Watson: Clarity and a Stronger Mission

Dave Watson never expected to work in the cable business. Indeed, he had a long history in the mobile phone industry, working as vice president of marketing and sales at Philadelphia-based cellular company Metrophone before Comcast bought it in 1992.

Watson anticipated being laid off as a result of the buyout. Instead, Comcast chairman Ralph Roberts and president and CEO Brian Roberts asked him to run the cable company’s cellular operations. They persuaded Watson to remain with the company after the division was sold in 1999, and he has thrived on the cable side of the house ever since.

Watson currently is Comcast’s executive vice president of operations, in charge of sales, marketing, high-speed data and digital voice. He also oversees the company’s five operating divisions and Comcast Spotlight’s ad sales unit.

Watson has a long relationship with the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, and served as the organization’s chairman last year. In 2006, he received a Vanguard Award from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association for his work in marketing.

Current CTAM chairman and Cox Communications chief marketing officer Joe Rooney said he is thrilled to recognize Watson with the CTAM Chairman’s Award this year for “bringing so much clarity to CTAM with a stronger mission.”

“Dave was the architect of a significant shift in CTAM’s strategy,” Rooney said. “He challenged us to move away from being a member and educational focused organization, so that it is more evenly balanced between individual member initiatives and corporate initiatives. We had few corporate initiatives — such as the Cable Movers Hotline — in the past. But they were the exception rather than the rule. Dave helped us find clarity.”

CTAM has created and expanded a slew of corporate initiatives in the last couple of years including “The OCAP Primer” to provide answers — in plain English — to key Open Cable Applications Platform questions; the On-Demand Consortium; and the “This is Cable” Web site informing consumers on what cable has to offer in their market.

Watson’s background in the competitive cellular arena has served him well, as the cable industry faces increased competition from direct-broadcast satellite and telephone companies, and it has helped guide Comcast and CTAM into new areas of interest. For example, he urged the CTAM board to ditch the digital conference and merge it with the CTAM Summit.

“Clearly, digital had become a mainstream business for cable and it didn’t require the resources or time that a dedicated conference demanded,” Rooney said. “And that kind of decision-making allowed us to focus our energies on corporate initiatives such as MSO co-op marketing, our retail efforts and business services.”

Comcast has been the architect of some of the industry’s most cutting-edge marketing efforts. Working with senior vice president of sales and marketing Marvin Davis and his team, Watson oversaw the launch of the “Comcastic” ad campaign that used humor to sell cable, Internet and phone service.

“Following Dave as [CTAM chairman] is a tough act to follow,” Rooney said. “He was so strategic and clear in what he wanted to accomplish and he set us on a strong path to success.”

In addition to his duties at Comcast and CTAM, Watson is heavily involved in the Partnership for a Drug Free America and the Education Committee of the Police Athletic League of Philadelphia. Watson is an avid soccer fan — after graduating from the University of Richmond, Va., with a degree in political science, he worked for a sporting goods company. Watson joined Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems in 1984 and two years later moved to Metrophone.