With a field comprised of engineers, programming giants, lobbyists and the founder of the first 100% woman-owned cable system, this year’s class of Cable Pioneers touches nearly every aspect of the industry.
Cable Television Pioneers, now in its 49th year, salutes 16 new Pioneers who have made significant, groundbreaking contributions to cable television. Many of this year’s Pioneers got their start in cable’s still-wild youth in the late ’70s and early ’80s, and were instrumental in its development into a mature industry.
The lobbying efforts of Bob Ryan in the ’80s and ’90s, for example, helped the cable business survive a difficult period in its history. Steve Wilkerson’s work on behalf of Florida’s cable operators served as blueprint for companies nationwide.
And then there are those whose efforts spurred cable on to challenge and then eclipse broadcast’s hold on the nation’s eyeballs, such as Josh Sapan, who grew AMC into a programming powerhouse, and Doug McCormick, who led the transformation of Lifetime into one of the biggest television brands for women.
This year’s class also includes a true pioneer, Patricia Jo Boyers, who in 1979 launched Boyers Communications, a 100% woman-owned cable system.
Each member of this year’s class of Pioneers has contributed to the ongoing success of the cable industry. They will be honored this Monday evening (May 4) in a ceremony at the Palmer House in Chicago, coinciding with INTX: The Internet & Television Expo.
Profiles in this section were written and reported by Craig Kuhl.
PATRICIA JO BOYERS
One of the cable industry’s true pioneering women, Patricia Jo Boyers began placing buried cables and bores for the telecommunications industry in 1979 when she launched her 100% woman-owned enterprise, Boyers Communications.
Thirty-six years later, as president and CEO of her company, Boyers has reached Pioneer status.
Boyers and her husband, Steve, literally built the company from the ground up, becoming first-generation cable operators in 1992 after transitioning from contractor to MSO, serving rural areas in southeast Missouri. Her resume reflects the hands-on, entrepreneurial spirit of the early cable pioneers. A case in point is her willingness to assume every responsibility at her company — from CEO duties to plowing drops.
She has also found time to give back to her industry and community, serving on the board of directors of the American Cable Association since 2007 and currently acting as the organization’s vice chairman.
Her numerous community efforts include serving as a three-time Missouri delegate to the U.S. Small Business Summit and numerous local and state appointed board positions.
John Dalhlquist has seen his share of changes over a 48-year cable career that began in 1967, as a rookie technician with the iconic electronics company Jerrold, and culminating with his being selected as a Cable Pioneer.
Over his 48 years in the business, Dahlquist has held numerous positions within Jerrold and its parent company, General Instrument, and later with Magnavox, Harmonic and most recently Aurora Networks. Along the way he has witnessed cable’s historic growth.
From his early days as a designer and tester of amplifier modules, taps, connector chassis and all things cable, to his most recent position as vice president of business development for Aurora Networks, Dahlquist has been an integral part of the industry’s growth.
He has published numerous papers on emerging technologies specifically aimed at boosting the efficiency of cable-network powering. Early in his career, he was instrumental in developing the historically significant Starline 300 amplifier.
From customer service and sales to technical skills, Larry Eby’s career has been rooted in cable’s core business and operational values.
Eby entered the cable industry in 1993 as a trainer. It wasn’t long before his early grounding and experience in nearly every facet of the cable business would lead him to help launch cable companies such as Galaxy Cablevision, NewWave Communications and most recently Vast Broadband, which serves more than 50,000 customers in three states.
It also has led to his being named a Cable Pioneer.
Eby has held positions including vice president of operations and president, and was a key senior manager for NewWave during its growth spurt in the mid-2000s.
As co-founder and chief operating officer of Vast Broadband, he is responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations.
Eby’s impact on the cable industry doesn’t end there. He has been involved with the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, the American Cable Association and other regional and local industry groups. He served on the board of the National Cable Television Cooperative for 10 years and has volunteered with various civic organizations in Sikeston, Mo.
In 1976, newly minted Pioneer Tom Gorman launched his cable career as an installer with fledgling MSO Amvideo, where he would eventually oversee construction of new plant in Virginia and New Jersey.
Those formative years at Amvideo would prepare him for stints with Caltech Cablevision, Comcast, Jones Intercable, Jedai Broadband Networks and Charter Communications, where he served in several executive positions, and for his current position as founder and president of opXL, a consulting firm specializing in workforce management, systems, training and other disciplines.
Most notably, Gorman was a key figure in developing the cable industry’s first fiber-optic transport deployment. He was also involved in building the first fiber rings around Washington, D.C.
Gorman’s service to the industry goes beyond the many operational and technical contributions, though. He has been an active Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers member since 1982, serving as its chairman from 2007 to 2009.
His community involvement includes mentoring homeless families through the Denver Rescue Mission and serving on the committee for Young Life, a non-denominational youth organization.
For 30 years, Andrew Heller has established himself as an innovative and progressive cable leader with strong business acumen and extraordinary legal insights. Those attributes have led him into the 2015 class of Cable Pioneers.
His work with the industry-wide “TV Everywhere” over-the-top video initiative helped generate the next-generation operating model for both consumers and content providers.
Heller, who retired from Turner as vice chairman in 2013, began his cable career as senior counsel for HBO in 1985, a position which afforded him great vision into the inner workings of the industry.
He would eventually be named associate general counsel at Time Warner Cable in 1990 and in 1998 would lead Turner’s content distribution strategy and its sales and marketing activities.
His belief in “paying it forward” is evident in several ways, including his mentoring of other cable-industry professionals and his recognition by the T. Howard Foundation for his work as a champion of diversity.
When Cable Pioneer Ken Klaer was a sophomore at Georgia Tech and a Scientific-Atlanta co-op employee in 1979, he didn’t realize he’d be part of a historic moment — the launch of S-A’s first set-top box.
Klaer would eventually be hired by S-A and spend the next 35 years rising through the company’s ranks while becoming an integral part of its growth and success.
He led the company’s transition from analog to digital and drove its international digital expansion, delivering 42% compound annual growth from 2008 through 2011. In the meantime, Klaer steered R&D efforts toward developing a cutting-edge video-on-demand application, resulting in a 27% increase in market share in three years.
Klaer’s long cable career has led to his recent position as senior vice president of premises technology for Comcast, where he leads the effort in developing innovative CPE devices.
He has served on the YMCA board for several years and in 2011 was named its Volunteer of the Year.
With her roots firmly planted in cable, Sam Klosterman’s journey through the industry has led her from American Television and Communications (now Time Warner Cable) to Liberty Media, Starz, Comcast and currently to research firm SNL Kagan, where she works as an analyst.
At each stop, she has advanced through new technology developments, holding several management positions and contributing her team leadership skills, most notably to the launch of the TV Interactive Guide, while spearheading successful new network launches while at Liberty Media.
At Comcast, Klosterman directed the commercial distribution team during nationwide deployments of the Headend In the Sky (HITS) digital platform, HD networks, video-on-demand platforms and other TV applications.
Along the way, she has worked at successful startup companies while creating new channels for the industry.
She also gives back, having served as a past president of the Rocky Mountain chapter of CTAM (now the Rocky Mountain Cable Association). A graduate of Women In Cable Telecommunications’s Betsy Magness Institute, she is also an award winning adviser for the WICT Forum and was on the original “Tech It Out” day-long seminar developed to interest more women in new technology.
DAVID LORENZI JR.
David Lorenzi’s path to the cable industry was relatively unassuming — installing basic cable services as a contractor in three Eastern states. It’s a path taken by many in the cable industry.
For Lorenzi, it would lead to Cable Pioneer status, with a litany of innovative engineering developments, plant upgrades and rebuilds to his credit over a 31-year career.
Cutting his teeth at the smallish American Communications Installations in 1984, Lorenzi would move on to Storer Cable (now Comcast) and begin assuming more responsibilities, including all upgrades and rebuilds in New Jersey.
He has been instrumental in Comcast’s plant construction, both residential and commercial, and currently serves on the company’s standards team.
Now Comcast’s vice president of business operations and implementation, Next Generation Access Networks, Lorenzi’s footprint on the industry as a whole is indeed wide.
That footprint also extends beyond cable, where he is a volunteer firefighter and supporter of several local sports teams.
Fresh from a four-year stint in as a radioman in the U.S. Navy, Andrew McCarthy found Phoenix to be the ideal spot to start his cable career. And so he did, using his RF training to become field engineer for American Cable Television, circa 1979.
Those early years would provide the training ground for McCarthy’s rise to become one of the industry’s most impactful figures.
Most notably, his pioneering efforts in preventive maintenance and service quality programs would become benchmarks for the industry. He would also help combine the SCTE’s certification program with NCTI foundational courses for industry technicians.
Armed with this valuable experience, McCarthy would join Comcast to oversee its headend networks throughout New England, culminating in his current role as regional vice president of engineering and network operations for Western New England.
He has assumed roles beyond the cable industry as well, serving as board member of the Connecticut Technology Council and on several local community boards.
Gaining recognition as an entrepreneur, business leader and civic activist is a rare achievement. Yet for newly minted Cable Pioneer Doug McCormick, that recognition defines his 36-year career both within and outside of the cable industry.
Entering cable during the industry’s formative years in the early 1980s in ad sales at the fledgling Cable Health Network, McCormick would eventually become Lifetime Medical Television’s president and CEO and later morph the network into today’s Lifetime, “Television for Women.”
His strong support for women’s groups and issues, along with his tireless work in the fight against cancer as president of New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Cancer Research and Treatment Fund — for which he received the hospital’s prestigious Humanitarian Award — have truly earned him pioneer status.
Currently a partner with Rho Ventures focusing on investments in new media, including vertical advertising networks, interactive TV and more, he is a member of Ovation TV’s board of directors and an adviser to several other networks.
Beyond his cable activities, McCormick continues his participation in church, community and activist causes and associations, including mentoring veterans to identify their strengths for success in school, work and life.
During the full-throttle franchising years of the 1980s, Bob Ryan was nonstop in securing franchises for Continental Cablevision in St. Louis and Chicago, and then throughout the Midwest. Little did he know his efforts would lead to membership in the 2015 class of Cable Pioneers.
Franchising also meant compliance issues, renewals, political strategies, community and government relations and a host of other components to a successful franchise, all of which Ryan has overseen during his 36-year cable career.
His lobbying efforts for the 1984 Cable Act and 1996 Telecommunications Act, along with his stance against the 1992 Cable Act, were vital in helping the fledgling industry through a difficult period.
Ryan was also instrumental in the 1984 formation of the Illinois Cable Association and has served on several boards within and outside of the cable industry, including the Civic Advisory Board for the Niagara Foundation in Chicago, a foundation that promotes global peace and free speech.
With roots planted in the legendary cable TV company TelePrompTer, Josh Sapan’s 37-year cable career has left a wide footprint and a legacy of innovation, vision and strategic creativity.
His deft guidance as CEO of AMC Networks since 1995 and the building of some of television’s most identifiable brands — including Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead and Rectify — earned him the 2012 Paley Prize for Innovation and Excellence.
Yet Sapan’s contributions to the industry go well beyond AMC. He spearheaded the development of the Bravo arts network, which launched in 1980 and fearlessly embraced the technology that drives the industry.
He was among the industry’s early adopters and champions of video on demand and has tirelessly promoted it from the onset.
Also overseeing IFC Films, he pioneered a strategy of same-day theatrical and VOD release, now a model used throughout the industry.
Sapan currently serves on numerous industry boards, including The Cable Center, the Paley Center for Media and others.
For 35 years, Cable Pioneer Joe Schramm has been considered one of the industry’s most innovative and creative marketing minds, guiding companies through the gauntlet of customer acquisitions and retention.
His first cable position as manager of an innovative not-for-profit called TeLIcommunity on Long Island in 1979 would provide him with experience he would draw upon for years to come.
Throughout his career, Schramm has served in various marketing positions for Nostalgia Channel, Rainbow Media and Cablevision Systems, all of which prepared him for the creation of Team Services and then Schramm Marketing Group.
Since 1993, Schramm Marketing has driven much of cable’s growth in multicultural markets for MSOs such as Charter Communications, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and networks including A&E, ESPN, HBO and MTV.
He also finds time to give back, serving as vice chairperson of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation. He is also a board member of the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York and a current member of the Paley Center Media Commission.
In 1974, Alex Swann would begin a 40-year odyssey through the cable industry by running the only local channel in smallish Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. What happened next would leave a lasting imprint on multiple disciplines in the cable industry.
Swann would sign on with Ted Turner’s newly launched CNN, where he was hired for the high-pressure role of content creator at a 24/7 network, circa 1980. He did it all, from camera and TelePrompTer operator to reporter on assignment.
In cable’s go-go decade of the ’80s, Swann would assume the role of journalist and communications professional for CNN and help create the Goodwill Games in Moscow while playing an integral role CNN’s international launch.
Swann’s journalism career moved him to the trade press during the 1990s, where he covered every aspect of the cable industry.
Armed with years of experience and a thorough knowledge of cable’s history and unprecedented growth, Swann joined Arris to help convey the story of cable’s technological advancements. He remains at Arris as senior director of global industry events and relations.
He has served in leadership positions at several cable industry associations and volunteers in his home city of Atlanta.
His titles — chief financial officer, executive vice president and treasurer — indicate the important roles Mark Stephan has played over nearly 20 years at Rocco Commisso’s Mediacom Communications.
Along the way, he has seen the industry grow far beyond just retransmitting TV signals, and raised billions of dollars in private equity and bank financing to invest in those new businesses. He helped take Mediacom public in 2000, and helped lead the company to a position of financial strength after Mediacom went private again 11 years later.
Before joining Mediacom in 1996, he was vice president of finance at Cablevision Industries, working alongside Commisso, Alan Gerry and company. Before that, he was manager of the media and telecom finance group of Royal Bank of Canada in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where he first forged ties with his later longtime boss.
This new Cable Pioneer is now considered the longest-tenured CFO in the cable business, while outside of cable he is an avid supporter of local community causes.
Steve Wilkerson’s 28-year tenure with the Florida Cable Telecommunications Association (FCTA) and his impact on countless cable issues in the state and the nation have earned him a place in the Cable Pioneer class of 2015.
During his rookie year with the Florida association in 1987, Wilkerson helped pass nation’s first state franchising law, assuring that all cable franchises were structured on a level playing field.
A relentless lobbyist for the cable industry, Wilkerson’s work to defeat a Miami-Dade County campaign for “Open Access” by Internet-based industries was a blueprint for similar strategies nationwide.
In addition, his work as executive producer of FCTA public-affairs programming has earned the trade group nine Beacon Awards from the Association of Cable Communicators.
For nearly three decades, his fostering of relationships with state and industry associations has created closer working relationships inside and outside of the cable industry.
As a deacon in his local church, Wilkerson provides counseling and referral services for people with various mental health challenges and is actively involved in outreach ministries relating to the homeless.