The Cable Center had to change. A few years ago, if you asked five people to describe the National Cable Television Center and Museum, you would have had five responses. To some, it honored cable’s past and the people and technologies that built the industry. To others, it opened a window to the future of the industry. The board decided that the center should do both. Armed with a modified name, a clear mission and a united sense of purpose, the Cable Center on the campus of the University of Denver has established itself as an entity in which the relics of cable’s past share equal billing with its vision for the future. Much like CTAM navigated the turbulent waters of consolidation and change in the late 1990s by adopting the mantle of education about marketing, the Cable Center has made academic research, education and skill development its mantra. Now, coexisting with curious artifacts from the industry’s early days is a state-of-the-art resource center that combines distance learning, digitized information and a community of media scholars and historians. "Today we’re a lot more than dusty amplifiers, and we have a much clearer sense of purpose," says Beverly O’Brien, the Cable Center’s SVP of marketing and development. O’Brien, who has worked at the center for all but six months of the past seven years, points to a distance-learning initiative, developed over a cup of coffee and without fanfare by C-SPAN head Brian Lamb, as a prime example of where the Center’s more clarified and distilled mission is going. The C-SPAN program offers University of Denver undergraduates studying, say, President John F. Kennedy, the chance to interact with his younger brother, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), sitting in the C-SPAN studios some 2,000 miles to the east. Other recent guests have included Bob Dole and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), while according to O’Brien, "Sen. Clinton’s husband" will likely appear in the months ahead. Cable Center president Bob Russo said the Center’s primary audience for its educational focus is the cable industry, followed by the educational community (specifically, at the college level and beyond) and then, to a lesser degree, the general public. "For years (chairman) Bill Bresnan thought that companies in the industry—and not just on the operating side, but programmers and suppliers as wel—were not doing enough to educate their employees about cable," said Russo. "At the same time, he felt, as did others, that the general public knew very little about the industry." No Mere Mausoleum Part of the Center’s educational mandate was to create a place that both looks forward and remembers the past. To that end, the Center created a board that was well-equipped for such a mission. "For the past few years, there has been a two-fisted desire to be forward-thinking," said O’Brien. "These guys were entrepreneurs—are entrepreneurs—and they brought that perspective to the Cable Center." The board’s makeup included an infusion of new blood in the form of a number of still-powerful executives who were focused on keeping the industry—and the Center—moving forward. Such people as new Disney Media Nets co-chair George Bodenheimer, Insight president and CEO Michael Willner and Time Warner Cable vice chairman John Billock have helped keep the Center’s staff focused on the horizon, while bringing valuable resources to the table. Insiders give much of the credit for clearing the Center’s path and setting its bearings to two people: Bresnan, who served on the board for 16 years and was chairman for 10 (before deciding to step down soon), and Russo, the former Coors and Daniels executive who became president in 2003. Bresnan, who will be honored with a Cable Center-sponsored roast at this year’s National Show in New Orleans, has been a tireless supporter of the Center and has been, perhaps, the single most important person in shaping the entity it has become. It was Bresnan who drove the train and moved the Cable Center from its temporary home at Penn State (thanks, in part, to a million dollar gift from cable legend Bill Daniels). Bresnan went to University of Denver chancellor and former Group W colleague Dan Ritchie and cut a sweetheart deal for space on his campus and spearheaded the development and funding of the current facility. Yet, for all the great leadership on the board, many point to the hiring of Russo as the turning point for the Cable Center. O’Brien said Russo, Daniels’ former right-hand man and a person whose organizational skills and ability to run a meeting are legendary, brought a unique perspective to the position. He also built a remarkably strong staff and an engaged board of directors. "This is not to knock any of the other four presidents I’ve worked for here, but Bob is by far the finest," said O’Brien.

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