Publishers Corner: The Father of Cable Television


Late last month, while attending the CTPAA conference inSan Diego, I had the occasion of visiting with Bill Daniels, the father of thecable-television industry. As I was ushered into his office at Daniels Cablevision inCarlsbad, Calif., I recalled the first time that I met this great gentleman.

Back in 1987, as the incoming publisher of Cablevisionmagazine, I met Bill for the first time during a visit to the Cherry Creek headquarters ofDaniels & Associates in Denver. A planned 10-minute meeting expanded to an hour, and Iemerged convinced that I had met not only a cable magnate, but rather, a rare combinationof genius and generosity.

During our meeting, Bill gave me the history of thecable-television industry, from his early pioneering days as a fight fan and promoter tohis ownership of the Utah Stars in the fledgling days of the American BasketballAssociation. He described the development of the first wired installations as an operator,continuing through his emergence as a broker of cable-television systems in Denver.

In true Daniels fashion, he never mentioned the legendaryfeats that have subsequently been ascribed to him -- such as sharing the proceeds of hiscable profits with his employees, or refunding deposits to Utah fans after the leaguefailed, even though the team had just won the championship.

More important, he was interested in our plans for thepublication, and he impressed upon me the role of the trade press in serving the industrythat he had founded along with a handful of others, to whom he generously gave fullcredit.

Bill Daniels that day pledged his support financially andpersonally, saying that he would help in any possible way to ensure our survival andprosperity. He has done the same for others in our business, and he plays no favorites inhis support. His primary interest has always been to protect the cable industry as anygood father would protect his own children, even when some of them were misbehaving.

When Cablevision created the "Operator of theYear Award" in his name, he generously provided a bronze replica of the bull elephantthat adorns the lobby of "Cableland," his Denver home, which he recently donatedto the mayor as an official residence. His one request was that we honor those operatorsthat epitomized the best practices in serving their subscribers, which Bill continues todo in the present day. Daniels Cablevision in Carlsbad represents one of the bestoperating systems in the country.

During the course of the Beacon Awards Dinner at the CTPAAconference, I shared a few thoughts regarding Bill with TCI president and chief operatingofficer Leo J. Hindery Jr.

"Bill has the unique ability to make an individualfeel that they are special," Hindery said, and he has provided fatherly advice to acountless number of people along the way, asking little in return.

Similar thoughts were echoed in New York just a weekearlier courtesy of David Stern, commissioner of the National Basketball Association, whoemphasized that we are all in Bill Daniels' debt.

I raise these thoughts just before the industry gathersearly next month for the National Show in Atlanta, when it will honor for the first timethe Hall of Fame honorees through the auspices of the Cable Television Museum.

Bill Daniels is the only surviving member of the initialgroup, and it is unlikely that he will be able to attend due to health-related travelrestrictions. It is fitting, therefore, to reflect upon his past contributions and thestandards that he created as the cable-television industry enters yet another era in itsevolution.

Once again, the industry is beset with the threat of ahostile regulatory environment coming at a time when cable operators are faced with theissues of plant upgrade, digital services and implementing telephony and data services,all in the face of increasing competition. At this time, those who will shape the futurecould heed the advice of the father of the industry, whose view of a wired nation is nowat hand.

Bill Daniels' credo, "The best is good enough forme," has served him and his industry well. And, as we all know, "Father knowsbest!"