It’s not official yet, but Time Warner Cable‘s influential exec vp, programming Fred Dressler is expected to call it quits by year-end—a move that could leave a considerable void at the number-2 MSO. The news (first reported Mon in Sports Business Journal by CableFAX alum John Ourand) wasn’t exactly a shock; rumors have swirled about Dressler’s eventual retirement for a while. But the timing of his departure amid programming disputes over sports costs and other issues could present big challenges for TWC. The MSO declined to confirm that Dressler is leaving, but sources said his retirement announcement is imminent and could come within weeks. Dressler’s exit will close a big chapter. “I would say it’s an end of an era,” said Kagan Research senior vp Derek Baine. “He’s an industry veteran and was very well respected.” Of course, Dressler’s hard-nosed style rankled some nets—especially in light of his success implementing sports tiers to defer the rising cost of sports programming. “We wish him the best in retirement and may sports tiers be retired with him,” sniffed a rep at NFL Net, which has been in a heated carriage dispute with TWC. NFL Net added that Dressler’s departure “can’t hurt” as parties try to resolve differences. Already, the industry is abuzz with whom might replace Dressler when he rides off into the coaxial sunset. SBJ reported that TWC offered the gig to Turner pres, programming Andy Heller, who reportedly declined (Heller wasn’t available by presstime). One issue that could deter outside candidates is a reorg last year that would have Dressler’s replacement reporting to senior exec vp Robert Marcus rather than TWC CEO Glenn Britt. Internal candidates include Dressler’s respected underlings Melinda Witmer and Lynne Costantini. But recent whispers have TWC simply eliminating Dressler’s position and moving Marcus into that role, leaving Witmer and Costantini’s positions essentially unchanged. Whatever the ultimate arrangement, insiders say they’ll miss Dressler’s unique style—especially his Oracle-like stature in evaluating new content ideas. “He was the guy you had to go to, to get into the game,” said one senior programming exec. “Fred was always the first stop. He was the Pope, so to speak.”

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Early Signs Positive for Emergency Broadband Benefit Uptake

The FCC’s $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program kicked off with a bang Wednesday, and some 825 providers sat ready to answer consumer questions and get folks signed up for subsidies. Thus far, all has gone to plan and consumer interest is coming in either consistent with or in excess of providers’ early predictions.

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