By Lee Alan Hill
Special to TelevisionWeek
When Decker Anstrom, president and chief operating officer of Landmark Communications, and Abbe Raven, president and CEO of A&E Networks, pick up their Vanguard Awards for Distinguished Leadership this week at the 2005 National Show in San Francisco, they will become part of the cable industry’s 40-year tradition of honoring its best.
“The Vanguards mean more in the cable industry than any other award,” said Char Beales, president and CEO of CTAM, herself a two-time Vanguard winner-for marketing in 1995 and distinguished leadership the following year.
“It’s important because it comes from the big kahuna in our industry, the NCTA [National Cable & Telecommunications Association],” Ms. Beales said. “And it also recognizes that you’re doing something for the good of the industry, not just your particular company. That speaks volumes.”
Eleven industry leaders will be saluted in eight categories during the NCTA’s 54th Annual Convention & International Exposition at the Moscone West Convention Center. The ceremony takes place at an evening reception April 4.
“It really is the warmest part of the convention,” said Barbara York, the NCTA’s chief administrative officer and senior VP for industry affairs. “For the honorees it has a cachet, because they can look at the past winners and see the most impressive roster of people who have shaped this industry. It really means they are in that league.”
Indeed, a list of past Vanguard winners reads like a who’s who of cable. Some, such as Ted Turner, who has won twice-for distinguished leadership and for programming-are known to the general public, while the vast majority range from up-and-comers to industry legends whose names rarely appear in the consumer press.
This year the list includes ESPN President George Bodenheimer and Johnathan Rodgers, president and CEO of one of the newest and fastest-growing cable networks, TV One. Both are being honored as Vanguard programmers.
Steve Miron, president of Advance/Newhouse, is this year’s winner for young leadership, an award that annually goes to someone under 40. Leslie Ellis, an analyst, columnist and author, is the Vanguard honoree for associates and affiliates, an award that recognizes service suppliers and equipment manufacturers.
Wilt Hildenbrand, Cablevision executive VP of engineering and technology, who rebuilt his company’s broadband network, is being honored in the category of science and technology. Stephen Rizley, VP and region manager, Arizona, for Cox Communications, and Barry Rosenblum, executive VP, Time Warner Cable, are taking home awards for cable operations management.
Comcast Executive VP David Cohen is being honored for government and community relations, and Lori McFarling, senior VP of distribution and marketing strategy for Discovery Networks, is the winner for marketing.
The awards began in 1965 with an honor to Bill Daniels, considered the father of cable TV for his pioneering efforts as founder of of community TV (CATV) systems. At the time, the awards were given only for distinguished leadership.
The other categories evolved through the years. A discretionary President’s Award, always separate from the Vanguards, was discontinued in the early 1990s.
The award was named the Vanguard 20 years ago. Before that the Distinguished Leadership Awards, given to one male and one female, were known as the Larry Boggs and Idell Kaitz awards, respectively. Mr. Boggs was a cable pioneer and Ms. Kaitz an early cable advocate.
Similarly, the Young Leadership Award was originally called the Jerry Greene Award, named for the founder of the Harriscope Cable Corp.
“The Vanguards recognize that you’ve done work for the overall industry,” said Nick Davatzes, the Awards Committee chairman and a two-time Vanguard winner, who recently stepped down as head of A&E Networks. “It really is given by your peers.”
As this past year’s committee chair, Mr. Davatzes is the only person openly known to be involved in the selection process. Identities of the other NCTA board members and past Vanguard winners who chose this year’s winners are kept secret.
Longevity in the industry is not an eligibility factor, though cumulative service is considered.
Candidates who participate in NCTA outreach and community efforts and those who give their time to other foundations and organizations usually have a better chance of recognition, Ms. York said.
“These really are leadership awards-leadership in the overall industry, not just corporate achievement,” she said. “The Vanguard winners are those who have gone above and beyond.”