As part of our series featuring members of the 2010 CableFAX 100 and Most Powerful Women, we grabbed a few minutes with retiring cable veteran and CableFAX 100 honoree Bob Miron, whose leadership has helped Bright House Networks become one of the most respected cable operators. His retirement at year-end is much deserved but also loss to the industry, although we suspect he’ll keep in touch. Our women’s breakfast is sold out, but we still have a few seats for our CableFAX 100 luncheon on Dec. 9. Register HERE.
What are you going to miss most about your job?
The relationships with all the people. I have many close friends and people that I have gotten to work with over the year. Plus, the opportunity I’ve had, which has been terrific, to work with [children] Steve and Nomi on an everyday basis for a bunch of years. That combination is really what I’ll miss—the people and my kids.
Is there anything you’re happy to not have to deal with any more?
No, I just feel this is the time for me to step out. Certainly, Steve and Nomi are ready, and they deserve an opportunity without me. I’ve worked hard. I’ve enjoyed it. I’ve been at it well over 50 years, and it’s just time.
Do you think programmer and operator relations have hit an all-time low and where do they go from here?
I don’t want to classify it as an all-time low, but negotiations on certain fronts are very tense, and I think it’s regrettable that we’re using the cable customer as kind of a bouncing ball that we can hit back and forth between us. That’s bothersome to me. Relationships with all programmers and operators are not horrible. It depends I think more on the programmer than the operator.
What do you expect to happen—government intervention?
If you’re talking about retrans and sports, I think the current system is under lots of strain, parts of it are broken, and I think it’s largely because of sports. The networks and programmers have developed sports into a very intense and excitable niche that really drives unreasonable behavior. And I think it starts with the bidding for sports rights, which are all about gaining leverage for the cable programmer/broadcaster negotiation. I don’t think advertising can cover the cost of sports rights any longer, so the second revenue stream is necessary… When they gain the rights, they gain the leverage in affiliate negotiations. I think it’s all that, plus the exclusivity the broadcaster has on the cable system, which is set about by early rules and laws that make the playing field uneven. I think absent some sort of fix, we’ll see this continue and we’ll see more and more problems develop—higher rates. Whether Congress acts or not, I don’t know. I am encouraged they are going to hold some hearings. I think they need to level the playing field.
Sports is a huge factor. But it’s also one of the things from keeping people from cutting the cord.
We obviously need it. Sports is an important part of the American tradition. But not by 100% of the people. By a very intense and excitable niche. In some cases, it’s a large niche. In some cases, it’s a small niche. If you want to take an example of a hockey team in a market, it’s an intense and excitable niche, but it’s not the majority. Take that away, and that will cause disruption. It could be the Super Bowl or World Series, or it comes down to the rights fees regional sports networks get for local games. I think it’s important and there needs to be some rationalization of how the operation works…
You’ve been very involved with NCTA. What do you see happening to it post-Comcast-NBCU? It’s always been an interesting dynamic balancing programmer and operator concerns.
I don’t have expectations. It depends on the people and the personalities. I think Brian [Roberts] sees the reason for an NCTA. There are many things we work together on, so I don’t see it going out of business in the near term.
What do you think is the next big thing for cable?
I don’t know if there is a single answer to that question. Right now, I think we’re all involved in the many commercial opportunities. I think that holds potential. DOCSIS 3.0 is being rolled out across many of the MSOs. That offers lots of opportunity. And I think all the new technology that is out there and how we adopt it to our platform… and how we deliver content to all platforms… I think all these things are opportunities for cable. I guess the one thing that I’ve seen in the cable industry over the many years is that the industry is very smart. There is a lot of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. I see the industry in a good position.
What’s next for you? Are you really going to retire? I know you will still be on Discovery’s board, but are you going to take it easy?
I plan to retire. I’m not keeping the office. I’m not going into the office. If Steve or Nomi have something I can help them with, they’re my children—I’m never going to back away. But this isn’t the Brett Favre type of retirement. I’m not looking for anybody to ask me to come back. If there’s something I can do to help in some way that doesn’t require a full-time commitment, I’m always interested. The industry has been part of my blood for almost 50 years.