Years Ago, C-SPAN’s Kiley Found a Home I joked with Peter Kiley last week that for many operators C-SPAN was a little like the public library; they may not use it, but they’d defend to the death its right to exist. Peter laughed as he spoke on his car phone. He was dealing with some soccer issues that had crept up. As manager of his daughter’s traveling team, Peter was balancing logistics, a concerned soccer mom and the general needs of a dozen budding Mia Hamms. Yet he took it all in stride. That’s the way Peter handles his day job as well. As the head dealmaker for C-SPAN, he has spent years negotiating with MSOs for distribution of a channel they already own, all the while quietly establishing a reputation as one of the industry’s most dedicated, yet unsung, heroes. Peter has a little extra spring in his step these days. His favorite season is upon us—presidential campaign season—and not only are his company’s buses ready to hit the road, but Peter’s working with C-SPAN’s senior team on rolling out new campaign-themed VOD content while planning for C-SPAN’s conversion to HD. I told him I’d met a few members of Congress, and that I wasn’t sure there was enough makeup in the world for some of them to ever be HD-ready. As he chuckled, Peter informed me he grew up in Indiana, went to school in San Diego where he played on the golf team for a couple of seasons, and after graduation moved to Washington to work for the congressman from his home district. It was there that he met follow Hoosier Brian Lamb who told him about C-SPAN. Peter applied for a job, got it and literally within hours realized he had found a home. That was 21 years ago. To give you some perspective about the workload Peter and the C-SPAN brain trust carry, consider this: they have three full time television networks, a radio network, a web site and two buses. They also do all their own production, including a growing number of hours of long-form VOD fare and, soon… HD content. And they do this with only 260 people and an annual budget of just $55 million. That’s right. You heard me. $55 million. And yes, that’s million with an "m." My guess is HBO has spent that much promoting "Entourage." Peter said it takes a special kind of person to work in a non-profit, especially his non-profit. He told me most of the C-SPAN lifers like himself—Susan Swain, Rob Kennedy and Bruce Collins—are people who love not so much any one political ideology, but the political process. They love watching and studying America govern itself. They love debates. They love caucuses, primaries and elections. In short, they love retail politics and legislative sausage-making. And the more unscripted, the better. In fact, according to Peter, people who come to C-SPAN as ideologues usually don’t last. He told me: "We joke that we’re a company of student council presidents. And if you’re truly partisan one way or another, you’re probably not going to work out." He told me about an event earlier this month with Mediacom in Iowa, one of the first legs of C-SPAN’s Campaign ’08 Heartland Tour. And while the event was a home run and gave C-SPAN some nice content, his team used it as one more occasion to spread C-SPAN’s cable message: "C-SPAN was created by the cable industry. It’s not a government channel. It is a public service and exists because your local cable company is a good corporate citizen." Later he confided: "Sure, we wish we got more credit from affiliates for what we do, but that’s not our nature. We don’t spend $55 million promoting ourselves. This is what we do. What other fully distributed network volunteers to go into a market—a tough market—to help an affiliate, then works 19-hour days, does its job and just moves on?"

The Daily

Subscribe

Philo Strikes Retailer Deal with Best Buy

Philo partnered with Best Buy to offer exclusive subscription offers to customers purchasing select hardware devices, as well as in-store and online

Read the Full Issue
The Skinny is delivered on Tuesday and focuses on the cable profession. You'll stay in the know on the headlines, topics and special issues you value most. Sign Up