Who will write the history of the cable industry? Maybe the better question is, who will write the history someone will actually read? A 2011 MBA graduate told me that modern history really began in the year 2000, when content began appearing on the internet. She had completed her degree without ever stepping into a library, though she said that the university gave her all the resources she needed online. Everything she learned about the cable industry came from her Internet research.
In all likelihood, the history of our industry—that the public will remember—will not be written by professional historians. Historians publish books, while the public relies increasingly on a Web connection. Today, we are all journalists and historians. Unlike a standard textbook, our history is continually updated with each new article that a quick Google search will reveal as “the truth.” Open your search engine and input the name of a cable topic you are most passionate about. Would it concern you if that MBA graduate was a congressional aide doing research and that her starting point was confined to anything published on the Internet in the last 12 years?
The Cable Center is an educational nonprofit organization with a mission that looks at the past and the future at the same time. We look at current events and discuss the historical context—a context that we realize is in the memory banks of many senior executives, but lost on people new to our business. As a student of cable history, I have enjoyed looking at the news and finding a story from the cable industry using a historical lens and the vast resources of The Cable Center. For example, it is impossible for me to read about Google’s pole attachments in Kansas City without thinking about the lengthy history of pole attachments fought by the cable industry in its early days. Subsequent columns will focus on such historical moments in more detail.
In addition, The Center spends a large part of its mission working with university faculty and students. The attitude of students toward our industry and the research reports that come from academia catch my attention—and you may find them very interesting. For example, you may have missed the recent report from the American Assembly at Columbia University discussing copyright infringement and enforcement in the United States. It would probably not surprise you that our future employees and customers have a very different concept about intellectual property rights and what is free.
In 2012, The Center launched an initiative to review its vast collection of material about the cable industry and reorganize it along new lines appropriate for our time. The story of cable is one of entrepreneurship, innovation, free market capitalism, creativity, competition, successes and failures. It is something that we celebrate and talk about in our daily work. We work in an industry that embraces change, we thrive on it and we reinvent ourselves with such frequency that it is commonplace. The programs we develop at The Cable Center reflect the optimism we have for the future as the industry continues to evolve during this era of rapid innovation.
As you enter The Cable Center, you will find that the building is “dedicated to the pioneering cable television entrepreneurs who had the vision, took the risks, and did the work that resulted in the creation of a dynamic, productive, truly American industry.” The story of cable is as fast-paced as our industry itself and The Center, with the help of all of our industry partners, will continue to tell that story as fast as all of you keep creating it.
(The Cable Center is the nonprofit educational arm of the cable industry. It preserves cable’s enduring contributions to society; strengthens relationships between cable and academia; and unites the industry around the advancement of exceptional customer service. Based in Denver, Colo., the Cable Hall of Fame, Cable Mavericks Lecture Series and Masters Forum, Customer Care Central, and the Barco Library are all programs of The Cable Center. Go here for more information: www.cablecenter.org Larry can be reached at email@example.com).