isn’t interested
in selling off his stake in the company
and pledged to forge ahead to
make Mediacom more successful.
Commisso is one of the industry’s
most colorful and outspoken operators.
He is also highly regarded as
one of the smartest and principled
executives in the business today.
He credits his “Golden Rule” philosophy
of living and doing business
to his parents, particularly his father,
“who had a great sense of right and
wrong and who never was afraid to
speak his mind when he saw something
wrong,” Commisso told Multichannel
News in 2009.
James Dolan may sing the blues with his band JD and the Straight Shot,
but he has a lot to smile about. His Cablevision Systems was one of a
handful of cable operators that didn’t experience a drop in basic customers
during the second quarter. The company is expanding its footprint
into less-competitive markets
in the Rocky Mountain area once it
completes its purchase of Bresnan
Communications. And Mad Men,
airing on Cablevision unit Rainbow
Media’s AMC, is among the
most popular programs on television
He dealt with a messy programming
spat with News Corp. in recent
weeks and brought it to a halt
last week, while raising red flags
about retransmission consent.
Dolan joined the family business
in the mid-1970s, after his father,
Charles, formed Cablevision
in 1973. He worked in various areas,
including sales and programming.
In 1995, the younger Dolan
Since then, he has spent $4 billion
to rebuild the MSO’s network
to fiber, laying the foundation for
phone service and offering a $90 triple-play bundle for 12 months. And
he isn’t shy about disagreeing with dad, as he did when he argued against
the company’s HD satellite service Voom a few years ago.
He’s convinced there is more room for growth. “[We’re] following the
strategy my dad started back in the ’70s, which was to really push the value
equation with the customer base, pack in as much value as you can,
don’t worry necessarily about the margins but go for the volume,” he told
Multichannel News in May. “And that’s really been the mantra for Cablevision
since I was selling door-to-door back in the ’70s.”
Jerry Kent was a CPA helping put
together the building blocks for
Cencom Cable in 1983 when owner
Bob Brooks asked him to come
on board full-time.
Kent reluctantly agreed. He
wasn’t sure an entrepreneurial career
was to his liking.
“Bob was very persuasive and I
was young, stupid and single and
decided to make the plunge, and
glad I did and never looked back,”
Kent said in his 2003 oral history
for The Cable Center.
Eventually he became Cencom’s
chief financial officer, but left the
firm in 1992 after the company
was sold. It didn’t take him long
to form his new company, Charter
Communications, which eventually
served 1.3 million customers.
Things were moving along pretty
well, but in 1998, the business
went into overdrive for Kent and his team at Charter. Billionaire Paul Allen
needed a vehicle to ride his ambitions in the cable business and he
made St. Louis-based Charter his race car in the chase to serve customers
with advanced services.
Allen went on a spending spree, buying systems that eventually gave
Charter systems counting 7 million customers. It was up to Kent to make
sure the acquisitions were blended into a cohesive operation.
Charter went public under Kent’s tenure in what was billed as the thirdlargest
IPO in U.S. history. Kent left Charter in 2001 after a falling out
with Allen. But he didn’t wait long before jumping back into the cable business,
forming Suddenlink Communications, which currently serves 1.2
Marwan Fawaz wears a lot of hats
as Charter Communications’ executive
vice president of operations
and chief technology officer.
He oversees the company’s East
and West operating groups, customer
operations, human resources
and business intelligence as well
as Charter’s engineering, network
management and information technology
When Fawaz was given the additional
title of EVP in May 2010,
Char ter CEO Mike Lovett said
Fawaz brought a welcome combination
of foresight, technical experience
and passion for the cable
Fawaz joined Charter in 2006 as
CTO. He has worked for several cable
and media companies including
TimesMirror Cable, Continental
Cablevision, MediaOne Group,
Vulcan Ventures and Pilot House
Being in charge of all the things
Fawaz must keep track of may
sound daunting, but it does help
Charter keep from creating impenetrable
For instance, Fawaz encourages
engineering and marketing teams
to come to each other’s meetings
and communicate with each other
on a regular basis. Engineers have
to refrain from using tech-speak
and marketers are encouraged to
learn what the technology does and
how it works.
Fawaz stresses simplicity in explaining
technology, he told CED
magazine in 2007. “With so many
technology terms, the message
gets lost. Focus on the product.
What do customers see? What’s
“I want us to talk about the product,
not about the minutiae of how
to develop it,” Fawaz said.
When Bob Iger took over as president
and CEO of The Walt Disney
Co. in 2005, many industry pundits
didn’t think he’d last very long or be
strong enough to lead the multimedia
But under Iger’s watchful eye,
Disney purchased Pixar Animation
Studios for $7 billion and comic
book publisher and movie studio
Marvel for $4 billion. He revamped
the movie-studio operations, installing
a television executive to head
Iger’s persuasive personality and
negotiating skills resulted in the
Chinese government’s approval of a
Walt Disney World-like theme park
to be built in Shanghai, a goal the
company has tried to achieve for
years, with little success until now.
Iger is a problem-solver and
that’s important, given Disney’s
wide-ranging businesses that range
from ESPN to ABC to Disneyland to
the Disney Stores. The company is
a juggernaut in terms of kids’ content
on the tube, the PC and the radio.
But that doesn’t mean issues
requiring delicate attention don’t
crop up regularly.
“I like our people to solve problems
on their own, and they usually
do,” he told The New York Times
in April. “But I will do a deep dive if
there is a lot at stake or if there are
Iger began his career as a
weatherman for a local broadcasttelevision
station and joined ABC
in 1973. He gradually rose through
the ranks, eventually taking over for
Michael Eisner, who had been credited
with reviving the entertainment
firm until power struggles displaced
him from his throne.
Though she is responsible for reinvigorating
and expanding the
top cable brand in the African-
American community, BET Networks
chairman and CEO Debra
Lee was initially more interested in
communications law than in building
Lee joined BET 25 years ago as
general counsel. “More often than
not, it’s trial by error to find out
what you really like,” Lee told Broadcasting
& Cable last month, when
she was elected to the magazine’s
Hall of Fame. “Whether it’s the industry,
the company or the cause,
you have to find something you’re
excited about so it’s not work, it’s
more passion and fun.”
The network that turns 30 years
old this year broke ground as the
first of its kind. But it also came under
fire for programming that critics
said demeaned women and perpetuated
After years of criticism from inside
and outside the African-
American community, Lee decided
it was finally time to take action.
BET sponsored a two-day summit
in Washington, D.C., in March,
bringing together 130 successful
black women — influential in politics,
entertainment and nonprofits
— to talk about portrayals of black
women in the media, the problems
facing African-American girls in urban
schools, the state of the black
family and other weighty issues.
Lee was instrumental in taking
BET public in 1991, making it
the first African-American company
traded on the New York Stock Exchange.
She was at the helm of BET as
president and chief executive officer when it went private again in
1998, and again in 2000 when
BET was purchased by Viacom for
Today, BET reaches 89 million
households. It closed the second
quarter of 2010 with the highest
performance among viewers in its
HBO was enjoying a long string of
programming hits in 2007, but internally,
the company was in turmoil. Its
leader, Chris Albrecht, was arrested
for beating up his girlfriend and was
forced out of the company.
Fortunately, there was a strong
bench to step up and keep the momentum
Bill Nelson was named chairman.
At the same time Eric Kessler and Richard Plepler were
promoted to the newly created positions
of co-president. Kessler oversees the marketing and
worldwide distribution of HBO networks
and content. And Plepler is
responsible for HBO’s programming
and corporate communications.
With this tenured team in place,
HBO didn’t miss a beat. While some
shows are wrapping up — Entourage
and BigLove are in their last season
— others, like True Blood, continue
to draw viewers and new shows, including
Boardwalk Empire, are receiving
When the four executives were elevated
three years ago, Jeff Bewkes,
currently HBO parent Time Warner
Inc.’s chairman said,
“I’ve worked with Bill,
Hal, Eric and Richard for
many years, and there’s
not a more skilled, cohesive
or widely respected
group of executives in the
Nelson, who joined
HBO in 1984, was chief
operating officer before
his latest promotion. Akselrod
had served as
general counsel since
1992 and has been
with HBO since 1983.
Kessler was president,
sales and marketing before his current
position. He’s a relative newcomer
to HBO, having joined it in
1995. Plepler, who had a character
named after him in one episode of
The Sopranos, was previously executive
vice president and was involved
in with all the creative aspects of
the company. He joined HBO in
1992 as senior vice president of
This item was edited on Nov. 9, after it was published, to remove some outdated information about a former HBO executive, Harold Akselrad.
A&E Television Networks president
and CEO Abbe Raven is on a roll.
Three of the 10 AETN owned-andoperated
networks finished 2009
among the 20 most-watched networks
on basic cable. A&E Network
and History were among the top 10
in reaching the coveted 18-to-49-
year-old demo during the first quarter
Raven, who took the reins of AETN
in 2005, has successfully made veteran
brands A&E Network and History,
which had skewed older, seem
cool to younger viewers.
She was part of the creative
team that launched The History
Channel in 1995 and resuscitated
the flagging A&E in 2004 by debuting
nontraditional fare such as Dog
the Bounty Hunter, Growing Up Gotti
In 2009, co-owners Disney/ABC
Media Networks, Hearst and NBC
Universal joined forces and merged
Lifetime into AETN. Raven was put in
charge of the new entity.
“What is very exciting for me is
that Lifetime joins us at a time in
which they’ve developed so many
wonderful new programs, like Drop
Dead Diva, another season of Army
Wives, and it’s also a great success
with their movies and with Project
Runway,” Raven told Multichannel
News last year. “And where I see
us going with Lifetime is to continue
that and introduce more original
programming to the network.
“I’m working very closely with the
Lifetime programming and marketing
team about the development of new
shows, not only for the upfront but for
the future,” she said.
Not many people in the media business
paid Sumner Redstone much
attention until 1987, when he won
control of Viacom from an investment
group led by Viacom’s management.
Seven years later he
wrested control of ParamountPictures
and sealed his reputation as
being one of the most powerful media
moguls in the business.
Over the years, Redstone has attracted
— and subsequently fired
— many of the entertainment industry’s
most well-respected and
prominent executives including
Frank Biondi, Tom Freston, and
even Hollywood star Tom Cruise. He
spent years grooming his daughter
Shari to take his place as executive
chairman of both Viacom and CBS
Corp., but the two had a public falling
out a few years ago.
Redstone has a reputation for
being one of the most litigious executives
in the country and his
kids seem to have inherited that
trait as well.
Redstone’s son, Brent, filed suit
against the elder Redstone in 2006
asserting that he was entitled to
more than $1 billion in National
Amusements, the theater-chain
business Redstone uses to control
shares of Viacom and CBS.
Redstone has fought off rumors
and questions about his ability
to run Viacom given his age —
87 — but he perennially shrugs
them off. When critics suggested
that at 72 he was too old for the
top job, Redstone compared himself
to Bob Dole, the Republican
candidate for president that year,
who was the same age.
“If he can run America, believe
me, I can run Viacom,” Redstone
told The New York Times.
Matt Polka is often referred to David as he battles media Goliaths like
The Walt Disney Co., News Corp. and even other cable operators, notably
Comcast now that it’s merging its media assets with NBC Universal.
But he doesn’t seem to mind the comparison. He’s not afraid of mixing it
up with the big companies if it means smaller operators get a fair shake
at trying to run their own operations.
Polka, president and CEO of the American Cable Association, understands
the trials and tribulations of being a small cable operator, having
been one himself for awhile in the 1990s. Many of the ACA’s small, independent
credit Polka’s passion, missionary
zeal and empathy, as well as his intelligence
and political savvy, with
transforming the ACA into a powerful,
if sometimes controversial, lobbying
voice on Capitol Hill.
“ACA, and Matt Polka, really, is a
key advocate for the small cable industry,”
Commission member Jonathan
Adelstein told Multichannel News in
2004. “Without them, the unique
needs of these smaller companies
wouldn’t get the attention that they
deserve here at the commission.”
Representing smaller operators
has given Polka a different perspective
when it comes to figuring
who and what is important. As a
testament to his political chops, when Polka meets with lawmakers, he
will often have a picture taken with the legislator, as well as his or her
aide. And he sends that to the staffer as a thank you.
Lately, Polka has been trying to convince regulators and legislators that
a combined Comcast-NBC Universal will be the more powerful than any
media company should be. He’s stressing that the joint venture should
not be allowed to bundle its owned-and-operated television stations or
its regional sports networks in carriage agreements.
One could argue that Comcast chairman and CEO Brian Roberts was born
with a coaxial-cable teething ring in his mouth. The truth, though, is that
Roberts has worked hard to earn the respect he deserves as one of the
cable industry’s most pivotal leaders.
Roberts began attending cable meetings with his father Ralph, co-founder
of Comcast, when he was just a
youngster. His career with the company
began when he was in high
school: Roberts punched billing
cards and sold service.
And though his dad encouraged
him to work elsewhere when he
graduated from college, Roberts refused
and has worked for Comcast
Roberts has changed the course
of the cable industry’s path more
than once. In 1997, he dared Microsoft
chairman Bill Gates to invest in
Comcast. Gates did just that to the
tune of $1 billion and the investment
reinvigorated the entire sector and
set off a fi restorm of consolidation.
He is now making history again
by merging the MSO’s Comcast assets with NBC Universal in a deal that
will make the Philadelpia-based cable operator one of the largest media
companies in the world.
The resulting joint venture would be 51% owned by Comcast, 49% owned
by current NBCU parent General Electric and managed by the cable fi rm.
It will combine NBCU’s two broadcast television networks (NBC and Telemundo),
its 26 broadcast-television stations, several national cable programming
networks, a motion-picture studio, international theme park
businesses and online content businesses with Comcast’s regional sports
networks, other programming networks and certain online businesses.
Sen. “Jay” Rockefeller (D-W.Va.)
chairs the Senate Commerce
Committee. As head of the powerful
panel, he has repeatedly blasted
the Federal Communications
Commission as a broken organization.
In 2009, Broadcasting &
Cable quoted him telling incoming
commissioners that the FCC under
the Bush administration was “beholden”
to the media industry it
regulates. He also called the commission
ideology-driven and insuffiiciently focused on consumers.
In his tenure as chairman of the
Commerce Committee, Rockefeller
has pushed for stronger online privacy
laws and criticized the FCC’s
National Broadband Plan, calling it
long on vision and short on tactics.
In April, Rockefeller called out FCC
chairman Julius Genachowski — the
sole witness at an oversight hearing
in the panel — calling the plan
short on action and long on recommendations.
“I am going to challenge the FCC
to make the hard choices that will
help bring broadband to every corner
of this country,” he said during
the hearing, as reported in B&C.
“Putting ideas on paper is not
enough. Just seeking comment on
a slew of issues is not enough. It’s
action that counts.”
Rockefeller has long been the
Senate’s loudest critic of TV violence.
He has tried to lobby support
from other Commerce Committee
members to give the FCC the authority
to curb excessive violence
on broadcast and cable
The senator introduced a bill
in August that would authorize an
incentive auction to reimburse
broadcasters for spectrum reclaimed
by the government, but
only as long as it was given up voluntarily.
He also has been pushing
the FCC to reform the Universal
Jon Stewart may think of himself as
political satirist and stand-up comic,
but his The Daily Show on Comedy
Central has become one of the
go-to places for television viewers
wanting to know what’s going on in
the world of politics.
As a testament to his influence,
his “Rally to Restore Sanity
and/or Fear” rally held with pal
Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert
Report, on Oct. 30 drew more
than 200,000 people to The National
Mall in Washington, D.C., according
to CBS News. The rally was
held in response to Glenn Beck’s
“Restoring Honor” rally held in August.
Beck has a radio show and
has a television show on Fox News
Channel. That confab drew about
87,000, according to CBS News.
The rally aired on Comedy Central,
where Stewart and Colbert
host their late night shows, as
well as C-SPAN. Comedy told
The New York Times there were
4 million views of the network’s live
rally Web stream.
President Obama’s Oct. 28 visit
to The Daily Show, a first for a
sitting president, was watched by
2.8 million viewers, about 1 million
more than the average for the
show, according to The New York
Times. But it wasn’t the show’s
highest-rated show. It ranked third
behind then-candidate Obama’s appearance
in October 2008 and Michelle
Obama’s appearance that
And while Stewart perpetually
denies being a serious journalist,
when Americans were asked in
a 2007 poll by the Pew Research
Center for the People and the
Press to name the journalist they
most admired, Stewart came in at
No. 4, tied with Brian Williams and
Tom Brokaw of NBC, former CBS
anchor Dan Rather and Anderson
Cooper of CNN, according to The
New York Times.
As co-chairman of Disney Media Networks
and president of Disney/ABC
Television Group, Anne Sweeney has
no trouble keeping busy. In the last
year alone, she has replaced several
of Disney’s executive team members;
secured new retransmission-consent
deals with Time Warner Cable and
Cablevision Systems; announced
the launch of Disney Junior, a new
channel for preschoolers; and formed
partnerships with Apple’s iPad and
NBC Universal’s Hulu.com.
Sweeney oversees ABC Studios,
the ABC-Owned Television Stations
Group, and the ABC Television Network,
which provides entertainment,
news and kids programming to viewers
via more than 200 affiliated
stations across the U.S. She also
oversees Disney Channels Worldwide,
a portfolio of 94 kid-driven,
family-centric entertainment channels,
as well as ABC Family and
SoapNet, the company’s equity interest
in A&E Television Networks, and
Disney’s publishing imprint, Hyperion.
She is a vocal champion of new
platforms. Under her watch, Disney
was the fi rst television group to put
content on new platforms, cutting a
deal with Apple for ABC content on
iTunes. Disney was the first programmer
to introduce an ad-supported,
full-episode player online and it was
the first to have an app for the iPad.
Sweeney, who started her career
typing memos for then-
Nickelodeon boss Geraldine Laybourne,
likes a challenge and is
known as a risk-taker. “I love it.
Give me the next great problem,”
she told Multichannel News in
Overseeing a global team of
10,000 employees and 10 divisions,
Sweeney landed at No. 69
on Forbes magazine’s list of the
2010 World’s 100 Most Powerful
Bob Stanzione thought he wanted to be an engineer in the auto industry,
designing hot rods. He didn’t end up making fast cars, but as chairman
and CEO of Arris, he’s in charge of making super-fast cable modems.
Stanzione has grown the company into the biggest technology supplier
that caters exclusively to the cable industry and is the top provider
of voice-and-data consumer-premises equipment to cable worldwide.
Motorola and CiscoSystems are
larger overall, but Stanzione told
Multichannel News in 2009 that
Arris can be nimbler by remaining
aligned with cable.
“By being focused, we don’t
get distracted,” he said. “We
don’t have to come up with solutions
that meet multiple market
Stanzione has been loyal to the
cable industry through thick and
thin times, Mike Pohl told Multichannel
News in 2009. Pohl, who
now serves as a consultant to Arris
after the company purchased
C-COR in 2007, said Stanzione
has been able to keep a solid
team together because “he’s a
pretty straight shooter. You don’t
have to guess what he means. He’ll tell you.”
Stanzione got into the cable business after spending 26 years with
AT&T. In the late 1980s, he was working on a Bell Labs skunk-works
project with Antec (then Anixter) called Laser Link, which developed a
way to modulate a radio-frequency signal over wavelengths of light. He
met several cable operators as a result and liked their style, he told
Multichannel News last year. He was hooked and has been in the cable
business ever since.
As Comcast’s chief technology offiicer, Tony Werner is at the forefront
of some of the industry’s most
cutting-edge technological advancements.
Indeed, Werner is
used to being at the front of the
pack having worked at Tele-Communications
Inc., AT&T Broadband
and Liberty Global.
He is widely acknowledged as a
clear and thorough communicator,
with strong technical and financial
acumen. He is currently in charge
of guiding Comcast’s long-term
technology strategy, including nextgeneration
advertising methods and associated
components. He told Multichannel
News in May he doesn’t believe fiber-to-the-home is a necessity and
thinks there is plenty of gas left in DOCSIS, noting that Comcast has successfully
tested downstream speeds of 1 Gigabit per second over coaxial
cable in its labs.
Instead, he’s been more anxious to get digital terminal adapters, lowcost
devices that replicate analog channel lineups in digital format, into
the hands of millions of Comcast subscribers — a move that frees up
space for new high-definition channels and faster Internet links.
“We try not to lose sight of where we are and what’s important, but
we spend our time focusing more on emerging trends and where we are
going, and then building the right technology platform with the right elements
to compete in the upcoming years,” Werner told Broadcasting
& Cable when he was elected to that magazine’s Hall of Fame in 2010.
“There’s a lot of focus on video content, and on making the receiving of
that content more convenient for customers.”
Comcast recently completed its $500 million analog reclamation project
converting all of its 23 million customers to all digital systems. The
effort freed up bandwidth so Comcast could offer more advanced bandwidth-
Michael Willner hung around broadcast studios
when he was a kid and even studied
broadcast TV in college, but he knew he
wanted to get into the cable business.
“I knew that cable was
the future and I decided
early on that I wanted to
get into a business moving
forward rather than
one of the past,” Willner
told Multichannel News
in 2008, when he was
inducted into The Cable
Center’s Hall of Fame.
Willner started his cable
career as the program
director for Vision
Cable in Fort Lee, N.J. It
would be the first of two
companies he’s worked
for since getting into
the business in 1974.
In short order, he was
managing the system
and hasn’t looked back.
In 1985, Willner’s entrepreneurial
over and he formed Insight
Communications with Sid Knafel, who
ran Vision Cable.
Willner served two consecutive terms as
National Cable & Telecommunications Association
chairman. He has also served as
chairman of CablePAC since 2000. Willner
was elected chairman of The Cable Center’s
board of directors in 2007. He also serves
on the executive committee
of CableLabs; the
board of directors of CSPAN
and the Walter Kaitz
Willner has a reputation
as a consensusbuilder.
He was instrumental
in getting 11 publicly
held cable companies
to uniformly report their financial results to Wall
Street analysts so the industry
could better represent
itself to investors.
the industry well and coupled
with his natural leadership
skills, he has been
quite effective,” Decker
Anstrom, former Landmark
CEO and former NCTA
president, told Multichannel
News in 2008. “People listen and respect
him. And he has earned that respect every
step of the way.”
Cyma Zarghami thought she wanted to be
a teacher and, when she moved to New
York after graduating and took a job at Viacom-
owned Nickelodeon, she thought it’d
be a short-term gig. Seventeen years later,
Zarghami is now president of Nick and MTV
Networks Kids & Family Group.
She oversees all of Nick’s television businesses,
including Nickelodeon’s digital services:
Nick Jr., TeenNick, Nickelodeon
Games and Sports (Nick GAS) and Nicktoons.
Zarghami also oversees all program
production and development
for Nick’s television
businesses, as well as
Zarghami began her
career with Nickelodeon
17 years ago and was instrumental
in the launch
of Nickelodeon UK in
1993 and TV Land in
1996, among other initiatives.
Nickelodeon has been
ranked among the most
watched networks for
eight years in a row under
Zarghami’s watch. Nickelodeon
also reigns as the
No. 1-ranked network for kids on Saturday
mornings surpassing all broadcast and cable
competition, according to Viacom.
A kids programming veteran, Zarghami
has managed and/or launched a continuous
string of hits at Nickelodeon,
including SpongeBob SquarePants, The
Fairly OddParents and Dora the Explorer.
Nickelodeon recently announced it will
begin airing a sequel to the successful
animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender
This year, TeenNick used the 10th season
for DeGrassi: The
Next Generation to test
the viability of the telenovela
“We’re making additional
episodes, a little
more in the telenovela
format a bit faster,
cheaper and more efficient,”
she told the New
York Daily News in March.
Nickelodeon wants to
test to see whether viewers
will tune into new episodes
in a pattern that
more closely resembles
a daytime soap opera.
If it works, other shows
could follow suit.
Weekly digest of streaming and OTT industry news
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