Commentary By M.C. Antil Steinfeld a True Cable Vet Of all cable’s rites of spring, few are more predictable—and, yes, welcome—as the parade of B, C and D-list paid celebrity pitchmen on the exhibit floor of the annual Cable Show. Each will have been paid or contracted to spend an hour or two trading autographs, photos and/or small talk in exchange for tiny dollops of operator good will. Occasionally, some with an equity stake in a network will, more awkwardly than not, even attempt to talk cable with an operator. Theirs is the perfect network to launch, they’ll tell the operator. The marketplace is ripe for content targeting their particular micro-niche, and any operator would be foolish to pass on the one network that will save them from financial ruin and the dreaded fires of eternal damnation. With that in mind, should you cross paths with Jake Steinfeld at this year’s show—that’s Jake Steinfeld as in "Body by Jake"—I caution you not to simply roll your eyes and lump him in with the rest of the celebrity hired guns. Jake is no mere hired gun. Jake is cable, through and through. You might even call him an insider’s insider. In fact, given this publication’s broad readership, there’s a good chance Jake is more cable than you are. And there’s an even better chance he’s been at this longer than you. Jake was in cable when Ted Turner was in cable. In fact, it was Ted who first hired Jake as the in-house fitness guy at CNN. Jake not only remembers when Flip Spiceland was a young weatherman on a young, struggling network; he will tell you that, following his weather reports, it was Flip who would toss it to Jake for his exercise and fitness segments. Jake is so cable he remembers when there was such a thing as the Cable ACE Awards. In fact, he remembers when they were simply the ACE Awards. And the reason he remembers that is because he and the other icon of 80’s pop culture, Dr. Ruth, actually co-hosted the very first ceremony. Jake is so cable he remembers Syndex and the Copyright Royalty Tribunal, and is so cable he can also recite chapter and verse on how they forever changed the future of programming. Jake not only knows how to pronounce acronyms like NCTA, CTAM and CAB, he actually knows what they mean. Think Jake’s just a hired gun? How many hired guns can tell you that Mike Willner is CEO of Insight, or that Brian Roberts is the CEO of Comcast? And how many of this year’s hired guns will be on a first-name basis with Roberts? Steinfeld, who years ago started an analog channel (FIT TV) and cashed out royally, is back in full-frontal launch mode; this time with Exercisetv, a VOD fitness network. And unlike some programmers who consider VOD and the digital netherworld as the cable equivalent of Siberia, Jake is jazzed by VOD. He understands on so many levels how health and fitness programming—much like cooking, home improvement and lifestyle fare—is rife with potential for marketers, advertisers and programmers who want to explore innovative ways of bringing together product messaging and content. Steinfeld, who lists Comcast and Time Warner Cable among his equity partners, and who is much wiser this time around the industry, now thinks of the annual NCTA convention as something of a class reunion. "I am really looking forward to the Cable Show," the ever-positive Steinfeld told me via phone last week. "Not only will it be a great opportunity to talk to people about Exercisetv, it will give me a chance to catch up with a lot of my friends in cable—friends I’ve known for a long, long time."