Vanguard Awards: Cable Operations Management: Business Trailblazer

COMCAST’S BILL STEMPER STEERS MSO TOWARD NEW AVENUES FOR GROWTH
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It was a conversion that was a quarter of a century in the making, but William Stemper is now a cable guy.

And the industry has billions of reasons to be thankful for that as he continues to lead a division of Comcast that has quickly morphed into a multibillion-dollar business.

Stemper, the Vanguard Award recipient for Cable Operations Management, is president of Comcast Business Services, where he heads up a part of the company that has become a big contributor in just a few short years.

He continues to blaze new paths for the division to pursue.

CHANGING TEAMS

Before connecting with cable, he was a long-time contributor to the telco team, where he learned all facets of a business that he would later bring to his current industry.

Stemper spent the first 25 years of his career with AT&T, most of them focused on business-to-business sales management or product management.

His first cable stop was at Cox Communications in the fall of 2003. Stemper said he made the change after realizing that the cable industry had the right tools and assets to build a fresh line of business that had served the telcos so well.

“The cable industry has been born with the DNA of an incredible opportunity. It was just a matter of time before it began to apply itself,” Stemper said.

After helping Cox, one of cable’s business-services trailblazers, take its game to the next level, a similar opportunity opened up at Comcast in 2006, just as the Philadelphia-based MSO began to pursue business services in an aggressive way.

Comcast has historically pegged its addressable business services market at about $30 billion — $15 billion for small businesses and $15 billion for larger commercial opportunities. Under Stemper’s leadership, Comcast has made a significant dent, riding a consistent growth wave of 40% to 50% per year.

To show how that part of the business has matured, Comcast Business Services generated $265 million in 2oo6, when Stemper joined the company. The MSO pulled in $741 million in revenue in the category in the first quarter of 2013 alone, putting it on pace for almost $3 billion for all of 2013.

The bulk of Comcast’s early business-services growth came way of small businesses served off the MSO’s (HFC) plant. To maintain that growth, Stemper and Comcast are going up-market to pursue mid-sized businesses. Comcast’s first mid-market look came way of its 2010 acquisition of Cimco, a Chicago-area competitive localexchange carrier.

Comcast paired that by deploying a fiberbased Metro Ethernet services platform, which is already responsible for about 15% of Comcast’s business services revenues.

Comcast’s commercial unit is also tying in hosted- and cloud-based services, a path initially blazed when the MSO bought Colorado-based New Global Telecom in 2010. That deal led to the launch of yet another weapon: Business Voice Edge, a hosted PBX service.

Stemper’s vision and dedication are also recognized by other industry leaders that share his passion for this all-important, revenue-driving category for the industry.

“Throughout his career, Bill has proven a constant visionary in the delivery of business services, which remains a major growth engine for cable. Competing against the incumbents requires a constant focus on service and innovation. Bill’s success in launching and growing Comcast’s Business Services offering in such a relatively short period of time are a testament to his deep expertise, ingenuity and love of the game,” Dave Pistacchio, president of the Lightpath division of Cablevision Systems, said.

Stemper credits fellow Vanguard Award winner Patrick Esser, now president of Cox Communications and the person who hired Stemper in 2003, and John Dyer, now the COO of Cox Enterprises, as mentors who showed him the cable ropes.

“Bill is a class act and did a great job as we built our highgrowth Cox Business organization,” Esser said. “He’s a fun person to work with, always reminding us that we were competing against the ‘bad guys.’ I’m glad he’s still helping cable win the battle for valuable commercial customers.”

At Comcast, similar honors go to Comcast Cable executive vice president and chief operating officer Dave Watson; Comcast Cable president and CEO Neil Smit, who inherited Stemper when Smit joined the MSO in 2010; and Michael Angelakis, Comcast Corp.’s vice chairman and chief financial officer.

TRAVELING AS A PACK

While business services are Stemper’s work passion, a favorite personal pursuit is travel — a hobby that has helped to keep his wife and four children close.

And despite Stemper’s decision to leave the telcos about a decade ago to join the cable crew, don’t expect his loyalties to shift when it comes to the Green Bay Packers.

That won’t change. After all, he and his family own the team. Or just part of it. Sort of.

The Stempers, he said with Titletown pride, own stock in the team. They’re part of a group that owns shares in the iconic football franchise. At last check, 363,948 people own more than 5 million shares in the team.

“I like to say we own them,” Stemper joked.

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