The Cable TV Pioneers organization will salute a group of 19 trailblazers with induction into its class of 2013.
The official induction ceremony took place on June 9 at the group’s 47th annual banquet, set for the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., on the night before The Cable Show convened in the nation’s capital.
According to the Pioneers organization, the new class encompasses executives who made their marks as cable operators and programmers in such fields as the law, operations, finance and engineering.
Founded at the NCTA convention in 1966, the Cable TV Pioneers organization now counts 535 members on its active rolls. In 1985, the Pioneers organization began action to start the development of The Cable Center in Denver.
Profiles in this section were written and reported by Craig Kuhl.
Selling TV advertising in Texas in 1985 was newly minted Pioneer Sean Bratches’ introduction to the cable industry. What followed was a long and distinguished career at ESPN and a place in the rarified air reserved for Cable Pioneers.
As ESPN gained momentum and broke new ground, Bratches rose from senior account executive and director of affiliate sales and marketing for 11 states to vice president of the network’s 26-state Eastern Region, and to his current position as executive VP of sales and marketing.
Along the way, Bratches has been a key player in building ESPN’s valuable brand and developed one of the most respected and successful affiliate sales teams in the industry.
And not just for the Worldwide Leader in Sports: He brought his expertise to both ABC and the Disney cable networks when he joined ESPN’s executive committee.
Being a pioneer also means Bratches has contributed his personal time and expertise to industry organizations, including the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, Women in Cable Telecommunications, Cable in the Classroom and related organizations outside of the industry, which most notably for Bratches is the T. Howard Foundation.
Bratches has also been honored by the National Cable & Telecommunications Association with two Vanguard Awards.
Rising from director of engineering at Western Communications, a cable system in southern New Mexico, to president in just four short years has earned John Christopher a place in the 2013 class of Cable Pioneers.
Once Christopher moved from field operations to company president in 1989, Western Communications (now part of Comcast) successfully negotiated four franchises, 12 transfers and an agreement with New Mexico State University.
In 19 out of 20 years, he exceeded operating cash flow and was named manager of the year by the New Mexico Cable Communications Association. He was also ranked first in the nation for Comcast’s Think Customer First program for two straight years.
Yet Christopher’s pioneering efforts go well beyond cable, and reach deep into his community.
He is a three-time president of the New Mexico Cable Communications Association, and twice has served as president of the Arizona and New Mexico Women in Cable Telecommunications organizations.
His work with the Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce led to the organization’s 12-month leadership program, which matches community leaders with education.
Christopher’s community and cable industry work has not gone unnoticed. He has been named Las Cruces Businessman of the Year and has received CTAM’s Service Star Award.
Many a cable executive has broken into the industry as a customer-service representative. For Dianne Blackwood, though, that breakthrough would lead to a number of pioneering efforts in customer-service disciplines at Time Warner Cable.
With her roots firmly planted in cable since 1981, Blackwood has led TWC through several customer-care iterations, including innovative new ways to improve call-center technologies such as Web self-care, billingsystem conversions and workforce-management applications.
As TWC’s current area vice president of operations in Greensboro, N.C., she is charged with ensuring the needs of more than 380,000 TWC customers in the market are met.
But Blackwood’s pioneering work doesn’t end there. Her leadership skills and expertise have been invaluable to TWC’s growth in the Greensboro market, and her impact on the company’s relationship with its customers has been significant.
She has been an integral part of several steering committees, served as president of Women in Cable Telecommmunications’ national board in 1994 and co-chaired the inaugural class of the Betsy Magness Leadership Institute.
In addition to Blackwood’s many cable innovations, her work with the local chamber of commerce, Rotary Club and other community organizations in helping to break barriers for women has led to a deserving place among the Cable Pioneers.
Advancing from extrusion operator and radiofrequency sweep tester to director of global engineering isn’t exactly the normal path to Cable Pioneer status, but for Tim Cooke of Times Fiber Communications, 30-plus years as a cable engineer has warranted a place among the industry’s elite.
Cooke’s rise through the ranks at Times Fiber has not only included myriad engineering and technical responsibilities, but innovations such as TFC Mini- Series coaxial cable, Low-Loss Subscriber Access Cable and co-invention of the TFC Window Jumper.
He has become TFC’s driving force in the development of cutting-edge broadband products and the implementation of recognized engineering standards through his work as a member of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers, where he has served on several subcommittees and chaired the organization’s Coax Task Force.
Cooke’s contributions go well beyond the cable industry: For 20 years, he has served as deacon, trustee and a Sunday School teacher at his local church, where he currently serves as chairman of the pastor selection committee. He also volunteers at local ministries, including Man Alive.
Ron Coppock’s pioneering journey through the cable industry has involved several stops — from Oak Communications in 1980, as sales manager, to Pioneer Communications and Scientific Atlanta as director of national accounts and Western regional sales director, respectively.
At each stop, Coppock has been instrumental in arming cable service providers with efficient and cost-effective video, high-speed data and voicetechnology solutions.
Currently in his 18th year at Arris Group, where he serves as president of worldwide sales, Coppock is responsible for all domestic and international sales, corporate marketing, technical support and manufacturing relationships.
For seven consecutive years, Arris’ worldwide sales have increased and in the process, Coppock has transformed the sales force from one with a transactional “box” mentality to an integrated technology solution provider. He also played a key role in cable’s evolution in the United Kingdom and continental Europe and helped to open up the cable marketplace in Argentina.
Coppock’s well-documented community contributions include a long tenure on the board of the Georgia Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, of which he is a former president, and chairmanship of the Cable Cares About CF committee.
He is also an active member of the Kappa Alpha Order, where he continues playing an active role in developing the next generation of business leaders.
In 1981, Keith Davidson began his cable career as staff accountant for small operator Galaxy Cablevision. Little did he know that just two years later, he would become the company’s chief financial officer and embark on a career that led to his place among the Cable Pioneers.
As an independent cable-system owner, Davidson has been involved with the procurement of nearly $1 billion of private and public equity and senior and subordinated debt. He has also been involved in a number of IPOs and associated public bond offerings.
Davidson is currently owner, director and chief financial officer of NewWave Communications. For the past several years, he has been involved in acquiring and selling properties in more than 20 states, encompassing dozens of transactions.
His leadership has extended deep into the cable industry, where he has served on several panels and been a presenter at the annual meetings of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association and the National Cable Television Cooperative. He has also been inducted in the Mid-American CATV Pathfinders.
Davidson’s community involvement includes past Cherokee District Chairman of the Boy Scouts of America, where he received the district’s Award of Merit, and his current position on the Missouri Delta Medical Center board.
Building his career from the ground up, Bob Greiner III’s road to Cable Pioneer status began at a small cable system in upstate New York where he designed, installed and maintained cable plant, circa 1984.
For the next 18 years, Greiner would immerse himself in everything cable-related, from operations and sales to finance and new product deployment at such firms as NYNEX, Tele-Communications Inc., Standard Communications and related cable support companies.
All of that knowledge and experience led to his 2002 founding of 4th Wave Technologies, a leading technology company serving the cable and telecommunications industries and a recognized partner with many MSOs and technology companies in the CATV industry.
A third-generation Cable Pioneer, Greiner has an extensive resume of cable community involvement. He was a founder of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ NYMA chapter and is an active member in several cablerelated organizations.
Yet his non-cable charitable efforts go even beyond his cable involvement. He is a board member for the Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo; a board member for Young Life; a hockey and lacrosse coach; and he has worked with Orchard Park Pride, an outreach program from the business community to the local high school.
Mike Lajoie’s road to Cable Pioneer status is dotted with signs of innovative new technologies, science and engineering, and since his debut in the cable industry as a consultant in 1981, his impact on the industry has been profound.
Most notably, LaJoie’s work in designing soft ware for the groundbreaking Full Service Network launched by Time Warner Inc. in Orlando, Fla., in 1994 paved the way for future interactive technologies and applications for cable television. Many of those innovations have earned him patents.
Yet Lajoie has left an indelible mark not only on Time Warner Cable — where he currently serves as executive vice president and chief technology officer, and was formerly executive VP of advanced technology — but on the cable industry as a whole.
He now is acting chairman of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers board of directors and has played a key role in fostering the organization’s growth while driving the SCTE Foundation’s Advancing Cable Excellence funding campaign.
Lajoie’s passion for engineering and technology has also led to his involvement in First Robotics, which helps young people develop their interests and skills in science and engineering.
He is also heavily involved in Time Warner Cable’s Connect a Million Minds initiative, designed to help people connect with technology and innovation.
As a graduate of the highly respected Betsy Magness Leadership Institute, a stellar career in cable was pretty much preordained for Kim Martin, beginning with her early days in affiliate sales and marketing for Discovery Networks in 1987.
Since then, Martin’s career has been highlighted by executive vision and growth, most notably her leadership in the ratings and subscriber growth of WE tv, now available to more than 81 million households.
She rebranded the network twice over her tenure and has driven advertising and affiliate sales, resulting in average annual revenue increases of 10.6%.
Martin currently serves as WE tv’s president and general manager, a reflection of the vision and passion she has brought to the cable industry during her 26-year career.
As with all Cable Pioneers, Martin also feels a responsibility to give back, as evidenced by her place on the boards of both Women in Cable Telecommunications and the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing.
She is also a mentor for Step Up Women’s Network, a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting and advancing women and girls, as well as a member of its Luminary Circle.
Fred McSweeney’s grassroots entry into cable was by selling cable subscriptions door to door in 1976. The lessons learned in those early days led to his membership in the 2013 class of Cable Pioneers some 36 years later.
Along the way, McSweeney has had a lasting impact on the industry’s sales and marketing disciplines. He was one of the first executives to deploy direct sales teams to resolve the collections and customer-service issues of pending disconnects, a retention process that became an industry standard.
Under his leadership, McSweeney helped Continental Cablevision acquire seven franchises in suburban Boston, where he would go on to build what at the time was the largest, most-aggressive sales team in the industry.
Returning from a stint in Ireland, where he launched Irish Multichannel cable, McSweeney joined Comcast as vice president of marketing for its Northeast region and has since moved on to RCH Cable, where he continues to spread his vast knowledge and experience as the company’s chief operating officer.
He has contributed his time and support to several cable organizations while currently serving on the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ board of directors, and finding the time to coach in the Virginia Beach Youth Sports League.
When Time Inc. merged with Warner Communications to form Time Warner Inc. in 1990 — and its cable operations were combined into Time Warner Cable — Stephen Pagano’s cable career took a leap forward, as he was named to head the new organization’s sales and marketing group.
That pivotal point in Pagano’s career would pave the way for his entry into the 2013 class of Cable Pioneers.
Two years later, Pagano would be named president of Staten Island Cable, where he would nearly double the system’s size over the next seven years. He would follow that up by developing TWC’s most successful bundling and marketing program for the triple play.
But he wasn’t finished. Pagano also took on the daunting challenge of integrating Time Warner Cable’s newly acquired Los Angeles region, comprised of properties from Adelphia Communications, TWC and Comcast.
He immediately assembled a new management team, reorganized the operations and subsequently was promoted to executive vice president of all Time Warner Cable’s Western properties.
He still found time to serve on the executive board of the New York State Cable Association for eight years and has lobbied in Washington for cable’s interests.
Providing counsel to the fledgling cable industry in the mid-1970s was no easy task, as the growing team of attorneys representing the sector oft en needed to go the proverbial extra mile.
Enter Mark Palchick, who since 1975 has provided valuable counsel to myriad cable industry organizations, as well as to former MSO Cablevision Industries in the early 1980s.
His early service at the FCC Media Bureau and National Telecommunications and Information Administration prepared him well for his career as a counsel to Cablevision Industries and the industry as a whole — a career worthy of induction into the 2013 class of Cable Pioneers.
Palchick devised a strategy for medium and small operators to help level the playing field on issues related to programming, franchising and FCC regulation, and is the founder and outside general counsel for the Caribbean Cable Cooperative. He also found the time to lead ad hoc industry groups on issues such as retransmission consent, rate regulation and programming.
For several years, Palchick has been adjunct professor of communication law at Penn State University, bringing real life experiences into the classroom.
Away from the cable industry, Palchick coaches youth soccer and is a former elementary school PTA president.
ROBERT ST. JOHN ROPER
In 1981, with the cable industry poised for a decade-long growth spurt, newly minted Pioneer Robert St. John Roper and a handful of attorneys began the challenging and tedious task of defending the industry’s legal right to distribute movies and other forms of programming, and to simply exist.
Roper would become the cable industry’s lead counsel on first amendment and copyright litigation cases across the country, including the U.S. Supreme Court, while also leading the industry’s first battle against Major League Baseball and several other entities over distant-signal copyright royalty fees.
Those experiences would lead Roper to a partnership position with the law firm Cohen & Marks, which would expand the practice beyond FCC regulatory matters to include representation of cable systems and networks in a variety of business transactions, mergers and acquisitions, program licensing and more.
Eager to return to his solo practice in 2011, he started “The Unlaw Firm,” which provides innovative attorney-client relationships.
He has served as outside senior counsel for the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, The Cable Center and the Daniels Fund. He also continues to provide strategic advice to Colorado’s Office of Film, TV & Media while cultivating new talent in the legal field.
A full decade before cable’s meteoric rise in the 1980s, Bob Schaeffer began his cable career installing and wiring cable plant in Menomonie, Wisc., circa 1971.
In cable’s early days, though, engineers such as Schaeffer were required to wear many hats for a fledgling cable system, and to develop new business opportunities.
So it was for Schaeffer, who would hold several senior management and engineering positions with a number of cable companies, including Star Cablevision Group. For 16 years, he would serve as vice president of engineering for the 400 franchises under the Star Group of companies.
During those years, he would lend his engineering expertise to the cable industry, including as a member of the Antec/Bell Labs partnership that developed the original CATV Laser-Link product.
And not just domestically — Schaffer took part in a backhaul project in Mexico, a fiber feasibility study in New Zealand and other international projects.
Giving back has been high on Schaeffer’s radar screen as well. He has developed multiple training programs for Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers chapters, initiated a high-school student mentoring program in West Bend, Wisc., and has served the Boy Scouts for many years in leadership roles.
When Ellen Schned became a Federal Communications Commission attorney adviser in 1988, it would mark the beginning of a cable career that would take her to Viacom four years later, as vice president of government affairs, and eventually into the Cable Pioneer class of 2013.
Known as a “triple threat,” Schned would help lead Viacom, Court TV and CBS College Sports’ distribution, affiliate marketing and public- and government-affairs efforts.
She developed Court TV’s Golden Beacon Awardwinning “Everyday Heroes” initiative while helping grow the network from 20 million to 86 million subscribers. During her time at Ovation, Schned created several trademark attention-getting marketing and public-affairs campaigns.
A Betsy Magness fellow, she also was named a Wonder Woman by Multichannel News and is active with several industry organizations, including WICT, CTAM and American Women in Radio & Television. She now heads her own media-consulting business, Ellen Schned Media Consulting.
She was recently selected by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce as one of 25 business leaders from various sectors of business and government to discuss important economic and policy drivers impacting Southern California.
Schned also finds time to volunteer for the Humane Society.
Two of the most contentious regulatory issues facing the cable industry during its early years — deregulation and passage of the Cable Act — required the tireless advocacy of legal counsel and thought leaders such as new Cable Pioneers class member Michael Schooler.
During those crucial years of 1984 and 1992, the industry was struggling to shed the regulatory burdens inhibiting its growth. It was counsel from attorneys such as Schooler that would ease those burdens and pave the way for the FCC-implemented Cable Act.
Once the Cable Act was passed, Schooler would again fight hard for the industry during development of the crucial regulations governing broadband and telecommunications in the 1996 Telecommunications Act.
It was only natural that Schooler would take that extensive experience and knowledge to the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, where since 1997 he has served as vice president and deputy counsel, responsible for developing positions and advocating on a wide range of policy matters.
Beyond his cable career, Schooler is active in his community, serving as president of his local association and devoting time to mentoring students in local law schools and acting as guest lawyer at Georgetown University Law Center.
In September of 1969, Tony Swain was about to embark on a long career in the cable industry when he accepted a position as chief technician at Jackson County Cable Service in Ohio.
But it was two years later, when Swain joined iconic cable company Tele-Media and its pioneering founders, Bob Tudek and Everett Mundy, that his own pioneering career would blossom. He was one of the company’s first employees.
After more than 40 years holding positions as chief technician, regional manager, vice president of operations, director of engineering, chief operating officer and President, Swain now is owner and president of Tele-Media Broadband Co.
His roots in engineering and technology have grown to include the Beyond Broadband Technology group, which he co-founded. The group’s work in open-standards downloadable security has led to several pending patents and products.
During his lengthy cable career, Swain has been involved with several local non-cable organizations. He’s been treasurer and a board member for local churches, a Kiwanis Club president and has worked with United Way, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Muscular Dystrophy Association on several fundraising efforts.
He is also a longstanding member of the Christians in Communications board of directors.
From bench engineer at Zenith Electronics in 1976 to senior vice president at Rovi, Bill Thomas’ rise through cable’s ranks has marked him as one of its most innovative technologists and engineers — and landed him in the Cable Pioneers class of 2013.
As one of the founders of TVGOS, the predecessor to the i-Guide and the most widely distributed interactive programming guide in North America, Thomas has become one of cable’s most notable inventors. He has authored more than 30 papers in the areas of Teletext, Videotex, digital audio, two-way cable systems and more. He has been granted more than 70 U.S. patents covering topics such as wholehome digital video recording, IPG advertisements and video-on-demand services.
Thomas’ litany of innovations and contributions include television ghost cancelling systems, satellite data transmission, audience measurement technology, online program guides for websites and much more.
While not inventing things, Thomas has managed and mentored more than 200 engineers and is active with both the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. He has also organized and participated in IPG user groups and provided strategic engineering advice that has advanced the way subscribers view, discover and connect to their entertainment. And since 1968, Thomas has been an amateur radio operator.
Few in this year’s class of Cable Pioneers — or any of its classes, for that matter — can point to the circus as their entry point into the industry. But John Zamoiski left his job as a Washington, D.C., advertising copywriter in 1976 to learn the fine art of field marketing as a junior advance man for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
That time under the big top served him well, as it led him to positions as director of promotions at Ash LeDonne Advertising in New York, then to a senior vice president position at Don Jagoda Associates and onto a pair of startups: Vertical Mix Marketing and, in 2003, the Bott lerocket Marketing Group.
Zamoiski’s outside agency work in consumer marketing, affiliate marketing and ad-sales marketing has been nearly unparalleled.
Working with literally every major network, he has created marketing standards for the industry, earning him several Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing Mark Awards and a host of other honors.
And his contributions to the cable industry don’t stop there. He created a minicourse called “Cable Marketing 101” for marketing directors, donated his past files, materials and work to The Cable Center, and spends much of his time mentoring and advising students and young professionals in the business.