Some of you may know this isn’t my only day job. In another life I’m COO of the Washington Mystics, the WNBA team owned by Sheila Johnson, who, in another life, helped create BET. It’s an enormous task selling women’s basketball to a male-dominated sports world. But we’re getting there. And our headway is in no small way a reality because of a few truly amazing young women. The ladies of the WNBA live to play basketball, and will do just about anything to make our league stronger. They practice hard and play harder. In their off-hours they’ll go anywhere they’re asked to make an appearance, if it means spreading the gospel of women’s basketball. In many ways, they remind me of people I grew up with in cable. When I had more spring in my step, I remember schlepping from meeting to meeting, trade show to trade show, all in the interest of building this industry. Cable was in my blood. I loved what I was doing. I really believe it mattered, and because of that I felt I was helping to change television, the most powerful medium in the country, and I was having a ball doing it. And that’s the way so many of my peers thought – people who have since risen through the ranks and now sit in corner offices. I know many of those people retain their "love of the game." Still, I wonder how many still have that passion, that youthful exuberance, and a willingness to go the extra mile. As a WNBA executive I can’t help but look at the hard working, zealous people of this league and compare them to their counterparts in men’s sports – gifted athletes who, as a group, are as pampered as any segment of society. The middle and upper tiers of male athletes earn millions, live in opulence and speak through agents. As long as they continue to perform on the field theirs is a world of entitlement. They expect the most mundane task to be handled for them. Whatever promotion they do for their leagues usually comes with a five-figure price tag and is detailed in their contracts. Like the strata of male athletes who have forgotten their roots and how hard they had to work to get where they are, many of us in this industry have lost sight of what allowed us to wipe the floor with the broadcasters years ago. Given the passion with which the telcos are attacking cable in an attempt to give us a taste of our own medicine, I’m hoping we can rediscover it. Soon. Sure, we’ve got some powerful companies. And our content is rich and deep. And it’s hard to fathom cable losing significant market share to any new platform. But reflect to what the TV landscape was like 30 years ago. Who would have thought that CBS would be considered a handsome but entirely dispensable division of Viacom? Or that ABC would amount to nothing more than a buy-through when Disney acquired ESPN? For cable to remain strong – especially on the MSO side – we must return to our roots. Our MSOs must rededicate themselves to service. Our executives must rekindle their passion and rediscover the tireless competitor that lies dormant within. And we must collectively operate daily, not like the king of the hill we’ve become, but the contender we used to be. Like the women of the WNBA who show up every day with a smile on their faces and a lean, hungry look in their eyes, Symonds says it’s time again to act like what we once were: fresh-faced kids with something to prove. Curtis Symonds can be reached at

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