Sevens Wild at Cable Hall of Fame

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The Cable Center inducted seven new members from the seventh class into its Hall of Fame at a dinner here on Oct. 13.

It was a night for the pillars of the cable industry, which not only included inductees Jack Crosby, John Goddard, Robert Johnson, Geraldine Laybourne, Paul Maxwell, Trygve Myhren and June Travis, but presenters Dr. John Malone (Johnson) and Gerald Levin (Myhren). Amos Hostetter also was in attendance.

Insight Communications Co. CEO Michael Willner, inducting Laybourne, called her contributions at Nickelodeon and Oxygen “astronomical.”

Recounting the days when her home was a production studio and her children and husband worked in front of and behind the camera, Laybourne thanked the cable industry for being the first media industry to allow women to own and operate a programming network.

Malone recounted his first meeting with Johnson — hearing the pitch for Black Entertainment Television while knowing his cable company, Tele-Communications Inc., needed programming for urban franchises. Malone wrote a $500,000 check in 1980 that turned into a $3 billion asset purchased by Viacom in 2000.

Johnson asked for advice from Malone upon leaving that funding meeting, to which Malone replied: “Keep your revenue up and your costs down.”

Johnson said the prestige Malone put behind BET in the early days was almost more important than the money. “It was like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” he said, as he sought other financing. “Lending that prestige made all the difference.”

Bob Hughes, who presented Jack Crosby, said from 1954 through 1978 Crosby “was the most prolific dealmaker in the cable industry,” with Crosby Communications buying his hometown system in Del Rio, Texas, three different times.

Bill Bresnan jabbed at Paul Maxwell’s resume of starting many cable publications, including Multichannel News: “He created 40 publications just so someone would print his opinions.”

Several inductees delivered messages on industry cooperation and business ethics.

Goddard, the former Viacom Cable chief, said “cable’s technology strategy must be coordinated.”

Former Providence Journal Co. president Myhren urged young people to maintain business ethics. “Just because something isn’t specifically prohibited,” he said, doesn’t mean it’s the right business course. “If it feels wrong, please stop and examine it. It probably is wrong.”

Myhren also urged the center to not overlook other cable veterans in its Hall of Fame selections, including Monty Rifkin, who brought Myhren into the industry. The Rifkin connection came full circle with the induction of June Travis, who was the first female president of an MSO, Rifkin & Associates.

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