The Vanguard Awards — traditionally the National Show's final attraction — took an early-evening mid-show turn to honor this year's class of recipients, led by the heads of Cablevision Systems Corp. and Playboy Enterprises Inc.
Cablevision founder and chairman Charles Dolan and Playboy chairman and CEO Christie Hefner shared the Vanguard for distinguished leadership May 8, before solid attendance inside a ballroom at the Ernest Morial Convention Center in New Orleans.
Dolan was honored for his track record of industry innovation — he created Home Box Office; launched News 12 Long Island, the first local/regional all-news channel; and at present is rolling out iO: Interactive Optimum, the combination digital and interactive-TV package on Cablevisions' metropolitan New York systems.
Dolan's son, Cablevision CEO James Dolan, accepted the award, as his father remained in New York with wife Helen Dolan, whom the company said was recovering from a mild stroke.
Hefner's Vanguard honor recognized her long, ongoing commitment to cable operator and programmer First Amendment rights, and her advocacy for workplace diversity. One irony: Playboy's cable ventures originated from yet another Dolan creation from two decades ago, the adult-themed entertainment service called Escapade.
The National Cable & Telecommunications Association — then the National Cable Television Association — launched the Vanguard Awards in 1965 to honor cable industry executives and their peers for excellence in business and personal commitment to colleagues. For most of its run, the Vanguards were celebrated in a closing-day evening affair, later moved to lunchtime to accommodate changing travel plans of its patrons.
The awards are classified by category, with two people — one male, one female — honored for distinguished leadership.
The rest of this year's Vanguard roster:
- Young Leadership, another gender-shared selection: Edward Carroll, executive vice president and general manager, Bravo and the Independent Film Channel; and Ellen East, vice president, communications and investor relations, Cox Communications Inc.
- Programmers: Herb Scannell, president, Nickelodeon/TV Land/TNN: The National Network.
- Associates & Affiliates: William McGorry, senior vice president, Reed Television Group, Reed Business Information, parent company of Multichannel News.
- Science & Technology: David Fellows, chief technology officer, AT&T Broadband.
- Cable Operations Management: John Rigsby, president, Time Warner Cable's central Florida division.
- Government & Community Relations: Joseph Waz Jr., vice president, external affairs and public policy counsel, Comcast Corp.
- Marketing: Len Fogge, executive vice president, creative and marketing, Showtime Networks Inc.