As baseball’s Casey Stengel once said, “Who’d a thunk it?” Certainly Patty McCaskill could not have predicted that in the male-dominated business world she entered more than 31 years ago a woman, she specifically, would become the unofficial dean of MSO programming officials.
It’s not that the St. Louis native lacked the talent, smarts, drive or personality to be successful. Business just wasn’t a woman’s place back when Patty was graduating from Maryville University, which was then an all-women’s school. “It was a total men’s club,” she says. “There were very few [female] role models for me at that time.”
Yet McCaskill found she was good at marketing and sales. “I liked it. It stimulated and challenged me.” So she dove into the business world. And, more baseball—her first job was working for the legendary Stan Musial at his restaurant. From catering she moved to convention planning and later hotels, eventually climbing the ladder to general manager. But “I realized running hotels was not what I wanted to do, so I looked at other industries.”
In 1980, McCaskill met cable entrepreneur Bob Brooks. “He told me how cable TV was going to take off.” Back then cable “was a pure video business, of course… franchising was just being completed and we were building cable systems… we went door to door to convince consumers they needed more than their broadcast channels. Of course, we didn’t have the powerhouse content brands we have today.” Networks like Discovery, MTV, Nickelodeon and ESPN didn’t exist or were in their infancy.
Skip to the present, and McCaskill is getting set to retire January 1 after a stellar career in cable, most recently as Suddenlink’s SVP and Chief Programming Officer. She’s been working part-time since May, helping negotiate retransmission consent deals, many of which come due at year’s end. But, as she readily admits, “I’m not a retiring type of person.” She’s thinking about traveling with her husband of 42 years and working on “my very rusty golf game—I haven’t played regularly in several years.” On the other hand, “playing golf five days a week would drive me crazy.”
That’s why McCaskill plans to stay connected to cable during retirement, perhaps consulting, working with the Cable Pioneers or Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT). Her interest in helping is hardly surprising, since McCaskill’s willingness to “give back” is one of her trademarks. For years she’s been a fixture on the cable circuit, rarely missing an opportunity to do good, whether it was at WICT or the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM). She also was a steadfast supporter of Cable Positive. “I could write a book about her commitment & dedication,” former Cable Positive chief Steve Villano says.
McCaskill knows she’ll miss cable. “It’s been a great ride. There was never a day that I went to work and knew exactly what I was going to be doing. I loved that. The challenges, the changes… that’s part of my personality.” She’ll miss the people most. “So many of us have become friends over the years. That’s the thing about this industry that you don’t find elsewhere. You can spend a day across from someone at the negotiating table and then you go out at night and party. Nobody takes it personally.” In fact, she wants to be remembered in cable as “a tough but fair negotiator… the best outcomes occurred when both sides won,” McCaskill says.
Now the cycle is complete. McCaskill is an executive to emulate. “Patty has been a trailblazer throughout her career and much of that trail has been in support of women and WICT,” says Maria Brennan, President/CEO of WICT. “She helped found WICT’s Midwest Chapter, served on WICT’s national board and has been a mentor. Patty is a role model to which women can aspire.” Who’d a thunk it?
Among her many citations, McCaskill received cable’s
top honor, a Vanguard, for Distinguished Leadership,
during The Cable Show 2014.
McCaskill’s been on both sides of cable’s table as she
helped launch Travel Channel as director of marketing.