2010 CableFAX 100: The Top Regional Players
The importance of regional operators and programmers often is ignored when power lists are assembled. This third annual ranked list is our attempt to rectify that oversight.
1. Randy Freer
President, Fox Regional Cable Sports Networks
Topping our list for the third time, Freer oversees the country’s largest owned-and-operated regional sports group. His cable portfolio’s 19 networks collectively own telecast rights to more than half of all MLB, NBA, and NHL teams, as well as major college conferences such as the Pac-10 and Big 12.
2. Jon Litner
President, Comcast Sports Group
Litner’s empire now spreads to 45mln homes. The former Punt, Pass & Kick winner cites differences between national and regional nets. "Regional sports networks deliver a more passionate and engaged audience [than national networks] and considerable revenue to leagues," Litner says.
3. Tracy Dolgin
CEO, YES Network
COO, YES Network
YES men Dolgin and Hopkins piloted the nation’s most-watched regional net for the 5th consecutive year. This despite the Yankees’ relatively early post-season exit. With another acquisition-filled offseason predicted for the Bronx Bombers, YES looks poised for a strong ’11. Dolgin’s concerns? "Cord-cutting," he says. "While sports — regional sports networks in particular — is the antidote for cord-cutting, it will still be a threat as long as content owners sell or give away their digital content to customers who are not authenticated, who are not paying for that content through their video provider." Known as one of cable’s good guys, Hopkins is passionate about "helping college students develop a strategy that better positions them to secure a job in their desired field upon graduation. I received great advice from a lot of people when I was starting out… so, I’ve always tried to help students as they prepare to enter the workforce."
4. Carol Hevey
EVP, East Region, Time Warner Cable
Arguably the top-ranking female in cable operations, Hevey is the author of a fantastic success story. Beginning as a secretary, the 28-year cable veteran oversees 17K employees who serve more than 4mln residential video and commercial, high-speed data, digital phone and wireless customers, representing nearly half the company’s business. A terrific speaker, Hevey founded and chairs the MSO’s Diversity Council and Women’s Leadership Council.
5. Mark Silverman
President, Big Ten Network
Silverman’s Big Ten Network carries 350 live events in HD to 75mln households. The 17-year cable vet argues the line between regional and national networks is artificial. The major hurdle is strategizing "how to best let people know that we’re a national network, not a regional one, with cable and satellite subscribers in all 50 states and Canada and more subscribers outside the region than inside," he says. "This is something our national advertisers, such as Verizon, State Farm, Sprint, General Mills and Discover, recognize."
6. Kevin Casey
President, North Central Div, Comcast
The former interim President of Engineering Operations, Casey and his team serve nearly 7mln triple-play customers. A bona fide leader with 25 years of experience, Casey is a board member of Back on My Feet, a non-profit that helps the homeless become self-sufficient through running.
President, East Division, Comcast Cable
The popular 28-year cable exec says, "My passion can be summed up by the legendary poet Ricky Bobby – ‘If you ain’t first, you’re last.’ I love working around our Comcasters who are passionate every day about gaining market share, innovating, and serving our customers better. It’s in every Comcaster’s DNA, which is why we win the important battles!"
President, Southern Div, Comcast
What trend could possibly trouble a 32-year cable pro like Ridall? "I worry some about things like the size and resources of our competitors and what challenges new technology or legislation could bring," he says. "But honestly, those worries are kept pretty well in check when I look at the strength and quality of our people and our opportunities." His passions? "Family. No wait, I can’t say family. So, fly fishing, golf… and family."
President, West Division, Comcast
White’s territory includes six regions, 20K employees and more than 6mln customers in 12 states. Known as a great boss, we asked the 15-year cable vet what keeps him up at night? "I worry how we’ll continue to attract the best people," he says. "We’re competing with companies like Apple and Google. So how do we convince potential employees Comcast is the best place to be without them experiencing our unique corporate culture firsthand? It’s a competitive world not only for customers, but also [for] building a workforce."
7. Steve Raab
While SNY began life mainly as a baseball network, it’s become much more under 11-year cable vet Raab. This year SNY grabbed U Conn football and men’s basketball and attained full cable distribution throughout the Constitution State, bringing SNY’s regional Emmy-winning broadcasts to 12mln households in the NY, NJ and CT region. The biggest misperception about regional cable is that "the quality and production value of our sports content trail national networks," Raab says. With the Mets expecting a lean ’11 season, Raab should be thanked for SNY’s quality and diverse slate.
8. Mike Bair
President, MSG Media
MSG and MSG Plus carry some 400 live pro games annually — more than YES and SNY combined. Yet Bair, an affable and interesting person, remains the picture of equanimity. In March, he oversaw the first hockey game produced and distributed in 3D, a Rangers/Islanders contest at Madison Square Garden. Also this year, the nets added five NY Giants programs and began simulcasting WFAN’s morning radio show, Boomer & Carton, providing an additional 20 hours of live programming each week.
9. Jill Campbell
SVP, Eastern Operations, Cox Communications
Among the most senior women in cable operations, the Cox veteran of 28 years has responsibility for nearly 3mln customers. An engaging speaker, Campbell’s also involved in planning and leading Cox’s radical organizational business transformation to streamline operations and improve competitive fitness.
10. Howard Szarfarc
EVP, Operations, NYC, Time Warner Cable
Szarfarc works in the city that never sleeps. So when we asked the 31-year cable vet what keeps him up at night, his answer was typical of the Big Apple. "Regional cable doesn’t sleep! Our customers are using our products 24/7." True, but his concerns? "It’s a long list, but keeping customers happy, the team focused and an eye on the competition are the biggies."
11. Bill Bridgen
EVP/GM, Comcast SportsNet New England and New England Cable News
Wearing the hats of two networks, Bridgen has been leading the integration of NECN — the largest 24-hour regional news network in the country, with more than 3mln subs across six New England states — together with Comcast SportsNet New England. His work may well establish the template for the integration of local assets should the Comcast-NBCU merger be approved.
12. John Heslip
SVP, Engineering, East Division, Comcast
An avid fisherman and fan of Canadian sports teams, Heslip’s post includes technical operations and advanced services for the East Division’s 6mln customers. What keeps the 31-year cable stalwart up at night? "We are in such a highly competitive marketplace where we must constantly introduce new technologies, better apps and more choices — all while going faster and simultaneously working to minimize customer impact and maximize efficiencies. Despite this, I’m able to sleep quite well thanks to the tremendous talent across the East Division!"
13. Cathy Kilstrom
SVP, Customer Care, Comcast West
Kilstrom’s 25+ years of experience and her passion for both the 6mln customers she supports and her 6K care employees enables her to effectively service her 12-state region. A Past President of the WICT’s Rocky Mountain Chapter and current member of WICT National’s Board of Directors, she is passionate about "helping men and women develop to their full potential both in the workplace and in the community. Assisting someone to thrive and become an engaging leader is a true joy," she says.
14. Curt Henninger
SVP, California Region, Comcast
The 12-year cable exec marvels at his system’s heft. "As a stand-alone company we would be the 10th largest cable company in the US. Our revenue would put us in the Fortune Top 650 companies. Our geography is 450 miles end to end. Our customer base is incredibly diverse, from the leaders of Silicon Valley to the lower income agricultural areas of the Central CA valley." Besides cable, his passions include Top Gear, Boardwalk Empire, Campus PD, Real Housewives, Oregon Duck football and the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants.
15. Fred Graffam
SVP, Beltway Region, Comcast
A fixture in the DC area, the 16-year vet leads a team of 6K employees from offices in Largo, MD, providing service to 2mln residential and business customers across a region characterized by disparate demographics, highly competitive markets and the watchful scrutiny of Congress. An avid outdoorsman, Graffam also is a history buff, music lover and a performing vocalist.
16. Amy Smith
SVP, Freedom Region, Comcast
An avid equestrian and Comcast trailblazer, Smith and her 7K employees serve 2.2mln customers throughout the extremely competitive Philadelphia, NJ and northern DE region. A 16-year cable pro, she continues to deliver improved customer metrics, including reduced contact rates on all products and an all-time low volume of service calls.
17. Tom Might
Pres/CEO, Cable One
You’d think CableFAX: The Magazine’s Strategic Thinker of the Year for independent cable in ’10 would be first with new technology. Not so. Might’s talent has been his ability to sit on the sidelines and learn from the early adopters. The beneficiaries have been the 1mln subs he serves in 19 states where he and his 1,900 employees pride themselves on keeping their subscribers’ bills low while providing a fine product. This year Might pursued an expanded waiver to deploy 200K+ digital terminal adapter devices with HD capabilities for only $50 each.
18. Jim Corno
President, Comcast SportsNet Chicago
The "dean" of regional sports execs, Corno’s 26-year career has seen him head every regional sports network in Chicago. A consummate team-player, he says "the professional and personal well being of my entire staff is something that I think about 24/7. I feel that they are an extension of my own family. Helping them grow in our business has been and always will be a top priority for me."
19. Rebecca Schulte
SVP/GM, Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic
With annual viewer increases for games of DC’s Capitals (hockey) and Wizards (basketball) of 49% and 47%, respectively, Comcast SportsNet is making a larger impression in the nation’s capital. But don’t call the 12-year cable vet’s network a regional. The word "regional doesn’t accurately portray the scope of our business anymore," she says. "Our partner teams are global brands, many of our sponsors are national companies and our online and on-screen product is available throughout the country."
20. Mike Munley
President, Residential Services, East Region, Time Warner Cable
A 26-year cable veteran with extensive operational and financial experience, Munley began his new job in April. A founding member of Time Warner Cable’s Diversity Council, he oversees services for 4.2mln residential subs.
21. John Keib
President, Residential Services, West Region, Time Warner Cable
With Time Warner Cable since ’98, Keib handles advanced communications services for more than 4mln residential customers in CA, TX, AZ, CO, ID, WA and ID.
22. Jim Samaha
SVP, Keystone Region, Comcast
Samaha recently managed the seamless integration of two regions into the Keystone Region, serving 1.5mln customers throughout PA and parts of OH, WV, and MD. He also led an all-digital initiative that doubled the region’s HD channel offerings and Internet speeds. After 24 years in cable, Samaha still loses sleep over "ensuring we have all the pieces in place to provide a great customer experience, delivering on our goals and beating the competition."
23. Jacqueline Vines
SVP/GM, Cox Louisiana
Well-known throughout cable, Vines is responsible for Cox’s third-largest region, with 1,700 employees and 500K customers in 17 parishes. She serves on Cox’s National Diversity Council, several state boards and has adopted three young children.
24. Charlene Keys
VP/GM, Ops and Voice, S. Carolina Div, TW Cable
Operating in a competitive hotbed, Keys’ game-plan is shifting from viewing cable as a utility and focusing on the social necessity of the bundle. Always on her mind: "What else can we do to improve operating profitability? What else can we do to further develop our employees and their work processes? And what else can we do to create a better service experience for each customer?"
25. Janet Barnard
SVP/GM, KS, AR, Cox Communications
A Betsy Magnus alum, Barnard is among regional cable’s top leaders. The personable exec has proven her operational expertise and leadership throughout her 22-year Cox tenure. Barnard’s been a regional VP for Cox’s Omaha, Middle America, and Northern VA operations. She’s now accountable for development, growth and profitability of 1,500 employees, 462K customer households and 25K commercial accounts in the Kansas/Arkansas region.
26. Jerry McKenna
SVP/Chief Sales and Marketing Officer, Cable One
McKenna is known as one of cable marketing’s best strategists. CableFAX: The Magazine’s ’08 Marketer of the Year honoree for independent cable has reshaped Cable One’s culture with a focus on analytics as a driver for more targeted campaigns that track every promotional tool, from direct marketing to freestanding ads. He is proud of Cable One’s commitment to have real people answering its phones and a same-day service promise that large distributors can’t match.
27. Carolyn Terry
VP, Hub Engineering, SoCal Market, Time Warner Cable
With a quarter century in cable and broadband, Terry handles development, engineering, integration and deployment of advanced networks in a market of 2.5mln homes. A graduate of the WICT Executive Development Program, her broad range of expertise covers advanced digital services integration, budget strategy and leadership of field and professional engineering teams.
28. Hank Fore
Regional Vice President, Oregon/SW Washington, Comcast
A West Point grad and an avid pilot, Fore’s leadership qualities have enabled him to successfully launch several products in a pioneering region, including High-Speed2go wireless Internet, 20K new VOD titles and AnyRoom DVR. His dedication and concern for his employees have helped build the region’s reputation.
29. Lisa Washa
VP/GM, Wisconsin KMA, Charter Communications
Washa’s duties include serving 850K Charter customers in MN, NE, and WI. Next year (her 26th year in cable), she’ll focus on further simplifying and enhancing the customer experience while driving revenue. A skilled and highly competitive golfer and a "die-hard" Minnesota Vikings fan, she owns a local radio station with her husband.
30. Marilyn Burrows
SVP/GM, Cox Las Vegas, Cox Communications
Burrows’ job overseeing operations for Cox’s Las Vegas system (420K+ customers) has become more difficult in light of the state’s sluggish economy. Undaunted, she’s quickly ascended to Chair of the Nevada Cable Telecom Association.
31. LeAnn Talbot
Regional SVP, Greater Chicago Region, Comcast
When Chicago Mayor Richard Daley turned to the local business community for insight on management improvement, Talbot was among the half-dozen leaders selected. Besides cable, she’s "passionate about finding a cure for breast cancer. Women, get your mammograms. Men, remind us to get them. All, please give generously to find a cure." Her drive is fueled by "the memory of my dear friend, and cable superstar, Mary White." Amen.
32. John Crowley
Regional VP, Charter Communications
Based in Greenville, SC, the thoughtful 28-year cable/broadband exec constantly ruminates on the issue of how to best "meet our customers’ expectations." He believes "we are closing the gap on a better customer experience based on a number of internal customer experience metrics, but we still have to work on the customer’s perception of the company and the industry."
33. Jim Gleason
President/CEO, NewWave Communications
In ’09, Gleason beamed as NewWave was named a co-honoree of CableFAX The Magazine’s Customer Service Award for independent cable. This year, NewWave was our Independent Operator of the Year for its stellar services to 122K subs in parts of 6 states. Jim’s brother, Tom, was named one of our Lifetime Achievement honorees. After all this, only a better result for his St. Louis Cards could please Gleason more.
34. Bob Gessner
Pres, Massillon Cable TV
Honored by CableFAX: The Magazine as indie cable’s Strategic Thinker of the Year in ’09, this second-generation cable provider is known for innovation and community service. Gessner was one of the first independents to latch on to the digital revolution, jettisoning analog channels from his Massillon, OH, system, 50 miles south of Cleveland. When that was over, the affable Gessner jettisoned analog TV — literally. At Massillon’s End of an Era company party, an analog set was hoisted and dropped unceremoniously from a crane as firecrackers exploded. The influence of Gessner’s forward thinking continues to resound with his 45K customers.
35. Steve Friedman
COO, Wave Broadband
While Friedman’s progressive record at Wave Broadband is exemplary, he’s on our list for his role as ACA President. A founding father of the group, the soft-spoken baseball trivia fanatic set the vision for nondiscriminatory programming pricing for independent cable operators.
36. Marie Grumbles
RVP Customer Care, Time Warner Cable
Grumbles is one of the leaders of the revolution in customer care at Time Warner Cable, moving the process into the virtual world. In the midst of this major change, she has increased customer satisfaction scores in Texas by several percentage points. A visionary, Grumbles often is consulted by her counterparts in other regions for best practices.
37. Harriet Novet
RVP, Public Affairs, Time Warner Cable
A known mover and shaker with the New York power elite, politicos and press corp, Novet spearheads TW Cable’s government relations, communications and philanthropy in the Big Apple. A Betsy Magness fellow and board member of The Queens Library, she’s also known for her negotiating style, which is a mix of grace, style and grit.
38. Kim Woodworth
Regional VP, Eastern Division, Comcast Spotlight
An accomplished writer and author of the 7-book children’s series Today I Can, Woodworth oversees the Eastern Division’s efforts on all new product launch strategies and implementation, including Comcast.net Geo-Targeting and RFI. Her brainchild, the "Women in Leadership" program, expands the type and level of training for female executives within Comcast.
39. Theresa Chillianis
GM, MSG Varsity
Under her guidance, MSG Varsity — a network totally dedicated to high school sports and activities — has engaged with 85% of the 600+ schools in Cablevision’s footprint and produced more than 400 multi-camera game productions, including 1,200 hours of original programming and 3K full-length games for the network’s digital platforms. A diehard Yankees fan and yoga addict, she’s looking at 24/7 HD programming next year.
40. Patrick Knorr
CEO, Knorr Solutions
It’s a no-brainer that Knorr’s fabled brainpower will be in great demand as a newly minted consultant. After pushing Sunflower Broadband ahead of most indie operators (and several MSOs) on the technology front, the affable former COO is busy helping operators do what he used to make look easy at Sunflower. Knorr’s expertise ranges from commercial services to bandwidth billing, all digital, advanced advertising, VOD, bundling and more. Oh, and he’s looking at acquisitions, too.
41. Mitch Robinson
Manager, Marketing & Business Ops, Click! Network
Arguably one of the most creative people in cable, CableFAX: The Magazine’s 2010 Independent Marketer of the Year actually dyed his hair purple to inspire staff to exceed sales and customer service milestones. Seattle-Tacoma-based Robinson has literally remade the Click brand, giving it a distinct voice from its utility company parent. And talk about touching your customers, Robinson offers free classes for subs to teach them about new services. He re-created an Oprah moment by handing out new remotes to customers in one of the classes.