Phil Spencer, Vyve Broadband

Years in Industry: 20

Education: Marquette University, Bachelor of Science, Finance and Economics

Spencer took over as CEO last year after private equity firm GTCR teamed with his Mega Broadband Investment to buy Vyve Broadband. Vyve’s brand—and trademark yellow—is so strong that MBI united its portfolio of rural broadband companies, which includes Eagle Broadband and Northland Communications, under the Vyve name. Spencer continues to pursue expansion, most recently signing a tuck-in deal to purchase FamilyView Cablevision of S.C. Vyve’s footprint covers rural markets in 16 states, with the company upgrading systems to Gigabit speeds.

The COVID-19 Pandemic forever changed my perspective on:
Just how essential broadband services are to Americans and how vital our workforce is to connecting rural communities to education, work, healthcare and entertainment.

Without sports on TV, I have…
Watched way too much news!! However, I have been enjoying the “Last Dance” Bulls series over the last 10 weeks. With that being said, we have a lot going on at Vyve—so the halt in live sports has provided a lot more time to get after some of the pending initiatives we had on the docket.

Is cable recession proof?
I don’t think the cable business is recession-proof—but I think broadband is such a vital and essential service. Cable TV is more of a luxury that many may need to downgrade in a COVID-19 economy. I think with the reduction in live sports programming and the rise of affordable streaming options, the cable industry as we know it today, will continue to evolve into a streaming service.

My prediction for a new business or product that could emerge from the pandemic is…
Companies that assist with work from home options will be extremely important. We were able to quickly move our teams to a work from home environment. However, we had to bootstrap and improvise to make it work. Many companies were caught flat-footed and were not able to make that adjustment. A turn-key playbook with the accompanying technology that can help businesses adjust would be great.

My prediction for AVODs is….
My prediction for AVOD is that we will see an explosion of these services while people are spending more time at home and increasing their broadband speeds to support more devices. The price of a smart TV is decreasing, and more of these smart devices are going to market with these streaming apps already installed in the user experience. We have a generation of young people who are used to the YouTube-style of viewing. They don’t mind the advertising because they can get the content free when they want it – including sports and other live events. I think as households increase broadband speeds and add streaming services to supplement entertainment while spending time at home, they will be looking for cheaper subscriptions and are willing to pay less for a service with a few commercials versus a traditional TV service or an ad-free service.

Working from home has taught me…
Working from home has taught me that my connection to employees can be done effectively, virtually. To achieve this, I find you have to overcommunicate – your team is not across the hall anymore. Seeing you regularly, reminds them that you’re accessible and in tune with what is happening. My biggest advice – don’t be an over-emailer – it is easy to get in the grove of just sending an email. Technology allows us to see each other while we talk and a conversation is often quicker and better understood than a carefully crafted email that took you too much time to write and that the receiving end may skim or misconstrue. Nothing will ever replace the value of in-person discussions and I prefer in-person interactions, employee meetings, walking the office and sparking up conversations that are both business and personal in nature. When this is over, I will resume my preferred face to face interaction and meetings.

Number of subscriptions to streaming services:
Fortunately, COVID-19 didn’t change my perspective on streaming services, I don’t think about all the ones I am subscribed to as a consumer. As an ISP, I’d like to help everyone adopt that perspective and continue streaming for all their needs, television, music, home security, weddings … – there’s one I can really get behind especially since our primary focus is on broadband and commercial services.

What about travel used to annoy you but that now you actually miss?
Just interacting with others in eateries, airplanes, TSA lines and rental counters. I almost always spark up conversations with strangers in long lines and you just can’t do that online or working from home. I also spend a lot of time visiting our local markets, interacting with customers that walk into the payment centers. Now, I feel like I’m missing out on key insights on competitors and even my own company.

The future of broadband is…
 Awesome. I’m so proud to be in an industry where we are always thinking ahead, being the trendsetters and building for the future. Fortunately, we were in the middle of wrapping up a major network upgrade so we were well prepared for the huge increase in both broadband usage and the demand for new installs. COVID-19 may have helped to usher it in sooner, but I have no doubt that we as an industry will continue to boldly go, lead and serve in ways others have not.

When restaurants open back up, my first stop will be…
A good burger!! Isn’t that everyone’s answer?

Honored For: