It’s midsummer, which means two things: electric bills are up and Cablefax: The Magazine is honoring the achievements of independent cable operators and MSOs in its annual Top Ops issue. As we did last year, we’ve added awards beyond the top operators. So we have categories like: Customer Service, Project Launch of the Year and Strategic Thinker of the Year.

Another new wrinkle is we’ll ask our honorees to accept awards at our Programming Awards event in New York City in September. It makes sense to vary some of the awards year to year because in cable, nothing stands still, even if some of the top innovators have roots that go back to the industry’s family farm days.

Our independent operator Strategic Thinker of the Year Award honoree, Bob Gessner, for example, runs the cable operation in Massillon, Ohio, that was founded by his father Richard in 1965, but he’s anything but stuck in the past. ACA and NCTC praise Gessner’s tendency to solve problems cable operators aren’t yet facing, but surely will. Bresnan Communications, one of our Community Service Award recipients on the MSO side, takes as its spiritual leader its founder, Cable Pioneer Bill Bresnan, who remembers when the notion of pay TV was as outlandish as the suggestion that Internet users should pay to read online newspaper articles. But Bill’s insistence that a cable operator should immerse itself in its communities is hardly old-fashioned. His sense of responsibility should be a model for other business leaders. A little earned goodwill toward corporate America could go a long way right now.

We honor the scrappiness, innovation and good citizenship of all our Top Ops honorees and continue to find inspiration in their endless passion for a business that gets under the skin and stays there, sometimes for generations. Once again, we thank our friends at ACA and NCTC, who’ve been invaluable partners in helping us recognize worthy independent operators.

The 2009 Top Ops Awards were celebrated at a luncheon on Sept. 16 at New York’s Grand Hyatt.

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