One of the many criteria our judges investigate when deciding whom to honor in this magazine each year is whether or not
the individual has influenced the industry. Is he or she someone whose activities make a difference beyond his or her own company? In that respect, few of our honorees are more distinguished than controller Bob Wieand. In truth, Wieand’s pedigree is such that he could be honored for either one of his jobs. The Emmaus, PA, native’s full-time position has him managing financial relations for Service Electric Cablevision, with about 100K subs spread over three PA systems. A mainstay, he’s been with SEC for nearly 25 years. Wieand’s ‘other’ job is chairing the 20-member board of directors of the Broadband Cable Association of PA (BCAP), the statewide trade group representing cable operators, programmers and vendors. Wieand has put in his innings at BCAP, too, serving two terms as chairman and as a board member for 14 years. Some background is needed to appreciate why Wieand’s activities put him at the forefront of cable and independent cable. Service Electric’s founder, the late John Walson, owned an appliance store in the mid-1940s that sold, installed and repaired General Electric appliances in the Mahanoy City area of Schuylkill County, PA. In 1947, the store began selling TV sets. Turns out it was nearly impossible for Walson’s store and its customers to receive a clear picture because the town is in a valley, surrounded by mountains. This greatly reduced the demand for TVs in the area. To overcome this situation, Walson erected a utility pole and antenna atop a nearby mountain, later building a tower site. He connected his appliance store to the tower using wire cable and modified signal boosters. This brought a clear picture on the sets in his store, making it a popular gathering place. The next year he connected homes of his customers along the cable path, thus starting the country’s first cable system. Cut to the present and Wieand has been working for the Walson family for 23 years; he reports to Mr. Walson’s grandson, Mark. At the other end of Wieand’s portfolio, the Keystone State not only boasts the country’s first statewide cable association, it has more independent cable operators than any state. “BCAP assures that cable is treated fairly by the state in terms of regulation and taxes.” He’s most proud of “keeping unnecessary regulation away from the industry, which, in our opinion, would have restrained growth and hindered consumers from getting increased Internet speeds.” Cablefax is far from the only admirer of Wieand’s leadership at BCAP. “Bob’s stron financial background has helped us in numerous ways,” says Daniel Tunnell, the BCAP president. “He has been a steady and thoughtful member of our board for years, and his guidance as our Chairman has been very valuable.” At family owned SEC, Wieand’s role includes managing
finances and relationships with lenders so there are enough funds to allow it to reinvest in technology. “We offer all the latest and greatest: HD, high-speed Internet, TV Everywhere, voice, VOD, multi-tuner DVR; we consider ourselves state of the art.” Owing to Wieand’s prowess, SEC is prepared to “jump on the next big technology… which, quite frankly, can be expensive.” Speaking of expensive, Wieand calls rising programming costs and retransmission fees “the tough ones… and they’re getting more challenging every year.” Still, the former CPA is bullish on cable. “We see some cord cutting, but we don’t see a lot of it. If you want live sports and live coverage of other things, you almost have to stick with cable,” he says.
The late John Walson was the first cable operator to use
microwave to import distant TV stations, the first to use
coaxial cable for improved picture quality and the first to
distribute pay television programming (HBO).
Parent company Service Electric Television counts 250K
subs in PA and NJ, and ranks in the top 20 MSOs.