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NCTA Vanguard Winners

May 18, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Paul G. Allen
Chairman of the board, Charter Communications
Vanguard Award: Science & Technology
How long in current position: 10 years
Born: 1953, Seattle, Wash.
Why chosen: “Receiving the industry’s Vanguard Award is an honor that means a great deal to me. The honor was aptly named by the NCTA. I believed a decade ago, when I invested in Charter, that cable was and continues to be the vanguard—a position of continued leadership in broadband networks.
“I’ve been fortunate to have been part of some great waves of change over the years. It’s easy to forget when you’re riding that wave that some very important technological achievements have taken place in a very short period of time. With the advent of high-definition TV, the DVR, cable telephony and bundling, I think cable’s future is brighter than ever. I’m proud to have played a part in the evolution of cable technology over the years and I continue to be a strong believer in the power of the cable network as a platform for new innovations.
“Charter launched the first simulcast, an analog/digital hybrid in Long Beach, Calif., in 2004 and also was first to offer consumers Digeo’s Moxi user interface. Exploring and pursuing innovative uses for cable’s advanced technologies is important to the industry.
“I’ve supported the transformation of Charter itself, which, along with its peers, has evolved from a single-service provider only a few years ago to a true multiservice broadband company today.
“The collaborative spirit of the people in the industry has been exciting for me. Working with CableLabs and technical leaders inside and outside the industry, future progress is hastened.”
Who knew? “I don’t just watch movies. My production company, Vulcan Productions, has won three Peabody Awards for documentary filmmaking over the past four years for ‘Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial,’ ‘No Direction Home: Bob Dylan’ and ‘Black Sky: Winning the X Prize.’”
Steven Brookstein
Executive vice president, operations, Bresnan Communications
Vanguard Award: Cable Operations Management
How long in current position: Since 2003
Born: 1953, Philadelphia
Why chosen: “This is truly a reflection of the entire Bresnan management team and all 1,200-plus of our dedicated and hard-working employees. I think Bresnan is being recognized because we took a collection of neglected and undermanaged cable properties and turned them into high-performing, highly competitive operations.
“Since the launch of digital telephone and thus the introduction of our triple-play bundling strategy, our subscriber and financial results have been outstanding. For example, when most cable operators were losing basic cable subscribers in 2007, we grew 2.2%. This year, through April, we’re pacing 60% ahead of last year’s basic growth.
“Also, our telephone penetration is among the highest in the industry after only three years. Today, 57% of our customers are in a bundle-having two or more services. We have more triple-play than double-play customers.
“Churn is down in all product categories. Plus, we have been out front with offering HD. Ninety-seven percent of our customers have HD available, with 90% having up to 30 HD channels, going to 50 by year-end. We also have a very robust business offering, providing data and telephone services to commercial customers.
“Last, but certainly not least, we are providing outstanding customer service as measured by all of our customer metrics. At the end of the day, we’re very proud to be bringing to smaller communities in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah the full array of advanced video, data and telephony services that consumers have available to them in major markets across the country.
“One of our biggest challenges has been doing everything in a very accelerated pace, because the competitive environment demands it. It’s our determination to always stay ahead of competition.”
Who knew: “I started in the business as a disc jockey called Little Stevie in Philadelphia and went on to be the producer of the local ‘Bozo the Clown’ show, and then made personal appearances as Robin of ‘Batman and Robin.’ Now I’m a cable guy.”
Sam Howe
Executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Time Warner Cable
Vanguard Award: Marketing
How long in current position: Since 2005
Born: 1955, Chicago
Why chosen: “It’s unexpected but nice. I’ve had the opportunity in the past three to four years to make a strong re-entry into cable after a break working with a dot-com. It’s great to have distance and be back in an industry that’s nearly as entrepreneurial, but with greater resources and commitment. I joined Time Warner Cable to launch digital phone in 2003, and it turned out to be a home run, and helped me move forward. I remember the first 50 customers in Maine and I’m proud to see it crest 3 million this year. It was a piece of innovation and success that the industry noted, which I guess in terms of the Vanguard Award meets the standard of leadership innovation.
“I’ve contributed to work on the DTV transition, and prior to that, helping NCTA with their campaign ‘Cable Competes,’ a 2006 effort to raise the profile in a competitive and regulative world that required marketing thinking. Leadership has also been demonstrated on the industry front, and it’s a pleasure to work with CTAM and NCTA.
“In marketing, the whiz factor is trying to figure out what really matters in promotion, product, positioning and sales-force management. Birthing and driving a three-year brand initiative, ‘The Power of You,’ has been my job-to bring it to life with consumers and inside the company. It’s not just a tagline; it says that we understand they’re in control of their communications. But equally, we’ve worked hard on price-lock guarantees to ensure customers get a better value. We’ve recently put on competitive messaging that calls out the deficits of our competitors. E-tail has become an area where we’ve seen huge growth and we’ve invested. Competition heightens acuity, and the marketplace is seeing a lot of whizzes emerge and it happens to be my year. A lot of people’s games are going up because the competitive pace is quickening.”
Who knew: “I was a radio disc jockey on Cape Cod and morphed into a radio newsman in New Bedford, Mass. I hope my retirement career is going back to radio and running a talk show or playing music.”
Kenneth Lowe
President and CEO, the E.W. Scripps Co.
Vanguard Award: Programmers
How long in current position: Since 2000
Born: 1950, Mt. Airy, N.C.
Why chosen: “I think it’s recognition of the folks who started HGTV, Food, DIY—the whole body of work. It’s not a personal award, but more about the people who came together to help start these networks and who believed in the dream and made it happen. It’s a very prestigious award that all of us have cared deeply about, and to finally be given this award is the cherry on the sundae. All of our folks are taking great pride, and we celebrate as a team.
“Early on it was challenging, getting people in the industry to recognize these were valid ideas for cable and had a place in the universe. It was a bit challenging getting doors to open initially, especially for a company with no experience in the cable network business. Right at the beginning, there was a lot of pessimism and skepticism. The initial pushback was daunting, but there was obviously an audience kind of waiting for these things to come along in the early days. Our people did a great job in connecting with viewers, and there were call centers and then Web sites. The networks have resonated with viewers; our folks continue to keep our quality level high and expectations of audiences continue to be met.
“When we launched in 1994 at NCTA, they put us back by the men’s room, and we tried to get guys going in and out. It was pretty discouraging. That year 102 cable networks launched, and only two survived: HGTV and the History networks.
“As you get growth and age, a word called ‘telegation’ [meaning TV delegation] becomes more important. I don’t do it all or all the things I used to. As we evolve, as new eyeballs and ears come in to the organization, you see things differently. It’s become less about me and more about the people who populate our networks.”
Who knew: “I have a passion for anything on wheels. I love to collect cars, and it’s a fun passion that I share with my dad. Also, I’m a frustrated architect—a little spilled over into HGTV—and at one point thought about studying architecture.”
Carol A. Melton
Executive vice president, global public policy, Time Warner Inc.
Vanguard Award: Government & Community Relations
How long in current position: Since June 2005
Born: 1954, St. Augustine, Fla.
Why chosen: “I’m one of those still standing, decades into working for this industry. Since starting as a young NCTA lawyer in 1983, I’ve handled many different issues from lots of vantage points. It’s nice to be recognized for having operated from the front lines in Washington, as well as from the business side across many years, not only within the NCTA circle but from within two of the biggest media players. It’s a small band of us who can say we worked on the 1984 cable deregulation bill, the unfortunate ‘re-regulation’ in 1992 and the 1996 Telecom Act.
“When I started, it was a world dominated by broadcasters, and the NAB ruled the political landscape. When cable was able to get itself on a more competitive regulatory footing in the mid-’80s, the industry began its tremendous growth in subscribers and programming.
“Part of the fun I’ve had in representing companies with many diverse assets has been the perspective that has given me to understand issues from differing, and sometimes even competing, sides. It’s one of the skill-sets I bring to the table that can help derive workable solutions for MSOs, programmers and the broader entertainment companies, particularly as we transition to the digital world of television, video-on-demand, mobile content and Internet distribution.
“We’ve seen this industry completely transformed, yet the political landscape sometimes doesn’t reflect this changed business environment. You can sometimes feel like Bill Murray in ‘Groundhog Day,’ continuing to engage in some of the same battles and issues, like must-carry, that have gone on for decades. Government has a tendency to address yesterday’s problems, rather than fostering ideas that might end up being more innovative and provide better consumer value. So the challenge still remains to try to convince Washington regulators we get it; that the customer really does call the shots for our industry.”
Who knew: “While I’ve been in Washington for 30 years now, growing up happily in a coastal town in Florida remains a big part of my background. And sitting on a beach burrowing into a great book continues to be a very appealing aspiration.”
Bret Perkins
Vice president of government affairs, Comcast Cable Corp.
Vanguard Award: Young Leadership
How long in current position: Since 2005, at Comcast since 2001
Born: 1969, New Haven, Conn.
Why chosen: “Other than they probably figured it would get me to shut up about leadership, we have gone through an incredible period of transition in government affairs in the cable industry, and I’ve been fortunate to help develop and create the government affairs function at Comcast-and I think that we’re among the best at what we do.
“We grew from an organization primarily responsible for local government and federal affairs to one that now does it all. In six years, our team has grown for being responsible for 1,200 communities in 22 states to 6,400 in 39 states.
“At the same time, if you look at the environment in which we’re operating, it’s grown incredibly more complex. Six years ago, if you asked who the main competitor was, the answer was satellite. At the time, we were just a cable company and now we are the largest cable provider in the country, the second largest broadband provider and the fourth largest phone provider in the country. With that, we had to develop a much more sophisticated government relations capacity.
“We’ve always been a company that prided itself on being entrepreneurial, and we have to work diligently to ensure that the playing field is fair and level. The number of government agencies that have some jurisdiction over us has increased as well on the local, state and federal levels, so we work with city councils, state legislators, Congress and the FCC.
“More business folks are recognizing how government can shape our business, and its growth. We want to make sure the people making those decisions are well-educated about those issues and do no harm. The way the industry is going, every three months there’s something new.”
Who knew: “I’m a pizza aficionado. I will travel anywhere for good pizza and I can give you the best places in the United States. I’ve also juggled a soccer ball more than 1,000 times, at the age of 36.”
Michael Pohl
Former president, global strategies, C-COR; currently consulting for Arris
Vanguard Award: Associates and Affiliates
Born: 1951, Los Angeles
Why chosen: “I was completely humbled and surprised, and needless to say, I am incredibly flattered to receive this recognition by my peers.
“I have been involved in this industry for almost 30 years across the country, but actually I came to it from the City of Los Angeles, where I worked for Mayor Tom Bradley.
“I was drawn to this new television business and what it could do, and went to work for a cable operator for several years. The last 10-plus years I have been working for technology companies that supply next-generation products for the cable industry. We brought the first nPVR to market, and we were early in the on- demand market, supplying New York and L.A. markets.
“It’s very exciting to be around honest, great people and fun to be in an industry where there are really no rules or roadmaps. Who knew people would embrace pay television, or on-demand?
“Recently I have been involved in taking those companies through several acquisitions, ending last year with Arris, a major supplier of technology to service providers. I am very happy to see that they are continuing the commitment to the on-demand and next-generation advertising technology needs that will ensure those markets thrive.
“New industries need lots of support. I have a good understanding of the power of Washington, D.C., having worked there for many years .That is why I have been very active in public policy areas. Also, new industries need other areas of support, like the industry’s Cable Positive initiatives, and these are important programs to support.
“Some people would tell you I never sleep, but that’s not quite true. I have been very lucky to be in the right place at the right time to watch the possibilities play out. There is more to come and luckily I think there are lots of people smarter than me working to make it successful.”
Who knew: “I don’t eat to live, I live to eat. I enjoy the experience. You can put everything in the category when it comes to food.”

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