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From ATC, Via Warner-Amex, To Now: Time Warner Cable Writes Its Own History Book

9/19/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

Time Warner Cable is adding to the cable-
TV industry archive with an upcoming history of the
company that’s also a history of the cable business.

Making Connections: Time Warner Cable and the
Broadband Revolution
will mostly live online — starting
Oct. 5, at http://history.timewarnercable.com, at a
site that will also have video and audio clips of oral history
interviews with current and former leaders of the
company, vice president of corporate communications
Anthony Surratt told Th e Wire, after sending over a hefty
set of galleys. A small number of books will be printed.

Surratt noted, “The book starts with Monty Rifkin trying
to decide between a good pastrami and rye for lunch
or meeting with the promoter from out West waiting in
reception.

“It was 1959, and the promoter was Bill Daniels. He
wanted to pitch Rifkin and TelePrompTer on something
called community antenna television,” he added. “Rifkin
put off the sandwich and took the meeting.”

The two would found American Television and Communications
Corp. (ATC) nearly a decade later. It was sold to
Time Inc. in 1978 and merged with Warner-Amex in 1989,
becoming Time Warner Cable, which today has
48,000 employees and 14 million customers. Some
60 current and former employees and industry
experts were interviewed for the book, including
Rifkin and former ATC and Warner execs Joe Collins,
Trygve Myhren and Jim Gray, plus others including
Bob Miron, Jerry Levin and Dick Parsons.

Chairman and CEO Glenn Britt, who penned
a foreword, and former company M&A chief
Dave O’Hayre were the chief champions, advisers
and historians, Surratt said.

A “heritage management” company, The History
Factory, helped compile and produce the
book and other content.

Britt noted that when he became CEO in 2001,
amid “the organizational turmoil surrounding the
merger of AOL and our parent, Time Warner,” he was focused
on the short- and long-term future.

“Somewhere along the line I realized that some of my
fellow employees who had been working for Time Warner
Cable for ‘only’ five or 10 years wondered how we
got where we were and why certain decisions had been
made in the past,” he writes, and that led to the history.

The Wire recommends it as a ripping yarn, with lots of
great photos.

The company plans an Oct. 4 reception at the New York
Public Library to thank the people who contributed and
helped put it together, Surratt said.

Seacrest’s NBCU Ties
Could Help Seal Deal
For VH1 Soul Tie-up

First came Oprah. Now, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest
may be looking to rebrand an established cable channel
in his own image.

The producer of E!’s Keeping Up With the
Kardashians
, among other projects, was reported by
The Hollywood Reporter to be talking to Viacom about
taking over music-video channel VH1 Soul and its
20 million subscribers. The since-confirmed offer is
backed by talent shop CAA and by AEG, the entertainment
conglomerate that several years ago tried to take
over Fuse, then owned by Cablevision Systems.

A VH1 spokesperson would not comment on the matter,
but sources close to the network downplayed the
situation as “purely rumor.”

Soul has been the subject of takeover rumors before:
the BET- and MTV Networks-owned Centric was expected
to absorb VH1 Soul when it launched in September
2009 in the former BET Jazz slot.

Sources said Comcast, a key VH1 Soul distributor,
vetoed the net’s conversion to Centric.

This time, Seacrest’s ties to Comcast NBCU-owned E!
could help seal the deal, sources said.

Centric, meanwhile, has seemingly done OK sans
Soul. It is up to around 45 million subscribers after
launching with 30 million.

Targeting 25-54-year-old African-Americans
with syndicated sitcoms and dramas such as The
Cosby Show
, The A-Team, In Living Color and Girlfriends,
plus some original shows such as artistinterview
series As Written. Centric, posted a 26%
primetime audience gain this summer vs. a year ago,
per Nielsen.

Can’t Afford to Wait:
Christmas Comes Now
At Hallmark Channel

USA Today last week pointed out one of those trends that
qualify as both an annual and a perennial: “Retailers Are
Starting the Holidays Even Earlier This Year.” Costco is
putting out Christmas merchandise in late September,
versus mid-October. Lowe’s will have Christmas lights out
on Oct. 1. Et cetera.

Add Hallmark Channel to the list, in a media category.
Hallmark’s busy P.R. department put out its “2011 winter
preview” last week (Sept. 12 to be exact), promoting the
annual/perennial “Countdown to Christmas” stunt. At
least there were no lights
attached.

This year’s edition
include such new original
movies as Love’s Christmas
Journey
on Nov. 5,
Mistletoe Over Manhattan
on Nov. 6 and Lucky Christmas
on Nov. 12.

Getting Christmasrelated
promotions the
week after schools are
back in session puts
The Wire in a mood better
typifi ed by Nov. 13’s
Hallmark original movie
Cancel Christmas (starring Judd Nelson as Santa).

Waiting until, say, Halloween to promote the slate
probably wouldn’t win network marketers any of the Hero
Dog Awards
(Nov. 11). But would October be too soon to
tout winter programming? Consider that A Christmas Wish
(Nov. 20) from The Wire.

TWC’s Bob Watson
Hangs Up a Shingle
In Charlottesville

Speaking of Time Warner Cable history, Bob Watson,
the vice president of programming and new business
development at the the company’s flagship New York
system, has left the
company to set up shop
as a consultant in his
home office in Charlottesville,
Va.

His move there
several years ago led
inevitably to his Sept.
13 departure, after
more than 16 years of
helping to shape the
system’s channel lineup
and product offering. As
Watson Media Group,
he’ll be concentrating on
distribution strategy and
management, focusing
on international content.
His years of dealing with international programmers will be
on display at Multichannel News’ Hispanic Television Summit
next Wednesday, where he’ll moderate a panel.

Asked for career highlights, the always-amusing
Watson told The Wire he was proud of helping create
digital TV en Espanol — in the form of the El Paquetazo
Spanish-English package — and said, “Someone very
highly placed in the company owes me a really big dinner
after beating their estimate of digital penetration by
almost 50 points.”

Reach him at bob@watsonmediagroup.com.

September