March 30, 2009
CableFAX 20/20: Ten Gallon Hats off to CableFAX Founder Paul Maxwell
The first recipient of CableFAX’s Paul Maxwell Quick Draw Award for innovation in cable is none other than the man in the Stetson.
His roots are in the American West, appropriate for a Cable TV Pioneer (inducted 1990). Paul Maxwell remembers when the cable business resembled the Wild West, when lone rangers like Bill Bresnan, Bill Daniels and Ted Turner strung cable, launched satellites and bet the farm on what was mockingly referred to as pay TV. Paul loved the industry and its people, and he set out to write about it from a distinctly pro-cable point of view.
This was an innovative idea 34 years ago, when Paul co-founded CableVision magazine, with cable operators up against the seemingly indestructible broadcast Big Three. The pro-cable concept was more relevant when he founded Multichannel News in 1980.
He launched CableFAX Daily 20 years ago at the dawn of a new competitive era, with satellite distribution on the horizon and programming rate battles flaring. CableFAX Daily was a new concept — it was not a long-winded newsweekly. Paul’s idea was to deliver pro-cable news briefs via an ad-supported daily newsletter faxed to subscribers. That was revolutionary in 1989, but it also anticipated publishing’s electronic future. CableFAX didn’t miss a beat when the Internet age hit — it had the fast news cycle and shorter-is-better style of reporting down pat.
Paul Maxwell (far left) and friends celebrate the day while on safari in Kenya. The photo's relevance to this story? It's the only shot we have of Paul sans hat.
Paul will tell you CableFAX’s future is in remaining true to its heritage. Whatever the form of delivery CableFAX reporters should go to the source, keep the writing brief and tell cable’s story.
Paul studied at the University of Colorado Graduate School of Journalism, admittedly while learning to ski. His real start, though, was as a combat correspondent for Stars & Stripes and as a combat historian during two tours in Southeast Asia (he is a decorated Army Captain: Bronze Star with "V" for Valor; Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster).
Somehow Paul has managed to start and/or run 40-plus publications, but he’s relatively focused nowadays. Currently The Cable Hall of Famer is CEO of Media Business Corp., which publishes skyreport.com and The BRIDGE Suite of news and analysis products. And, of course, he still writes cable’s unofficial watering hole, his Monday MaxFAX column for CableFAX Daily.
Beyond journalism, Paul has been on the front lines of a bevy of charitable associations and other cable groups. He’s a founding board member of the Walter Kaitz Foundation, an honorary board member of Cable Positive, a founding member of what began as C-TAM and a board member of The Cable Center.
It is Paul’s work on behalf of cable charities and educational groups that CableFAX editorial director Seth Arenstein feels is his greatest legacy. "One thing I grew to love about the Daily was using its pages to promote cable associations like Cable Positive, WICT, NAMIC as well as boosting the profile of the educational things that Time Warner Cable, C-SPAN and others do," says Seth. "Paul taught me the importance of doing this."
Not one to be tied to an office, Paul, who lives with his wife Evie in Breckenridge, Colo., skis, well, at the drop of a hat. For all we know he writes his columns on a BlackBerry while riding the lifts. That’s fine with us, as long as he puts it away when going downhill.
We asked the Vanguard Award winner questions about CableFAX and cable. He answered all of them—except for the last one.
Paul Maxwell with BlueHighways TV's Stan Hitchcock (center) and Frank Auman.
CableFAX: The Magazine: What were some initial hurdles you faced in starting a “fax” publication?
Paul Maxwell: The toughest thing was finding a reliable fax “broadcaster.” Second was actually getting the fax numbers of some executives! We started with 100 senior executives for “free” for a month. One, Amos Hostetter of Continental, wouldn’t give me his number. Two weeks later, though, he called with the number.
CFTM: Were advertisers wary since it wasn’t a glossy magazine?
PM: Very. Some of the questions, though, were almost funny. Like, “How do you know they got the fax?” Easier than proving somebody got a magazine! Right away, we got lots of feedback—more than with any newspaper, newsletter or magazine I’ve ever had.
CFTM: How long did it take to gain a significant audience?
PM: About three months.
CFTM: How hard today would it be to start a publication like CableFAX from scratch?
PM: Simply impossible, but not only because cable has changed. Also because the nature of publishing has been changed—maybe destroyed would be a better word—by the Internet.
CFTM: How did CableFAX get its name, and was there ever talk of changing the name as e-mail became more important?
PM: Easy: fax + cable. And, yep, I suggested—and so did Steve Miron some years later—it change to CableFACTS. It didn’t.
CFTM: We’ve seen several cable publications fold recently. Why do you think CableFAX is still around after all these years?
PM: It delivers … with attitude and personality.
CFTM: What events that you’ve covered stand out?
PM: Plenty … putting in the first Earth station in Vero Beach (I helped!) and then watching the “Thrilla in Manila”; watching the first satellite transmission to the NCTA from D.C. with Carl Albert; getting thrown out of Anthony’s Pier 4 in Boston because of my loud companion (an FCC commissioner at the time); watching Ted Turner turn on CNN; having blueberry pancakes with Dick Wiley when he ran the FCC; jousting with Preston Padden; five Olympics; too many conventions; helping Spencer Kaitz (and dozens of others) start the Kaitz Foundation; the verdict in the Premiere trial; the Rigas perp walk (bummer); listening to Irving Kahn while eating whatever dim sum he pointed at; following Bill Daniels everywhere; the Winter X Games; working every job in a cable system to learn “cable”; all of the wonderful Texas Shows (especially the country music performers and stacking empty beer mugs); the meeting at the O’Hare Hilton that resulted in CTAM; inducting Bill Bresnan into the Cable Hall of Fame (and having him reciprocate); watching Michael Willner get every cable operator on the same page; helping build a playground at an elementary school in New Orleans last year; and more.
CFTM: Who were the best/most interesting/most fun interviews?
PM: Got a few weeks? Bill Daniels, Ted Turner, Dick Wiley, Gerry Levin, Steve Ross, Ray Joslin, Ed Allen, Kyle McSlarrow, Michael Willner, Decker Anstrom, Ralph Roberts, Willie Nelson, Gus Hauser, John Evans, John Goddard, Chris Derrick, John Hendricks, Irving Kahn, Rocco & Italia, Jeff Marcus, Dr. John Malone, Don Anderson, Gerry Laybourne, Tony Cox, Matt Blank, Jules Haimovitz, Ralph Baruch, Kiefer Sutherland, Brian Lamb, Tim Wirth, Trygve Myhren, Tom Soulsby, David Hanson, Burt Harris, Frank Drendel, Chuck Dolan, Jim Chiddix, George Stein, Bob Miron and family, Bob Greiner, Jeff Bewkes, Bill Bresnan, Lee Clayton Roper, Jack Kent Cooke, Walter Kaitz, Charles Ergen, Eddy Hartenstein, Peter Barton, Bill Roedy, George Stein, Tom Freston, Samuel L. Jackson, John Lack, Chuck Hewitt, Steve Bornstein, Stan Hitchcock, George Bodenheimer, Bill Grimes, Roger Werner, Carolyn Chambers, Jerry Maglio, Gayle Sermersheim, Rick Michaels, Gene Schneider, Monte Rifkin, Shellie Rosser, John Saeman, Dan Ritchie, Dick Green, Jim Robbins, Leo Hindery, Andy Goldman, Kay Koplovitz and a cast of thousands.
CFTM: Anyone no longer alive that you wish you’d interviewed?
PM: Stratford Smith.
CFTM: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in cable?
PM: Consolidation—in operations, programming and vendors.
CFTM: Finish this sentence: The cable industry should have…
PM: …stuck with PrimeStar and kept @Home from straying.
CFTM: Who were the most outrageous characters you came into contact with in cable’s early years?
PM: The regulators and the politicians—they’re almost always behind the curve, technologically and operationally.
CFTM: Favorite place to ski and favorite moment?
PM: Anyplace with a foot of powder. Best moments: (1) atop a mountain range in New Zealand near Mount Hutt looking at the Tasman Sea on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other; (2) landing on a ridge near the Bugaboos in British Columbia and watching snow form at my eye level and accumulate on my skis with sunny skies above; (3) anyplace skiing with friends, especially in Colorado.
CFTM: Your favorite Ted Turner moment?
PM: You can’t print it.
CableFAX 20/20: A Celebration of Innovation
CableFAX 20/20: All About Paul - Memories to the Max
Back to CableFAXIES Awards 2009