David Hoffer thought his first time speaking with MCTV President Bob Gessner could be his last.
The year was 1995, and Gessner had his hands full. He was simultaneously overseeing a $20 million rebuild of his family-owned cable system and the creation of a dial-up ISP. Hoffer, who had recently taken a job working as an accountant for the new Internet company, was prepared to tell Gessner that the fl edgling ISP had some major shortcomings.
“I knew with my background as a CPA and so forth, I could get a job anywhere,” Hoffer says. “So I was always the type where if I saw stuff I didn’t like or saw stuff that could be improved, I’d do what I have to do to make sure that happens.”
“He said, ‘You might fire me for this,’” Gessner recalls. “And I said, ‘First of all, I didn’t know that I employed you.’”
But after Hoffer shined a light on the issues at the ISP and shared his own vision for the business, Gessner asked him to take the reins himself. Two decades later, Hoffer remains Gessner’s right-hand man, quietly ensuring efficiency in virtually every aspect of MCTV’s business.
“He’s an indispensable part of our company from strategy to finance to tactics and technology,” Gessner says. “He’s a remarkable person with a host of talents, and we rely on him heavily for everything.”
Hoffer’s responsibilities extend beyond those of a traditional COO, which is why we’re honoring as our top financial exec this year. Drawing from both his financial and technological backgrounds, Hoffer works with Gessner in formulating strategy, developing technical solutions and making sure those plans are fiscally feasible. Those efforts have allowed MCTV to keep up with the nation’s largest operators despite operating on a smaller budget.
“As a small company, we all wear a lot of hats,” Gessner explains. “As our primary financial person, he prepares our monthly financial reports, he manages the bulk of all of our purchasing, especially evaluation and selection of new vendors overseas, payroll, but also at the minutia end of it, the vending machine money is in his bottom drawer. It’s everything from soup to nuts.”
Gessner credits Hoffer for spearheading the creation of the Watch TV Everywhere program, which now allows small- to mid-size systems across the country to provide customers with authenticated streaming. When Gessner and Hoffer first decided they wanted to offer that service to customers ahead of the 2010 Olympics, they quickly realized it would be far too costly to contract with an outside company to develop a platform. That’s when Hoffer took matters into his own hands.
“I got a great group of four to five individuals that are really good programmers. We sat down, and I said, ‘If they can do it, why can’t we?,’” Hoffer recalls. “Outside of the big guys—Comcast, Time Warner, Cox—we were the first cable company to get the NBC Olympics authentication authorization set up.”
Hoffer takes even more pride in the impact the Watch TV Everywhere program has had on the hundreds of other small operators across the country that now depend on it to provide their customers with access to authenticated streaming.
Hoffer also helped with the development of SubscriberWise, a service that now saves MCTV and other operators money by evaluating potential customers’ credit, and has used data to streamline MCTV’s customer support. The company now prides itself in making more calls to inform customers about potential issues than it receives for service.
Gessner is as close as you can get to being a rock star in the world of independent cable operators, and this very publication has feted him on countless occasions. But for all his accomplishments, he points to his COO as the brains of the operation.
“He’s the smartest person here,” he says. “There’s no question.”
– Alex Silverman