What’s the hardest thing for people to grasp about the cable industry?
 
The value proposition. Much like people don’t understand where their food actually comes from, few understand how the programs they love connect to the fees they pay each month. They believe that if they want a program it should somehow be free. The connection between what they pay each month for cable, the ads they see and how those support the NFL, “The Walking Dead,” The Oscars and “Archer” is not transparent and therefore misunderstood. 
 
How do changing viewing habits (OTT, time shifting, etc) affect how executives approach the business?
 
On one hand it opens up great potential—new and growing revenue streams, greater access to hard to reach audiences, increasing number of viable formats—that never existed before. On another, it confuses the best way to program channels and reach audiences. Some shows are best seen as a binge, others as a weekly, others still on YouTube—but working on one platform does not mean it will work on all. The challenge is to find the power in "AND.” Series need a home.  But more and more, they need to try and be everywhere in order to find audiences where they live. That is a big change in POV that the industry is still grappling with.  In the end, though, the best content usually wins. I don’t think that will ever change. 
 
What do you see as the big content trends in 2014?
 
I think two major forces will be at play. The best content will be both more time/place shifted and watched live. It’s the “Breaking Bad” effect. New viewers to a series will DVR and binge, but this in turn will continue what I call the renaissance of live viewing. Our best shows will light up social media, then get caught up on via various services and then more eventized in their live airings. This was best exemplified with Breaking Bad. But we’re seeing this go to new heights with “The Blacklist,” “Scandal,” “Downton Abbey,” etc. Using all the asymmetrical viewing habits at once will be the programmer’s dilemma and advantage.  
 
What specific qualities and skills do you seek in new hires?  
 
Leadership, innovation, perseverance, self awareness, optimism, emotional intelligence and a beautiful singing voice.   
 
For someone considering a career in cable, what’s your best advice? 
 
Do your homework. Almost the entire industry is laid bare in the press all the time. Nearly everything you need to know about which discipline, business trends, viewership, regulation, and the shifting model of our industry is out there, available to be studied. There are organizations to join, places to network and tons of advice—all online. As fast as our business is moving, being curious and alert gives you an excellent chance to be ahead of the curve.

To gain more insight and network with Shapiro as well as other industry experts, register to attend
 CableFAX’s Cable Business Boot Camp
 on March 13 in NYC!
 

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