MSO LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
There’s no truth to reports that Joe Rooney is retiring. “I’m calling it my re-Wirement,” he says. Always the marketer, Rooney has branded his next chapter. “I’ve bought an RV that I can put motorcycles in. I’m planning my route to see the big, square states… I’ve never been to Yellowstone, Glacier National Park or Sturgis, [SD]… my wife and I are going to see America for the better part of 12 months… after that I’ll see what happens.” Jill Campbell, Cox EVP and COO, expects Rooney “to embrace new adventures… with the same vigor he’s positioned cable among consumers for decades.”
It’s inconceivable to imagine the 34-year cable vet leaving the industry. Talk about Rooney with former CTAM chief Char Beales, and she mentions SkiTAM, which has rebranded as Adaptive Spirit. “Joe’s been so dedicated to it… almost from the beginning,” she says. Could it be his next act? A hint: “I really enjoy my volunteer work with SkiTAM and I’ve been debating, ‘Can I do more?’ I’m going to explore that while I’m on the road,” Rooney says.
You can’t recap Rooney’s career without noting his first gig—selling cable door-to-door for ATC (later Time Warner Cable) in Iowa City in 1981. “It’s a little chilly, it’s getting dark and you don’t feel like doing it anymore. There were many days where I had to push myself out the door to do that job. At the time, I couldn’t have predicted how fortunate I was to stick with it.” And the training was great. “When you’re sitting at someone’s kitchen table… you learn a lot about customers and marketing.”
This customer-centric focus and kitchen-table creativity became hallmarks of Rooney’s career. Says Anne Cowan, CTAM’s SVP of Communications and Marketing, “Joe was great at listening to Cox’s customers and knowing how to talk to them.” This helped Rooney to lead “on the edge of the digital revolution, setting the pace and thinking for creative strategic initiatives that benefited Cox and the entire industry,” adds Cox chief Pat Esser.
Praising Rooney’s creativity, Beales cites his idea of setting up demos of high-speed data under tents outside malls on weekends in Orange County, CA, so customers could try it. Incidentally, those early ’90s demos birthed one of cable’s most famous rallying cries. Most MSOs weren’t integrating HSD with their cable services. “We had separate install teams, marketers and bills,” Rooney notes. “What customers told us over and over [at HSD demos] was they wanted one bill, one person to call” and incentives for taking multiple services. In the 1992 campaign, Clinton strategist James Carville focused his troops with, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Rooney’s cable version: “It’s the bundle, baby.” Did Rooney change cable with that concept? Maybe. Beales and Cowan quickly agree it’s Rooney’s legacy.
Also part of Rooney’s legacy bundle is his tremendous work at CTAM. Says Rooney: “Half of cable’s connects are related to movers… in  we weren’t handling movers well as an industry. So we created… MoveCo, which lets cable operators hand movers to each other.” Since then there have been “millions of sales” through the Cable Movers Hotline, Rooney says. “It’s a quiet success that I’m most proud of,” he adds. Leave it to a person who moved so often for cable [see Fast Facts, below] to improve cable’s handling of movers.
[Joe Rooney looks at cable’s future at cablefax.com]
– Seth Arenstein
– Originally from Iowa, Rooney’s relocated to eight states during his 34-year cable career; his children have been born in four states.