EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT & CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER
TIME WARNER CABLE
OVER THE YEARS, THE CABLE INDUSTRY’S SUCCESS HAS NOT
only come from finding new technologies like high-speed data. It’s
also been successful in finding new executive talent, like Time Warner
Cable’s Peter Stern, to develop those new technologies into thriving
“Peter has accomplished a tremendous amount professionally at the
relatively young age of 38,” Glenn Britt, chairman, president and CEO
of Time Warner Cable, said when asked why Stern so richly deserves
the Vanguard Award for Young Leadership this year. “His work is critical
to the long-term growth of Time Warner Cable, and his significant
contributions extend to the industry as a whole.”
Those accomplishments include work on a long list of Time Warner
Cable projects — ranging from the “Start Over” and “Look Back” on-demand
programming efforts to the Road Runner Turbo high-speed Internet
service and the TV Everywhere online TV-viewing extension.
His involvement in industry-wide initiatives include work as the
co-chair of the Broadband Business Committee at CableLabs, which
played a key role in helping bring ultra-high-speed DOCSIS 3.0 products
to market, and on the board and executive committee of The Cable
Center, where he also chairs the programs committee.
Despite having achieved so much in less than a decade in cable,
Stern said his career trajectory was far from a straight line.
“I majored in music and English [at Harvard] and when I graduated
I was qualified to do really nothing that would earn me a living, so
I went to law school,” he joked.
After graduating from Yale Law School he joined the management
consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in 1997. There, he worked for clients in
a variety of industries ranging from financial services and health care to
technology and media. He worked on the AOL Time Warner merger.
During that period, Dolf DiBiasio, Stern’s mentor at McKinsey,
moved to AOL Time Warner as executive vice president of strategy
and investments. DiBiasio asked Stern to join him on the corporate
strategy team and Stern agreed, becoming vice president of strategic
initiatives in June 2001.
DiBiasio asked Stern to join him on the corporate strategy team and
Stern agreed, becoming vice president of strategic initiatives in June
“I can’t say I was born knowing I wanted to be in the multichannel
and media business,” said Stern. “What I was really looking for was
a business that was dynamic and had really enthusiastic people and
was experiencing signifi cant changes that posed challenging strategic
problems. AOL Time Warner certainly looked like one of those. For
a person who was looking for significant strategic challenges I could
hardly imagine a business that presented more of them than AOL Time
Warner at the time.”
The merger’s grand rationale of uniting new and old media to create
a host of lucrative synergies proved difficult to realize. But the experience
of trying to get a host of different businesses to work closely together
taught Stern a number of lessons as his work shifted more and
more into cable arena, where he became senior vice president of strategic
planning at Time Warner Cable in 2004 and executive vice president
of product management, in 2005. He assumed his current position
as executive vice president and chief strategy officer in 2008.
“Being part of a company that was storied for the autonomy of the individual
operating units and being part of a unit that was responsible
for finding ways to work together, which didn’t go very well, caused me
to look for win-win solutions between cable operators, programmers,
studios and others who are critical to our business,” Stern said. “That
very much informed the creation of services like Start Over, which we
designed to be a win-win between cable operators, programmers and
advertisers to create a service to benefit consumers.”
In the case of Start Over, which allows viewers to restart live programming
from the beginning of the show, and later with the TV Everywhere
online video initiatives, it was clear there was significant consumer demand
for products that would grant access to high-profile programming
on the customer’s time schedule and on a variety of devices. Those
changes in consumer behavior also seemed threaten a number of long
established business models, particularly linear TV advertising.
Stern and other Time Warner executives worked closely with programmers
to come up with compromises, such as disabling fast forward
in Start Over so consumers couldn’t skip advertising.
“I’ve been able to work collaboratively with other members of the industry
to drive important initiatives that benefit the industry as whole,
not such my own company,” Stern noted.
He stresses that is important to “try to have a balanced life.” Not
only is this important on a personal level, so Stern has time for his
“wife and three kids, who are really awesome.” It is also a priority that
has helped his work.
“I think you have to find a balance, because I think is hard to do
strategy if you don’t have a little time for reflection,” he said.