Starz Encore’s retiring president of distribution makes the most of one more opportunity to meet and greet with his own brand of humor and intensity.
By K.C. Neel We met at the registration booth at the Anaheim Convention Center on the first day of the Western Show. Que Spaulding, who recently retired as president of distribution for Starz Encore Group, and I were going to goof around on the exhibit floor for a couple of hours. We planned to hunt for tchotchkes, stand in line to see whatever grade B celebrity showed up and play with all the gadgets. We were done in 20 minutes. There were no goodies to be had, aside from a pen or two, no celebrity sightings within miles of the convention center. And the gadgets were not really the playing kind—mostly computer screens explaining the latest technological advancements being hyped in the CableNET section of the floor. The last Western Show was clearly the antithesis of shows gone by, and certainly not as much fun. That’s not to say it wasn’t entertaining. We did stop at a few booths; Spaulding, who spent his entire 25-year cable career on the programming side of the house, asked reps from advanced technology companies some pointed and relevant questions. He has an insatiable curiosity, and his personality is such that the person he is talking to gets the distinct feeling that there is no place Spaulding would rather be than right where he is, asking questions about the person’s business and technology, no matter how obscure. You can’t go far when hanging out with Spaulding without running into someone who knows and wants to chat with him. He’s the kind of person who walks into a crowded room filled with strangers and walks out knowing at least half the people there. We stopped to talk to several people he knew, and every conversation was a hilarious mixture of anecdotes, opinions and even a sprinkle of gossip here and there. There is one thing you can count on when it comes to Spaulding: He’s never shy about giving you an opinion on any number of subjects, and he is never short on stories. The cable business may be near and dear to Spaulding’s heart, but he still has a great deal of respect for the satellite providers. He believes EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen is brilliant when it comes to competing against cable operators for market share and thinks the cable industry could learn a trick or two from the man about whom NCTA president and CEO Robert Sachs said has “broadband envy.” Watching him dart around the otherwise listless convention floor made it difficult to imagine Spaulding, a young 63, sitting still for very long. But that is what he says he intends to do for at least a year. Some industry players who have worked with and for Spaulding over the years believe he’ll come back in a couple of years with some new project. He’s no neophyte when it comes to getting new businesses off the ground. Spaulding and partner Mike Hale, who was Starz Encore’s SVP of marketing until last year when he retired so he could devote his time to philanthropic endeavors in Los Angeles, were in the process of trying to get The How-To Channel off the ground in 1991 when John Sie asked them to put aside their entrepreneurial tendencies and help him launch Encore. The two were instrumental in turning a small mini-pay movie service into the major programming company it is today. If Spaulding does have any entrepreneurial plans, he’s keeping them to himself. Instead, he praises the executives he has worked for in the past. “I worked for three of the best entrepreneurs in the business: Chuck Dolan, Bill Daniels and John Sie,” he said with pride.

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