The incoming Hall of Fame class speaks of technology, baseball and White House visits.
You can easily find official bios of the 2010 Hall of Fame class online, right? So for a change of pace, we decided to present the class as people as well as executives.
Allan Ecker, EVP, Scientific-Atlanta (Retired)
CFAX: If you could come back to work on one cable technology, which would it be?
Ecker: Without question, I’d like to work on IPTV systems and devices to provide new Web-based services over cable to TV and devices such as PCs and mobile phones in the home.
CFAX: What will cable be doing in 10 years to enhance customer experience?
Ecker: 3D TV and personalized advanced video advertising. Cable has the network and bandwidth to be first in both.
CFAX: Were you a better football player or engineer?
Ecker: In college I was better as a football player. Later, after experience at SA, I was better as an engineer. However, I believe my greatest contribution to cable was as part of the executive team at SA to help lead the industry from analog to digital.
Terence McGuirk, Chairman/CEO, Atlanta Braves (Formerly with Turner Broadcasting)
CFAX: Your favorite Ted Turner moment?
McGuirk: I have a 30-year treasury of memories working with Ted Turner. I got a chance right out of college to participate in the changing of the face of media in the US and later around the world.
My special memories include having dinner in Cuba with Ted and Fidel Castro; Ted and I hosting leaders of the cable industry, led by John Malone, in Russia for a week during the 1994 Goodwill Games; sailing races in the Atlantic with Ted during fierce storms, where he was at his best; and the too- numerous-to-catalogue successes and occasional setbacks that defined our daily lives as we grew the company. These all forged a strong bond in us and with all who were part of those life-altering experiences.
The late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s were intense times for the struggling cable industry. The roster of the Cable Hall of Fame is a Who’s Who of the leaders who worked and fought to overcome the many entrenched interests who did not want cable to succeed.
CFAX: What’s the secret behind the Braves’ consistency? If the answer is manager Bobby Cox, how do you replace him when he retires next year?
McGuirk: The secret of the Atlanta Braves’ success and consistency is very simple-people. There are no magic formulas for long-term success. Winning results happen because of hard work, execution, excellent leaders at every level, communication and finally, having fun.
Baseball is a game within a business. We have been lucky enough to have an "esprit de corps" that I find unrivalled in baseball. With the leadership of John Schuerholz and Bobby Cox, the most important element of the success model was more than satisfied. The Commissioner of Baseball has referred to the Atlanta Braves as the "gold standard" in franchise operations. Our goal is to keep learning and improving the art and science of our sport.
CFAX: When did you sense that cable and TBS had made the big time?
McGuirk: Launching TBS on the satellite in 1976 was the "eureka" moment when the basic cable programming industry was born. Ted was undoubtedly a genius but we were all awed by the power that was unleashed when cable systems across the country now had something unique and unending to sell. Ted backed that up with the launch of CNN in 1980 and put cable on a growth curve that was almost unrivaled in the annals of 20th century business. Playing pivotal roles in these historical breakthroughs were elements of good fortune for me. They became the experiences that were the foundation of my leadership skills when the opportunity came.
Marc Nathanson, Former Chairman/CEO, Falcon Holding Group, Inc.
CFAX: What has surprised you most about cable since you sold Falcon?
Nathanson: While on the board of Charter, I witnessed a very sophisticated management and marketing team led by Neil Smit and Mike Lovett. We never had the depth of talent back in the old days that I see in cable today. Also, the technology continues to improve and the triple play was only a dream when I sold Falcon in 1999. Now, it’s the best bargain out there for the American public.
CFAX: Your fondest memories of the Falcon days?
Nathanson: My fondest memory of my 40 years in cable is the camaraderie between the men and women in the business and even the programmers! I remember so many stories, like selling cable door-to-door in Frank Drendel’s hometown of Hickory, NC, with our young, but very energetic HBO rep…his name was Matt Blank. I have only fond memories of the many friends that I worked with over the years, especially those at Falcon, like Frank Intiso, Mike Menerey and Stan Itskowitch.
CFAX: You’ve been very political recently, especially on national security. What’s your biggest concern about U.S. security?
Nathanson: In my travels around the globe in the last few years, I feel that there have been increased negative feeling toward the US. I believe the Administration and Secretary Clinton have improved our ability to communicate and share our values – Democracy, free market, free press, rule of law, strong opposition parties – but we still have a long way to go. NGO’s like the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, which I am involved with, are doing much at the grassroots level. Also, our quick reaction to Haiti and after the tsunami have helped, but there’s still a lot of criticism of America throughout the developing world. I have to believe we can do a better job making our values known to the rest of the world.
Abbe Raven, President and CEO, AETN
CFAX: You were a school teacher. Ever think you’d be running an international media conglomerate?
Raven: No. I never could have imagined that. Teaching taught me so many life lessons. It taught me invaluable leadership skills and how to think on my feet as well as how to tell a story to keep young people engaged. I’m incredibly pleased with the educational outreach we do at AETN. I’m so proud that we give back to the community. It reminds me of my roots as a teacher.
CFAX: How can cable get more women into senior positions at MSOs?
Raven: I think by continuing to support the advancement of women in the industry. The programming side has so many great women running networks – Anne Sweeney, Nancy Dubuc, Judy McGrath, Bonnie Hammer – the list goes on and on. Eventually, you’ll see more women running things on the MSO side because there are many of them in great positions already, like Melinda Witmer and Carol Hevey at Time Warner Cable; Cox’s Jill Campbell; and Comcast’s Amy Banse.
CFAX: You seem to get invited to the White House quite a bit. What’s been your biggest thrill inside those walls?
Raven: We feel privileged that the work we do at AETN often gets recognized by The White House, especially by multiple Administrations. It’s always an honor to go there. But the first time I went will always be special to me. I called my mother from the North Lawn and said, ‘You’re not going to believe where I am – I’m at the White House.’ I truly was reminded of my roots that day, a young girl from Queens who made it to The White House. It was very special to make that call.
JR Shaw, Executive Chair, Shaw Communications
CFAX: You’ve accomplished so much. What keeps you motivated?
Shaw: I find joy in taking an idea, building a vision and working with motivated, committed people to bring it to life. There is always more to do in a constantly evolving industry. I get strength and energy from working with my family and all the talented employees who share our drive to be best in class for our customers and build on that special relationship to extend products and services in broadband, wireless and future innovations.
CFAX: What’s the biggest misconception Americans in cable have about Canadian cable?
Shaw: Canada is not just an extension of the American market. While we have many shared values, the Canadian cable industry is different. We are one-tenth the size, with a more complex regulatory system and a government commitment to Canadian content. The US seems more unfettered but has other complications from broadcasters and local agencies. We both are successful because we’ve adapted to our environment. The Canadian cable business is tough, challenging, competitive and unique. That’s why we love it.
Yolanda Barco, VP Meadville Master Antenna (Deceased)
"Cable started in small towns," says our founder and Cable Hall of Famer Paul Maxwell, "but from those towns came some giants who shaped the industry today. One was Yolanda Barco." To accurately assess her career you have to remember she began it in 1950, as a lawyer, well before women were an accepted part of the business world. Barco amassed a slew of firsts: she was the first woman GM of a cable system; the first elected to the NCTA board; the first elected to be president of a state cable association; and the first woman to win a Vanguard for Leadership. "She was, simply put, cable’s first lady," Maxwell says. Agreed.
Who, What, Where, When
Who: 2010 Cable Hall of Fame Inductees
What: Induction and Tribute to Bill Bresnan
Where: Diamond Ballroom, JW Marriott at L.A. Live!
When: May 11, 6pm