The Son Also Advances

When he was just 16, Steve Miron recalls, “I did installs and worked on construction projects. When I worked in the business growing up, it was a family business.”

For him, of course, it still is. His father, Robert Miron, is chairman and chief executive of Advance/Newhouse Communications, and twice chairman of the NCTA, so 38-year-old Steve probably has a little coaxial cable running through his body. Cable has been his life, especially since 2002, when he became president of Advance/Newhouse.

Three years ago, when the partnership between Advance/Newhouse and Time Warner Entertainment was restructured to give Advance/Newhouse day-to-day management control of some of the largest Time Warner cable markets, the elder Miron named his son second in command. At the same time, Steve's sister, Nomi Bergman, became Advance/Newhouse's EVP of strategy and development.

Miron resolutely deflects personal credit for his award to the members of his close-knit family, with whom he works daily. “What does the award mean to me?” he asks rhetorically. “Mostly what it means to me is that my sister and my dad are too old to be nominated. Recognition's great, but when you're in a family business, it's a bit of an alien concept.”

Miron's grandmother was the sister of Advance/Newhouse founder Samuel I. Newhouse Sr., whose family today controls not only the Bright House cable systems but also the Condé Nast publishing group, Fairchild Publications and daily newspapers serving some 26 cities. High-profile publications that are part of the Newhouse empire include The New Yorker, Parade, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Wired and Women's Wear Daily, among many others.

One of the earliest, highest-profile initiatives the Mirons undertook in the late-2002 post-TWE-management period was the rebranding of the cable systems under their aegis. The privately owned company created Bright House Networks, which was ranked by the NCTA last year as the seventh-largest multiple-system cable operator in the U.S., with approximately 2.2 million customers. For an effective campaign creating and marketing the Bright House brand in early 2003, Bright House Networks received that year's Multichannel News Innovator Award for consumer marketing.

Today, Bright House, still owned jointly by the Time Warner and Advance/ Newhouse partnership but managed by Advance/Newhouse, operates systems in and around Tampa Bay, Fla.; Central Florida; Indianapolis; Birmingham, Ala.; Bakersfield, Calif.; and Detroit, along with several smaller systems in Alabama and the Florida panhandle.

Miron has held various positions in the cable-television industry since 1989, starting with positions with MetroVision in Chicago and moving to Vision Cable Communications in North Carolina and NewChannels in upstate New York, all Newhouse-owned cable systems in the pre-consolidation era.

But he has seen how it is done elsewhere. Prior to rejoining Advance/Newhouse, Miron spent about a decade at Time Warner Cable, most recently as vice president and general manager of its central and northern New York cluster, headquartered in Syracuse. Sister Nomi Bergman also had a lengthy career at Time Warner Cable, most recently as a manager in the Charlotte, N.C., operation.

“We disagree sometimes,” Miron says of the perception that the family always acts as a single unit. “We have healthy debate. My dad's been at this a long time, my sister has a real strong engineering background, and most of my background is in operations.” Still, he adds, “we're more about the team.”

The original Advance/Newhouse-TWE partnership was formed in 1995, with Advance/Newhouse contributing 1.4 million subscribers in upstate New York. The partnership eventually included approximately 6.7 million subscribers.

Bright House, like Time Warner Cable itself, is known for its strong basic-subscriber base and growth, its digital and high-speed-data penetration, and its early entry into video-on-demand and subscription VOD, as well as for high-definition television and the proffer of digital video recorders.

“The biggest challenges for the business,” says Miron, is that it's “getting more competitive, and it's getting more operationally complex,” particularly with its new, interactive networks.

As for Bright House, Miron professes that there are no growth ambitions beyond the general clusters and areas where it now operates systems. “My dad says probably the only way we'll become No. 6 [on the list of top MSOs] is if No. 3 buys No. 4,” he jokes. “We're not looking to rapidly expand into areas we don't serve.”

Miron holds a bachelor of science degree in marketing from American University. He resides in the Syracuse, N.Y., area with his wife, Jackie, and two sons, James and Daniel, age 11 and 8, respectively. “My older son is showing some good aptitude for electronics,” he says of the next generation that could enter the family business.

Daniel wants a quicker route to wealth, Miron says: “My younger son wants to be in the NBA.”

Miron has served on the board of directors of the Jewish Community Center in Syracuse. In 2003, he was named to the board of directors of the Emma Bowen Foundation, established by the media industry to increase access to permanent job opportunities for minority students. This year, he was named to the board of directors of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM).

His leadership has been tested. Notes Mike LaJoie, Time Warner's chief technology officer, when Florida hurricanes ravaged several Advance/Newhouse systems last year, “Steve managed to address these totally unpredictable challenges with an eye toward good business and human sensitivity for his customers and employees.”