As today’s cable leaders prepare to gather in Denver for this fall’s “Cable Connection,” Multichannel News reached out to some of the leaders who helped shape the industry in the first place.
Many played pivotal roles in developing the programming cable now offers and the means to deliver it; or fought to deregulate the industry; or championed diversity and compensation; or set the pace for future technological innovations.
Though they may have drifted momentarily from the spotlight, they continue to leave their mark in a variety of other areas, from media, public relations and consulting to education, government and philanthropy.
Several of these high-profile executives are dedicating their time, talents and even personal wealth to giving back to society through charitable and cultural enterprises — from consulting with the Chinese government about setting up philanthropic efforts there to establishing an arts center on the upstate New York farm where the historic Woodstock concert took place. Others have turned their passion and acumen to launching or nurturing new entrepreneurial ventures — everything from operating online universities or holistic clinics to investing in the development of water-free urinals.
All continue to watch the industry closely, providing their support and guidance to cable’s next generation of leaders.
Here’s a roundup of some of the industry’s most influential names, with a look back at their careers in cable and what they’ve been up to since.
THEN: After graduating from trade school on the G.I. Bill in 1951, Alan Gerry went back to his hometown of Liberty in upstate New York and opened a TV sales and repair shop. Within a few years, he was building his first cable system. The reason was simple: He wanted to sell more TV sets, and cable was a good way to accomplish that goal. He eventually sold the repair and retail operations to fully concentrate on cable.
Cablevision Industries Inc. was the first privately held cable company to successfully float public bonds, Gerry said. By the mid-1990s, CVI served 1.3 million customers and Gerry finally decided it was time to sell. Time Warner Inc. purchased the company for $2.8 billion in 1996.
“It was a great run for a country boy,” Gerry said.
NOW: When Gerry sold CVI, he had every intention of getting right back into the cable industry. Instead, he bought Max Yasgur’s farm — the site of the historic 1969 Woodstock Music & Arts Fair — not far from his hometown. Gerry turned it into Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, a tourist attraction and music venue that has helped jump-start the local economy in Sullivan County, the second-poorest in New York.
The Gerry Family Foundation transformed the farm — and 2,000 surrounding acres — into a bucolic haven for summer music festivals that includes a Woodstock museum. The center recently hosted the 40th anniversary event for Woodstock. “The interest from the public has been amazing,” Gerry said, adding that the project isn’t profitable.
Gerry, his wife Sandy, and their family foundation have also started a clean-up program in many of the county’s towns, rehabilitating old buildings and main streets. The foundation funded the construction of a medical center in nearby Orange County, the first new such facility built in the state in 30 years, as well as a hospital in Sullivan County. The area’s real-estate market has rebounded; employment is up.
“There is a new vitality that has not existed for years here,” he said with pride. “I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m a reasonably satisfied man that enjoys life and enjoys giving back.”
LEO J. HINDERY JR.
THEN: No one would consider Leo Hindery a hippie, but he is often remembered as the architect of the cable industry’s “summer of love.” As president of Tele-Communications Inc. in 1997, Hindery orchestrated a series of mergers, partnerships and system sales that created geographic clusters making it easier and more cost-effective for operators to do business. Ever the dealmaker, Hindery and TCI chairman John Malone convinced AT&T in 1998 to buy the cable operator in a deal worth $48 billion. Hindery left AT&T Broadband in 1999 to run GlobalCenter, a telecom firm. He joined YES Network as chairman and CEO in 2001.
Hindery has also written a couple of books — The Biggest Game of All (2003) and It Takes a CEO: It’s Time to Lead With Integrity (2005) — raced Porsches professionally (he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 2005); and stumped for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
NOW: Today, Hindery is managing partner of InterMedia Partners VII, which owns The Sportsman Channel and recently purchased Vibe Lifestyle Network. He also recently cofounded Journalism Online, a company that helps newspaper and magazine publishers monetize digital content.
He remains involved in many industry and academic organizations. He is chairman of the Smart Globalization Initiative at the New America Foundation and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is a trustee of New School University, vice chairman of the Paley Center for Media, and a director of the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council and Teach for America. He is also a member of the Board of Visitors of the Columbia School of Journalism.
Hindery keeps a close eye on the cable industry, and he’s proud of his legacy of advocating for diversity and compensating every employee fairly. “I pushed hard for changes in how we operated and treated our employees,” he said. “If it came across as too aggressive, I regret that. But I was pushing for the right things.”
THEN: Kay Koplovitz was the first woman to run a television network when she founded USA Network’s predecessor, the original Madison Square Garden Network, in 1977. She negotiated some of the first sports contracts for cable, signing deals with Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the Masters golf tournament and U.S. Open tennis tournament. She went on to launch Sci Fi Channel (now Syfy) in 1992.
In the late ’90s, Koplovitz left USA Networks and formed Koplovitz & Co., a media investment firm with investments in various media, biotechnology and technology companies.
NOW: Last year her company bought Joy Berry Enterprises, a collection of over 250 self-help books for kids that have generated over $400 million in worldwide sales. Koplovitz is transforming the company into a multimedia powerhouse.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. She was elected to the Liz Claiborne Inc. board in 1992 and became its chairman in 2007. She serves on the boards of a number of nonprofit organizations including the Paley Center for Media and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In 1998, then-President Clinton appointed Koplovitz to chair the National Women’s Business Council. She used that platform to launch Springboard Enterprises, a nonprofit venture capital firm designed to fund women-run businesses. It’s clearly a project that is near and dear to her heart.
“I wanted to do something different,” Koplovitz said. “Very few women-run companies were being backed by venture capital back then. I found that there were a lot of women who ran their companies well but they didn’t know where to go to for capital. In 2000, we launched Springboard Enterprises. We had 350 companies apply for our support and we presented 26 companies to venture capitalists. Of those, 22 got funded. To date, we’ve presented 380 companies out of 5,000 applicants, and those companies have raised more than $4.5 billion. When we started Springboard, only 1.7% of venture capital went to women-run companies. Today, more than 7% of venture capital goes to women-run businesses. It’s been exciting to see those businesses thrive and grow.”
THEN: Jerry Maglio is a jack-of-all-trades. He’s had more cable jobs than most executives during his 30 years in the business.
Maglio served as the top marketing executive at American Television & Communications (now Time Warner Cable). He also served as the chief marketing and programming executive at Daniels & Associates and United Artists Cable. Maglio was the head of Doubleday & Co.’s Literary Guild of America unit in 1976 when ATC recruited him to take over marketing. He was part of a wave of outside experts that cable companies were hiring to improve their marketing efforts in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1980, he left ATC to become the founding president of Rainbow Programming Services. In 1981, Maglio started his own consulting firm, providing marketing expertise to various media-industry clients. But Starz lured him back into the corporate realm in 2004 to serve as executive vice president of marketing. He stayed for a couple of years but has since moved on.
Maglio said he was able to be so successful because he had sat on both sides of the negotiating table, as an operator and a programmer, and understood what each side needed. But he also wasn’t afraid to step out of the box. Maglio was one of the first cable marketers to package multiple premium services and pay-per-view into bundles. He took some heat and ribbing when Rainbow launched Escapade, which later was transformed into Playboy TV; but he knew that adult programming was going to be financially successful for cable — and it was.
NOW: Today, Maglio is investing in residential and commercial real estate and travels extensively. He said he’s using skills he learned during his days in cable when entrepreneurs bought cable systems, fixed them up and sold them.
“I think Bill [Daniels, one of the industry’s first cable brokers and consummate dealmakers] is looking down on me and smiling,” Maglio said. “Just about everything he taught me, I am still using today.”
THEN: James Mooney was one of the chief strategists in convincing Congress to deregulate the cable industry. As president of the National Cable Television Association from 1984 to 1993, Mooney was the face of the trade group on Capitol Hill and was instrumental in getting the Cable Deregulation Act of 1984 passed. Before joining the NCTA, Mooney served as chief of staff to the majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives.
NOW: Mooney is a managing partner in JLM Partners, a Seattle-based public relations and corporate communications firm that he runs with his wife, Louise.
“We take only a limited number of clients, so the service we provide to each account is pretty intimate and intense,” Mooney said. “All of our clients are in the CE, cable, broadband and wireless industries, and all of them are technology front-runners.”
Mooney now lives on Bainbridge Island, which is a 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.
“Our house is on Rich Passage, and has a wonderful English garden with a grass lawn running down to the water. We love it here,” Mooney said.
He still pays attention to regulatory issues in the cable industry — old habits die hard — but he admits not as intensely as he used to. “Sometimes I miss the daily political hurly-burly, but most of the time I don’t. This morning I watched an interview on CNBC with a senator who evidently doesn’t understand that commodity contracts are a bet on future prices, not current ones, and who was insistent that Goldman Sachs, more or less all by itself, caused the recession. So this is one of the days that I don’t miss Washington, but I continue to take endless amusement from it,” he said.
“It’s not an exaggeration to say that cable, with its plethora of news programs and high-speed data capacity, is a heavy component of the technology revolution that allows people like Louise and me to live and work in the far reaches of the Pacific Northwest and still be totally connected to the world,” Mooney said. “We identify strongly with the cable industry, and continue to try and do our bit.”
THEN: Marc Nathanson got his start in the cable business by selling cable door-to-door in the mid-1960s. He worked for Hamscope Cable, running Able Cable, a small 2,000-subscriber system in Malibu, Calif. He eventually went to work for Jack Kent Cooke at TelePrompTer as vice president of marketing. Before he was 30, he left to start Falcon Cable TV. By the time he sold the company to Charter Communications for $3.6 billion in 1999, Falcon counted about 1 million customers.
After four decades, Marc Nathanson’s last ties to cable were severed when he stepped down from the Charter Communications board in 2008. He served as a Charter director for eight years and enjoyed his time there, just as he enjoyed his time as an active member of the industry.
“I loved the business and I loved the people in the business,” Nathanson said. “But there are two types of business people: those who sold their properties and wanted to stay actively involved in the business; and those who go on to other things. When I sold Falcon Communications in 1999 to Charter, I stayed on the board. But I chose to be active in other areas. I went into the public sector.”
Some of that activism began before he sold Falcon. In 1995, Nathanson was appointed by President Clinton to serve on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, created in 1994 to oversee U.S. international broadcasting efforts. The board oversees such well-known outlets as Radio Martí, Radio Free Europe and Voice of America. Nathanson served as the board’s chairman in 1998.
NOW: Nathanson sits on the Board of the Aspen Institute and is currently the vice chairman of the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs. He has also made a number of venture-capital investments, including one in a company that held patents for a water-free urinal.
“We named the company Falcon Waterfree Management Systems,” he said. “I’m not involved in any of the day-to-day management.”
Nathanson remains “devoted to governmental and community service,” and credits the cable industry with having given him “all the skills necessary to be successful in that environment.”
“I have been given so much,” he said, “and I want to spend the rest of my life giving back.”